… for a policy announcement and then three come along at once.
The last post featuring the ROC review was the first and then a short time later, the newly-tweaked RHI programme was announced, having now cleared State Aid hurdles with newly reduced rates for large scale biomass. In general both the ROC review and the RHI announcements were met with positive feedback from those affected. Of course, nothing’s perfect and there were some criticisms of levels and process, but overall it was all looking relatively rosy.
Then last week (pre-empted it has to be said by a couple of days of rumours and leaks) the government announced the new feed-in tariff level for solar and things stopped looking so rosy. The solar tariff was slashed by almost 50% and the cut is to take effect from December – even before the consultation has finished. Leaving aside that particular peculiarity (Friends of the Earth are challenging that), the response from the solar industry has been unequivocal. Solar companies, installers and communities are aghast that investments made will be for nought and that the bottom will fall out of the solar market. Already solar companies have frozen staff recruitment and are considering reductions. The open letter to David Cameron by Jeremy Leggett sums up the issues the industry is facing. How can projects in the pipeline, modelled on the basis of one tariff reach completion and be online in six weeks?
Unfortunately, the announcement also had an impact on amazing community projects like Brighton Energy Co-Op - a share issue has had to be shelved and projects are at risk. Such a shame given the enormous amount of work that the team there had put in to getting projects done and community benefit realised.
There was a sense that the FITs were set at too generous a level – the dash for rooftops was sensational and had all the trademarks of people getting rich fast. Add that to energy prices and the prospect of unpopular higher bills and the FITs were an easy target. This has of course been ample fodder for the eco-hating press and the “squeezed middle classes” but a distinct lack of foresight as to what happens when energy prices creep higher still and we don’t have the renewable energy resources that might have insulated us from energy shocks. Not to mention the growth of a new industry and the job creation that has resulted. No mention of the social housing and community projects that are now jeopardised. While a cut was to be expected, a cut as drastic as this has signalled an inevitable bust following the boom.
This is one to watch. It has been amazing to see the campaign in response to this announcement gain momentum. In the meantime, for further updates, check out @OurSolarFuture on twitter for latest updates and links to articles and commentary. We’ll keep you posted here on developments and for anyone wishing to discuss possible impacts, please do get in touch.