The closing of the Renewable Obligation scheme to projects above 5MW could create a crippling rush of grid connections next spring the head of a power engineering firm has claimed.
Simon Phipps, CEO of Dragon Infrastructure, said the changes will make the traditionally hectic period extremely difficult for the companies involved.
“We had a drop from 2ROCs to 1.6ROCs which was significant and there was a big rush. Then it went from 1.6 to 1.4 which is quite big and next year it will go from 1.4 to 1.3, which was manageable,” he said. “But now the government, at very short notice, is withdrawing ROCS from the end of March 2014 puts us in a situation where if you do not connect by March next year you will not get any ROCs at all.
Phipps said the situation could prove to be “very, very difficult” for the company, which claims to be contracted to connect a quarter of the UK’s large-scale solar projects.
“When you have a market place that you now know is going to end at the end of March you can’t employ more people, so it is going to come down to a bidding war for engineers,” explained Phipps.
“We have seen in the past engineers and commissioning engineers not turning up because they got a better offer somewhere else, this is going to be twice is bad. Its going to be difficult to manage. We are lucky in that we have a quite a number of full time employees that are trained to work on 33,000V but there is a limitation on how much we can build,” he added.
With long lead times on cables and switchgear necessary to connect projects to the grid, developers will have to commit earlier to projects. The withdrawal of one cable manufacturer from the market means projects in the south west could be affected in particular.
“I’ve got four projects that have already invested in transformers, switchgear and that money is all at risk, its catastrophic for our customers,” says Phipps.
The rush could also create acute health and safety issues, according to Phipps.
“This winter was incredibly wet, last winter was incredibly snowy. I met with DECC prior to the announcement and I had to say to them, you are creating a huge health and safety issue, potentially there could be horrible accidents because of the massive rush, it’s ridiculous,” he said.