In January this year, the British Government announced a far-reaching review of Feed-in Tariffs, which, on the face of it, seemed like bad news for the renewables industry. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that, while large- scale PV operators are right to be up-in-arms, the review could bode well for wind…
It was not long before the backlash to the UK Government’s decision to launch a comprehensive review of its Feed-in Tariffs, began. The voices of dissent were heard throughout the Westminster village with ministers publicly bemoaning the coalition’s decision and airing fears about its long-term detrimental effect on the renewables industry.
By mooting a potential 50kW limit for subsidised PV installations, the government is jeopardising hundreds of community-scale schemes, it was claimed. The review, which comes just 10 months after the tariff was established, also calls into question the coalition government’s commitment to renewables, particularly after it emerged that Britain’s Energy Minister, Charles Hendry, was planning to offer homeowners council tax discounts or cheaper electricity as part a plan to increase the number of wind farms in the UK.
This runs contrary to previous government claims that it held no favourites when it came to renewable energy. (Although, of course, solar’s loss could be wind’s gain – see below.) The party line was that the market would decide which technology would prosper, but this commitment now begins to look outmoded. Not least since Britain’s Energy Secretary Chris Huhne was recently photographed outside Sharp’s newly-expanded solar factory in Wales extolling the virtues of photovoltaics. “This is excellent news for the solar industry and for Sharp, which shows that green growth is a vital part of our economic recovery,” he said at the time.
Meanwhile representatives of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) have expressed concern and have asked the UK Government to take all necessary caution to avoid destabilising British communities and companies that are starting to invest in renewables. It has stressed the importance of developing a long-term sustainable renewable market by providing a stable and reliable framework. According to the EPIA, this early tariff review risks an unusually long period of uncertainty that could put many projects at stake and could halt a nascent market before it has properly started.
Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy adviser Alan Simpson added: “The Government’s Feed-in Tariff review is a complete fiasco that has created total confusion within the energy sector. If ministers have concerns about solar farms they should address them through the planning system – not by undermining confidence in green energy investment. We need urgent action to tackle climate change and rising fossil fuel prices – Feed-in Tariffs have a key role to play in creating a clean energy future.”