Chris Huhne, energy secretary, has taken another step to undermine the solar industry in seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court to defend his feed in tariff cuts. The saga of the cuts started back in October when Chris Huhne first proposed that the rate that home-owners received for their excess energy should be halved. Although the industry accepted that the price of panels had significantly reduced and therefore profits were higher than expected, the proposal to backdate the cuts before the end of the consultation period was the real bugbear. Solar companies, HomeSun and SolarCentury along with Friends of the Earth, decided to take the Government to court and quickly won their case. Since then the Government has been appealing the decision.
HomeSun states: “The FiT was due to reduce in April 2012, and the industry had proposed a reduction of 30%. Suddenly on 31st October, government announced a ‘consultation’ running to 23rd December, and a proposed cut of 50% from 12th December 2011. This announcement created chaos: thousands of people trying to get installed when there weren’t enough people or kits to do the job; thousands of businesses going to the wall because they had committed stock which wouldn’t be arriving until 2012; thousands of people put on notice of losing their jobs.”
A report commissioned by Friends of the Earth states that: “DECC’s plans will have dramatic, negative impacts on the solar industry and on the deployment of solar PV in the UK. DECC’s own Impact Assessment concedes that PV installations will fall 50-95%.The rate of new installations forecast by DECC in its proposals would support only around one-third of the jobs currently in the sector, placing at least 18,000 jobs at risk.”
The Government has now announced that no matter what the outcome of this latest appeal, they will implement the cuts on the 3rd March. The fear is that this will generate another rush on installations that the industry simply won’t be able to fit in time.
SolarCentury hosted a web-based Q&A session with Which? magazine to try to answer questions from the general public about the current status and the future of solar. By far and away the most common question was “Should I gamble on achieving a March installation?” Clearly the drive is still there to install panels and reap the rewards of clean energy, but even companies whose business is solar are advising caution until this final appeal is resolved.