Mounting pressure on the Government to rethink plans to virtually scrap a key incentive for household solar panels has been welcomed by award-winning Lancashire company Solarlec.
American former vice-president and international environmental campaigner Al Gore is the latest high profile figure to criticise the Government proposals. Speaking at a conference in London he joined John Cridland, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), in claiming the proposed cuts could cost ‘UK PLC’ hundreds of billions of pounds in lost exports.
This followed London Mayor Boris Johnson breaking ranks with the Tory party line to say he was “very concerned” about the proposed cuts, which could cost 10,000 jobs in the solar industry. Johnson added it was wrong to cut if it would stop people investing in green technology. Later, in the House of Commons, Conservative Energy Secretary Amber Rudd came in for more fierce criticism of the proposed cuts from MPs of all parties, including her own.
The under-fire proposals were announced in August in an eight-week consultation which ends on 23 October. If applied they will see the Feed-In Tariff scheme slashed by a massive 87 per cent from 1 January next year, and possibly scrapped altogether if a budget cap for the scheme is reached.
Introduced in 2010, the Feed-In Tariff has been a major incentive to householders to install solar panels. It means they are paid a tax-free income for every unit of electricity their panels generate. The amount per unit is locked in at the rate is was when their system was certified and guaranteed for the next 20 years, meaning that over time solar panels can pay for themselves.
Although the Feed-In Tariff rate has been gradually reduced over the years, it still stands at just below 13p per unit, but the new proposals from the Department for Energy and Climate Control (DECC) would see the rate slashed to just 1.63p per unit from January 1st – a draconian 87% cut.
Opposition to the proposals has been widespread, from politicians, business leaders, environmental organisations and the solar industry itself, which employs around 340,000 people across the UK. A petition on the UK Parliament website topped 10,000 signatures in its first week and now has more than 22,000.
With key business leaders such as the CBI’s John Cridland now arguing the cuts would cost the UK far more than they would save, the Government could be persuaded to think again on financial grounds alone. Leonie Greene, of the Solar Trade Association, said: “It’s hard to think of a greater waste of public money than building up a strong British solar industry, hailed by the Prime Minister as a success, and then pushing it over a cliff before it is ready to fly.”
All this has been welcomed by Ged Rowbottom, director of award-winning Burnley-based solar panel company Solarlec, which also has offices in Exeter and Carlisle.
“Everyone in the industry knew the Government was planning changes to the Feed-In Tariff, but to virtually scrap it when the industry is still growing rapidly just makes no sense,” said Mr Rowbottom.
“Investment in clean renewable energy is something the Government should be actively encouraging. The Feed-In Tariff has helped to do that, but there is still a very long way to go if the Government is to meet its own renewable energy targets. This proposed 87 per cent cut is much too high and much too soon.”
Even if the proposed cut does go ahead it will not affect those who already have solar panels, who will continue to receive their tax-free payments for the guaranteed 20-year period. Similarly, householders who have solar panel systems installed and certified before the 1 January cut-off date would still benefit from the current Feed-In Tariff arrangements – they would be guaranteed the tax-free payments for 20 years, in addition to making significant savings on their electricity bills.
Not surprisingly, this has led to a surge in demand for solar installations from new customers keen to benefit from the Feed-In Tariff while they still can.
“Our teams have been extremely busy since the proposed cuts were announced,” added Mr Rowbottom. “The Feed-In Tariff has been the ‘deal of the decade’ and people are desperate not to miss out on it.”
You can sign the petition against the DECC proposals at: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106791
For more information about savings to be made through solar panels, visit www.solarlec.com or call free on 0800 0224083.