Solar survival of the fittest – is this fight or flight time?

Could these cuts mean the end for small-scale solar?

‘Following my last blog it seems things have taken a somewhat unexpected turn. On 27th August the government announced an 87% cut in the Feed-in Tariff (which was around 80% more than everyone predicted) This could mean that small-scale renewables will struggle with a proposed generation rate of just 1.63p.

There has been much anger and protest in the industry, and rightly so these cuts could not only put companies out of business but the supporting organisations that regulate parts of the sector could be in trouble. The government’s impact assessment, which accompanies the report acknowledged some job losses, however, they haven’t assessed far enough into the supply chain of the industry nor could they be confident enough to put a figure to this.

Industry insiders have also warned that the scale of the cuts could lead to consolidation across the market and even put the UK at risk of falling short of the legally binding renewable energy and emissions reduction targets. Not to mention the embarrassing hypocrisy when Mr Cameron arrives at the Paris Climate Change summit in December, after he’s just decimated the UK’s green industry.

Ministers have countered that the changes are necessary to tackle the overspend on clean energy subsidies that risk leading to upward pressure on bills by 2020. When we look at the real savings on bills – the cost of which many would probably support if it meant supporting renewables– it’s only around £1 pa. I question the motives when it is at the expense of our green morality, especially when you read about the North Sea gas rig given the green light just days ago.

The report goes on to say that the ‘industry has proven resilient to previous significant changes to FITs, and has been able to adapt to previous tariff reductions and the introduction of degression.’ This may be so but there are only so many times you can kick a metaphorical puppy before it lacks the energy and strength to stand up again. If the government were serious about ‘degression’ then why not actually digress each quarter until they reach their 87%? When I teach my daughter to walk I hold her hands, she holds the furniture, and gradually she lets go until soon she will walk on her own. If we are to instil the same confidence in the sector and have a future of subsidy free solar, the industry needs a gradual pace – until renewables reaches maturity we at least need the furniture to steady ourselves.

The Harvey Hadden Sports Village, Nottingham. Image: Business Green online

Of course the show must go on and we are busy helping our customers install before January. There could be some positives out there and we at IDDEA believe in the future of solar. Commercial rooftops of 50kW, although will jump from a payback period of 7 years to 12, are still viable and an important step to reducing carbon emissions – the government may be sending out mixed signals but businesses can strengthen the message by supporting solar.

This may also be an excellent time for a solar revolution, with innovative installations such as solar car parks, radical solar ‘sculptures’ and breakthroughs in transparent solar cells, the future could indeed be bright.

The jury’s out until 23rd October when the consultation ends – we don’t know what will happen but one things for certain, the industry needs to decide to fight or flight.’

If you want to fight sign the petition below:

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