The UK’s solar industry has expressed dismay at a move by the government to cut subsidies to ground-mounted solar panels.
A forthcoming review is expected to see ground-mounted solar arrays lose out, with the government favouring continued support for rooftop solar.
Seb Barry of SolarCentury said that changes made to the renewable obligation (RO) would be “a truly nightmare scenario” and “a commercial disaster for the entire industry.”
The government is understood to favour prioritising solar panels on buildings, such as factories and supermarkets. Building-mounted systems currently receive slightly higher payments (1.7 renewable obligation certificates per kilowatt hour) than ground-mounted ones (1.6 ROC/kWh).
There are around 200 solar photovoltaic farms around the UK, whose owners are paid thousands of pounds under the renewable obligation scheme. The payments are levied from household energy bills.
Payments are expected to be cut for the larger ground-mounted schemes that have been built on farmland, former airfields and other sites. “We don’t want the whole solar sector damaged by a few solar farms that communities don’t want,” a Whitehall source told the Guardian.
Greg Barker, the climate minister, was reported by the Daily Mail as wanting to cut the payments.
But the Guardian has been told that the “overall level of support for solar will stay the same”, which could suggest the payments for solar on the ground will go down and those for panels on buildings will go up. A consultation will be announced within weeks.
The solar industry said it was disappointed by the prospect of a review.
Seb Berry, head of public affairs at Solarcentury said: “It goes without saying that any move to change the RO from 2015 will have significant commercial consequences for this sector because of the time-frame for large-scale projects. The truly nightmare scenario of a possible change to the RO before April 2015 would be a commercial disaster for the entire industry and certainly open up DECC to the prospect of legal challenge.”
“We are still dealing with Conservative “source” rumours, nods and winks aided and abetted by the Daily Mail, so it’s hard to know what we can expect when this review is finally published. But unless the document provides very public reassurance on the future of RO support for solar, the damage to investor confidence (and not just in solar) from a poorly timed and ambiguously worded government consultation could be very severe.”
Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource Renewable Energy, one of the UK’s biggest solar developers, said: “Constant tariff cuts and government pressure act to undermine the work we do to provide clean, secure energy and put into serious question the very momentum we have worked so hard to build.”
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