UK solar PV industry future lies in the balance Print this pagePrint this page

UK solar PV industry future lies in the balance The head of one of the UKís long-established solar photovoltaic (PV) installation companies has called for common sense and a long-term sensible approach regarding the future of solar Feed-in-Tariffs (FITS), to avoid wasting the gains that have been achieved over recent years. Gabriel Wondrausch, founder of SunGift Energy, launched his appeal following a spate of reports over the past week suggesting major cuts to the solar Feed-in Tariff. ďThese reports show that the Feed-in Tariff is working and itís extremely successful in driving down the cost of solar. Itís effective in getting businesses and householders interested in renewable energy and itís attractive enough for them to make the decision to get it installed. Whatís more, weíre extremely close to reaching the point at which renewable electricity costs as little to generate as electricity from fossil fuels, so itís imperative that we donít take a backward step.Ē

Wondrausch and others in the solar industry are particularly concerned that any major shocks to the industry could result in the loss of the skills that have been built up in recent years, causing the industry to have to Ďstart over againí in the future. This would be a huge waste, costing the UK £billions and losing our position as a world solar expert,Ē added Wondrausch. ďIn recent years the capacity-driven Feed-in Tariff mechanism gave us the security we needed, but any big changes now could be devastating."

ďThis momentum has been gained over a period of four years and itís crucial that we donít allow this to slow down. Itís is the only way that we can continue to reduce energy usersí reliance on fossil fuels, ensure that bills remain low in the future, and secure the UKís energy future. "

Recently, the think tank 'Policy Exchange' said the average household energy bill has risen by £120 over the last five years due to what they called "ill-thought through energy and climate policies". In their report the Policy exchange think tank say: "The largest contributor to overspending has been the underestimation of the uptake of rooftop solar panels. Britain has added more solar capacity than any other European country since the turn of the century and the industry set a record this month by supplying 15% of the countryís power during a recent heatwave. Policy Exchange found that this year the tariffs to support home panel kits could cost £180m more than budgeted for. Therefore the think tank has suggested restricting FiTs for small photovoltaic systems from around 13p/kWh to 5p/kWh.

Money for the Feed-in Tariff currently comes from the Levy Control Framework (LCF), a mechanism that specifies the maximum allowable spending on energy subsidies. This is a cap on the amount the government can spend from bills for these initiatives. But the amount spent is tricky for the government to control as it is driven by demand.

because of ever-increasing demand for renewable technologies such as solar PV a spokeswoman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: 'Reducing energy bills for hard-working British families and businesses is this government's priority. We've already announced reforms to remove subsidies for onshore wind, and that work to make sure bill payers are getting the best possible deal is going to continue.'

But the renewable energy industry fears a cut now to another of the UK's rapidly expanding renewable technologies could seriously damage the industry at a crucial point in its development.

The Solar Trades Association have gone on record as saying: 'The UK renewable industry is already very significant. It employs over 30,000 people and turns over billions of pounds. It is quite clear that globally this industry is going to be worth trillions. So it is incredibly important that we make sure we have a strong solar industry in the UK.'