The UK energy department has announced a “comprehensive review” of the solar power feed-in tariff system after concerns that funds intended to promote self-generated power risk being diverted to industrial-scale solar arrays.
Four solar farms have been approved by Cornwall council and three other counties are considering similar proposals, according to the Financial Times.
“Large-scale solar installations weren’t anticipated under the feed-in tariffs scheme we inherited and I’m concerned this could mean that money meant for people who want to produce their own green electricity has the potential to be directed towards large-scale commercial solar projects,” said energy secretary Chris Huhne.
The government has set aside GBP400m ($645m) for the feed-in tariffs, but this will be cut by 10 per cent by 2014-15. The “risk of an increasing number of large-scale solar farms” could push this goal “off track”, added a statement for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Huhne said he would reassess all aspects of the feed-in tariffs scheme, including the eligibility of technologies. He pledged to complete the review by the end of this year and leave tariffs unchanged until April 2012. Changes will apply only to new entrants: existing solar installations will be unaffected.
Critics said Mr Huhne’s announcement would create more uncertainty for investors at a time when the government should be encouraging the expansion of solar power to meet the UK’s renewable energy targets.
It is unclear how the government will define an undesirably big solar power proposal. Leonie Greene, from the Renewable Energy Association, said: “Pretty much everything beyond domestic level is really up in the air.”
She added: “The government places such an emphasis on community schemes, but this announcement could impact on those run by schools and hospitals. They have gone too far in terms of escalating the uncertainty and we’re probably worried now about anything above the domestic sector.”
The government has registered more than 21 000 installations eligible for the tariffs. Most serve individual households and include solar panels, wind turbines and micro-hydro plants.