Councillor Jo Lovelock has written to the Prime Minister to ask for an extension until April before new cuts to the feed-in tariff come into effect. The letter is a direct response to the Government’s plans to slash the solar subsidy by over fifty percent. The proposed cut to the feed-in tariff rate has jeopardised Reading Council’s £5 million scheme, proposed back in August.
Under the scheme, suitable council-owned properties would receive solar photovoltaic installations, including 40 schools and 20 community buildings. It was estimated that the schools alone would be in line for average savings of £3000 per year in electricity bills.
The majority of the 60 planned schemes will now be cancelled after detailed research confirmed that the new FiT rates will render the majority of projects financially unviable.
In her letter, Councillor Lovelock says: “Reading Borough Council has developed a scheme to put solar panels on to the roofs of school, corporate and community buildings in the borough.
“Some 40 schools, 20 community buildings and additional council buildings would have benefitted.
“The council has committed over £5m to support the scheme and committed substantial sums in project and procurement costs.
“The council is now having to reconsider its scheme and, although it may proceed with marginal projects, the risks and project costs may now lead to a significant cost impact on the council.
“Our intention to lead by example has been undermined.
“The council’s concerns relate to our community – particularly those in or at risk of fuel poverty, local jobs in jeopardy, the council’s ability to provide low carbon energy and making a step change in renewable energy across the borough.”
The councillor’s concerns echo those of many councils that have invested heavily in solar schemes across the country. However, there could be some hope for the councils following Greg Barker’s hinting that the FiT rate for social solar schemes would be reconsidered during the consultation period regarding the change to the solar subsidy.