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Businesses urge PM not to drop support for solar industry



As the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) closes its consultation on financial support for solar farms, companies are urging the government to rethink its plans.

Some 150 businesses from the solar industry have signed a letter urging David Cameron to protect the solar rooftop market above 5 megawatts (MW).

The letter was delivered to Downing Street on Monday as DECC closed the proposed plans to scrap large scale solar farm subsidies. Triodos Bank, Ecotricity and Good Energy are among the signatories.

The government is proposing to close the renewables obligation (RO) scheme in the UK for solar panel projects with capacity greater than 5MW from April 1 2015.

RO is a support for medium to large renewable energy projects in the UK. It came into effect in 2002 and means electricity suppliers must source a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources.

Although smaller projects under this bandwidth would still get support, campaign groups highlight the importance of the government protecting large-scale solar projects to ensure this sector continues to thrive.

The letter talks about the importance of large solar projects including positive benefits to society in terms of jobs and reaching renewable targets.

Solar Trade Association chief executive Paul Barwell said, “Solar is a home-grown solution to Britain’s energy crisis.

“If the government provides a stable policy environment solar will soon be subsidy free. But the government is now proposing to tilt the playing field against large-scale solar, while not taking sufficient action to unlock commercial rooftop solar – that is unacceptable.”

DECC says this is needed as large-scale solar programmes are developing faster than expected and they are concerned about the impact of this on the levy control framework. If solar projects grow unsustainably this could increase pressure on energy bills.

“Ministers are yet again failing to walk the walk on Britain’s solar potential. They say their plans are ambitious, yet this proposal attacks solar parks while doing almost nothing to boost large rooftop systems,” Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, commented.

“The solar industry has made phenomenal progress in recent years: solar power is already cheaper than new nuclear, could soon be less expensive than gas, and can be installed safely and discreetly in the heart of our communities.”

There are also worries that this plan could put investors off the solar industry even though recent polls have found growing public support for renewables.

Photo: Michael Mees via Flickr

Further reading:

DECC plans to scrap solar farm subsidy will ‘undermine investment’

Reform and uncertainty sees UK slip down EY renewables investment index

Public support for renewables grows as concern over fracking rises

One-fifth of UK’s electricity now comes from renewables

Solar farms open to visitors for ‘Solar Independence Day’