Installers have blasted the government’s decision to reduce the feed-in tariff rate and implement deployment caps alongside a new queuing system, with one branding the policies ‘stupid and short-sighted.’
Under the measures announced yesterday, domestic solar installations up to 10kW in size will receive a feed-in tariff rate of 4.39p/kWh, with quarterly limits to be introduced to control annual spend to £100 million per year from April 2019. The long-awaited announcement follows a prolonged period of uncertainty since the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched a consultation on the tariff rate earlier this year. However the government has faced yet more criticism for its lack of ambition in solar deployment.
Gabriel Wondrausch, strategy director for SunGift Energy, said: “I think our government are a bunch of idiots. Even the republicans in America are upping solar ambition, everyone is upping their solar ambition and seeing it as the way forward apart from a couple of idiots and everyone is suffering because of it; it’s stupid and it’s short-sighted.
“It’s amazing how much uncertainty the government has managed to make. It’s crazy, I kind of feel more relaxed today than I have in months. Even though it's crap, at least we know what’s happening so we can do something but it’s been incredible how they can keep saying and doing things that are absurd.”
“There’s no value to a solar company today. It doesn’t matter what your company looks like or what your books look like when you have government policy changing as it is, anyone looking at valuing it will value it at nothing,” he added.
Robert Flynn of Solar Barn added: “On sub-4kW domestic, I don’t know what the impact of a 4p generation tariff will be. I don’t know if it’s going to kill the market completely or whether it’ll just reduce the market like it did before. I suspect it’s going to be more serious than that.”
There have also been warnings of great uncertainty as a result of the government’s plans for deployment caps and a queuing process. Under the new regime, all new installations received after the cap is reached will be placed in a queue for when the next quarterly cap opens. There is no guarantee that these installations will receive FiT payments until they are registered under the following cap, nor is there a guarantee on which the rate they will receive and it is this feature of the new system that has caused concern for installer companies.
Wondrausch continued: “It’s chaos, it’s the worst thing you can do for a business. You won’t know if you’ve got your funding until after you’ve produced the MCS certificate which means uncertainty which is the last thing any business or any client wants. So that is probably one of the most worrying things as with the feed-in tariff we can get reactions from people but with those caps, it just adds such an element of unknown that it will scare people off from doing it.”
There are similar concerns that this system will encourage rogue installers to pre-register applications without any proof of work. Flynn said: “At the moment in the current system there’s nothing to stop unscrupulous installers pre-registering applications. So the capping process has to be completely fraud proof to stop unscrupulous installers doing that because otherwise scrupulous installers like me are going to suffer at the hand of unscrupulous installers. The system has got to say ‘prove it, prove that you’ve commissioned the system and not created an MCS certificate for a system that you’re going to be installing in six weeks-time’.
“There’s always been that possibility of fraud with the current system but with capping it’s just going to make the temptation to do that so much higher.”
The impact of the new feed-in tariff rate on jobs has also been raised, with companies reporting that they are likely to face significant reductions in interest for solar which will lead to reducdancies.
By DECC’s own admission, as many as 18,700 jobs could be lost in the industry in addition to the 1,800 estimated to have gone since the consultation as originally launched.
Wondrausch said: “You cannot dramatically reduce deployment and at the same time keep lots of people employed. The only places where there won’t be downsizing is for electricians who do a bit of solar on the side, they’ll just carry on but probably won’t bother renewing their MCS.”
The effect of DECC’s announcements follow a prolonged period of unease between the renewables sector as a whole and the current UK government, which has made huge strides away from clean technologies towards gas and nuclear power generation. Despite investing substantial public funds into the solar industry, this latest policy reset for the solar feed-in tariff has reinforced among installers the need to remove government from the funding process.
Wondrausch concluded: “Overall it’s fairly positive compared to where we were a few days ago but in the grand scheme of things it’s ridiculous. It’s a farce but we’ll get on with it and continue to do what we do best and it’ll only be a few years until we have no government involvement whatsoever and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”