10:10’s successful Solar Schools programme has announced it is to close next year, adding to a growing list of casualties from the government’s proposed feed-in tariff cuts.
The project, which aims to help schools across the UK install solar as community energy schemes, has so far facilitated the fund raising for and installation of solar panels on 30 schools, and yesterday added 16 more to its list of ongoing schemes.
All 16 new projects are to be pre-accredited, meaning they will have one year to raise the required fund and install in order to qualify for the current feed-in tariff. However 10:10 has confirmed that the latest additions will be the project's last owing to proposed cuts to the feed-in tariff of up to 87%, which would make future installations unviable.
Amy Cameron, campaign manager at 10:10, said that the group was “completely and overwhelmingly surprised” by the withdrawal of support and said that the government had failed to give appropriate credit to the impact community energy projects can have.
“For the very small amount of budget, community energy projects have been delivering huge, huge amounts in terms of carbon cutting, public engagement and also in terms of funnelling additional resource and funding, often into much needed areas. I don't think that kind of element has really been given sufficient credit,” she said.
Cameron criticised how the cuts stood to detract from public understanding and confidence in renewables, claiming that any future allowance for community energy projects would be a harder sell because of how the public’s concept of them had “taken a battering” as a result of the proposals.
She also lamented the “stop-start approach” to development, a subject which has been an oft-criticised side-effect of the government’s approach to support degressions and cuts. Former energy minister Greg Barker said during his time at DECC that the boom-and-bust model could not work for UK renewables, however many have criticised DECC’s policy framework for achieving just that.
Cameron said the approach had been “completely unhelpful” for community projects in need of longer lead times, but that such projects also needed to be part of a more “vibrant industry”.
“But projects like this and other community energy projects only thrive within a vibrant renewables sector, so what we're not looking for is these projects to be used as a 'nice to have'. They're an integral part of the renewables landscape,” Cameron added.