Northern Ireland’s feed-in tariff (FiT) is facing the possibility of a huge cut that could cost 1,000 jobs, according to the country’s Solar Trade Association (NISTA).

A consultation has been opened to cut the existing FiT from 16.32p/kWh to 6.53p/kWh.

The recommendation is the result of a report commissioned by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry (DETI).

The country has just 25MW of small-scale PV capacity installed and is under developed compared to the rest of the UK but already employs 1,000 people.

NISTA chairman Neil O’Brien said the changes would “destroy what is a blossoming indigenous industry” and predicted that the sector had the potential to double in size in the next two to three years.

“DETI asked the consultancy firm Cambridge Economic Policy Associates (CEPA) to compile the report into solar, wind, wave and biogas but solar was the only technology singled out for a reduction,” O’Brien told Solar Power Portal. “We were bewildered in the industry but also as we spoke to other public facing individuals at DETI and other organisations, they were also taken aback at the level of the proposed cut.

“We believe the industry would be killed stone dead. We can’t understand why Northern Ireland would have half the level of economic subsidy as the rest of the United Kingdom,” said O’Brien adding that no decision is likely from DETI before the end of January.

“The Executive has set a target of 40% electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020. Yet, here we are in a situation whereby we are campaigning for the Department not to reduce their own scheme, devised to incentivise renewable energy generation. It’s particularly galling as it is not funded from the block grant or impacting on Stormont budgets,” he said.

The CEPA report claimed that solar would drive up electricity bills and have a negative impact on fuel poverty, a claim O’Brien refutes.

“There are around 8,500 small-scale PV installs and around 3,500 of them are on social housing. We have hundreds of social housing customers at my company [Amber Green Energy] and they are saving up to 50% off their bills. Fuel poverty is a much bigger issue in Northern Ireland than it is in England and Wales. Fuel poverty affects about 40% of the country,” said O’Brien.