Renewables and sustainability groups have reacted with fury to proposals by the UK government to scrap subsidies for green energy projects.
The feed-in tariffs scheme is the government’s subsidy scheme for small-scale low-carbon installations. A consultation paper published yesterday sets out a proposal to close the export tariff alongside the generation tariff on 31 March 2019.
The move comes after government advisors in recent weeks called for a greater drive in wind and solar projects to combat climate change. The proposal to scrap subsidies was also published on the same day the government revealed its National Adaptation Programme 2018 to 2023, which sets out a strategy to deal with the effects of climate change.
Environment Minister Lord Gardiner said yesterday that climate change “is one of the most serious environmental challenges that we face as a nation”.
But Doug Parr, Greenpeace Chief Scientist, today said the subsidy-scrapping proposal leaves the UK’s “reputation for leadership on tackling climate change in tatters".
"It's absolutely shocking that, just weeks after the government's main advisers on infrastructure and tackling climate change strongly recommended that the government back wind and solar because they are the cheapest and cleanest forms of power, the government is hanging these industries out to dry.
“The government is not planning on financially or politically supporting them at all. Jobs will go, skills will be lost, investment will dry up, and opportunities will be squandered."
Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF said the UK government “is seesawing between its ambition to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement and this announcement ending subsidies for small scale renewables”.
“This move will prevent people – particularly low-income families - from accessing the benefits of onsite clean, free power. To begin restoring nature we urgently need to ramp up investment in renewables instead, in order to limit our carbon emissions."
James Court, head of policy & external affairs at the UK Renewable Energy Association, said the removal of the export tariff for new projects “will lead to the truly bizarre situation where consumers who own technologies such as solar will give electricity they don’t consume to the grid for free”.
“Post-subsidy could be a reality, but in an energy market where nothing, not even gas power stations, can be built without government support, it is unrealistic to expect consumers, businesses or developers to continue installing small scale generation. This could be achieved by tax incentives, market enablers, and planning or building regulations, but we are currently left in an unnecessary policy vacuum without any firm proposals put forward by government.
Solar would be likely to hit hardest by any withdrawal of subsidies, and Solar Trade Association chief executive Chris Hewett said: “Feed-in tariffs have enabled around 800,000 households and 28,000 businesses to generate their own clean solar power to date, transforming the future of energy in the UK.”
With the UK in the midst of a weeks-long heatwave, he added: “Last week 10 per cent of all UK electricity was generated by solar. This would simply not have happened without the feed-intTariff.”
He said that while the government “has been crystal-clear on what policy measures will stop – even very basic rights to fair export payments – they are frighteningly vague on what comes next. There is real dismay that there is now a serious abd needless policy gap between the end of FITs and the start of the new regime.”