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UK Government Urged to Throw Weight Behind 'Thriving' British Solar

Over 150 companies have co-signed a letter to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to support Britain’s thriving solar industry.


Signatories include furniture retailers Ikea, green power companies, Good Energy and Ecotricity, and Loughborough University, with small companies directly involved in the solar PV industry representing the majority of supporters.


The letter was timed to coincide with the closing of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) consultation on proposals to remove Renewable Obligation support for solar farms over 5MW, described as a “kick in the teeth” to the sector. 


The letter emphasises the benefits of developing UK solar at all scales – developing a healthy commercial, residential and solar farm market, in order to take advantage of the predicted £78 billion (US$133 billion) per annum global solar market in 2020. However, the signatories believe that the current policy framework makes this target unachievable.


Paul Barwell, chief executive of industry body the Solar Trade Association explained: “Solar is a home-grown solution to Britain’s energy crisis. If the government provides a stable policy environment solar will soon be subsidy free. But the government is now proposing to tilt the playing field against large-scale solar, while not taking sufficient action to unlock commercial rooftop solar – that is unacceptable.”


“We urge DECC not to close the Renewables Obligation to large-scale solar and to rethink proposals on feed-in tariffs to allow a meaningful rooftop market which their own Solar PV Strategy recognises has such tremendous potential.”


Barwell concluded: “So serious are the implications of these consultations for the British solar industry that we are asking the Prime Minister to intervene. We only need one more push, one more period of policy stability to be able to compete with fossil fuels without support. That is the global race the PM needs to win for the UK economy and the climate.”


Jeremy Leggett, chair of charity SolarAid and non-executive chairman of EPC firm SolarCentury added: "Despite all of the incredible achievements of the UK solar industry since 2010, it's still very clear that the Whitehall mindset has yet to catch up.


“Too much of the wording in the current solar consultation has the whiff of Groundhog Day about it. It's time that the government woke up to the fact that, with stable support, jobs rich UK solar will be cheaper than onshore wind during the next Parliament, opening up immense opportunities for UK PLC and driving down the costs of delivering the 2020 renewable energy target in the process.


“Far from slamming the brakes on large-scale solar, the Prime Minister should be hailing it as one of Britain's renewable energy success stories and getting behind it. Instead he prefers to push fracking, even in National Parks."


The STA claims that DECC’s entire reason for revising support for large-scale solar is unfounded. The association calculates that solar farms only account for 5% of RO expenditure, and therefore rejects the claim that solar farm deployment is threatening the levy control framework (LCF).


In addition, the STA is extremely critical of the government’s apparent push to promote the deployment of commercial rooftop solar, labelling the outlined proposals as “wide of the mark”. As a result, the STA is asking government to issue another consultation to ‘properly address’ the barriers to rooftop solar deployment.


The letter will be delivered to the Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street today at midday today.


P.S. The letter can be viewd below:


Dear Prime Minister, We are writing to express our concern about the levels of uncertainty in the solar power industry as a result of recent proposed policy changes by your energy department. We urge you to act to secure the UK solar industry and to strengthen the UK’s position in the soaring global solar market estimated at over $130bn by 2020.


On larger commercial and industrial roofs, and in ground-mounted schemes solar is the second cheapest major renewable in the UK. Overly restricting solar’s growth in these cost-effective applications therefore makes no sense from a consumer value perspective.


Solar is a secure, home-grown solution to Britain’s energy crisis. Thousands of UK businesses have already invested in onsite solar power in order to reduce their climate impact and to benefit directly from more stable energy costs. The UK industry comprises over 2,000 SMEs, directly employing 16,000 people. 61% of the value of large-scale solar investment accrues to the UK, higher than for many other energy sources. The potential for further employment, innovation and growth across the industry is exceptional, as international experience shows.


Just a short period of stable Government support is needed to deliver subsidy free solar in the UK (by the end of the next Parliament). We very much welcome the very positive benefits solar parity will deliver for UK businesses including improving international competitiveness, lower energy price inflation and improved electricity sector competition.


We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss these issues further.


We urge you to back the UK’s emergent solar power industry and take into account the industry’s responses to the Government’s consultation on changes to financial support for solar PV which closes today.


Yours sincerely,


(entrepreneurs' name list)


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