The Government’s Chaotic Solar Policy

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The solar industry is still struggling to come to terms with the scale of the damage inflicted on them by the Government’s sudden announcement last month that feed-in tariffs to support the installation of solar PV are to be more than halved.

While it’s always been accepted that the tariff would be revised in line with falling installation and running costs, this hasty reduction – originally planned for April – suggests an alarming degree of disorder in Government policy.

By failing to give people and organisations time to plan ahead and adapt, Ministers now risk reversing the significant achievements of this burgeoning industry.

Since the FIT scheme was introduced in April 2010, it has seen 100,000 solar installations, the creation of more than 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.

But following the Government’s shock decision, many solar projects across the country, including community energy projects that would benefit schools and hospitals, are either under threat or have already been cancelled.

The business case for local authority programmes, such as Brighton & Hove City Council’s ambitious plan for solar panels on public buildings and council houses, has also been seriously undermined.

And schemes that would have seen thousands of social housing tenants benefit from solar have been abandoned.

What’s particularly shocking is that the FiTs cut will come into force even before the Government has finished its consultation – making a complete mockery of the democratic process.

The Consultation Institute has warned that this could breach the Civil Service code, which reasonably states that “formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the outcome”. Friends of the Earth has launched a legal challenge.

We must now do all we can to put pressure on the Government to scale back its shock treatment and offer some respite for solar. This is a jobs rich, green industry which is just taking flight, and withdrawing support too soon – before its full potential has been realised – could be disastrous.

Caroline Lucas

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