UK PV sector plea to Cameron

At Downing Street, left to right: Leonie Greene, STA external relations head; Paul Barwell, STA CEO; Jeremy Leggett, chairman, SolarCentury.

At Downing Street, left to right: Leonie Greene, STA external relations head; Paul Barwell, STA CEO; Jeremy Leggett, chairman, SolarCentury.

A coalition of more than 150 businesses from across the UK solar industry and beyond have warned Prime Minister David Cameron of the threat to Britain’s thriving solar industry.

A letter delivered to Downing Street today by the Solar Trade Association (STA) calls on Cameron to back the UK solar industry in the face of proposed changes to government support.

Signatories include IKEA, Triodos Bank, Ecotricity, Kyocera, Interface, Good Energy, and the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology at Loughborough University.

The letter is being delivered on the day the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) closes its consultation on proposed changes to solar power support.

The STA claims the DECC proposals are already having a damaging effect on parts of the industry.

“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,” says STA chief executive Paul Barwell, who together with Solarcentury non-executive chairman Jeremy Leggett will be handing over the letter to Downing Street.

“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 (RO) to large-scale solar and to rethink proposals on feed in tariffs (FITs) to allow a meaningful rooftop market, which their own solar PV strategy recognises has such tremendous potential.

“The level of policy uncertainty risks derailing the extraordinary progress the large-scale industry has made in delivering jobs and reducing technology costs in the last few years. It is also putting the UK’s position in the booming solar market at risk.

Barwell adds: “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 Prime Minister needs to win for the UK economy and the climate.”

The letter highlights the critical importance of commercial and industrial roofs, as well as solar farms, in delivering low-cost solar. It urges Cameron to secure the UK industry with an eye on the £78bn ($133.5bn) per-annum global solar market anticipated by 2020.

The signatories underline the very positive benefits that solar parity will deliver for UK businesses including improving international competitiveness, lower energy price inflation and improved electricity sector competition.

“Despite all of the incredible achievement of the UK solar industry since 2010, it’s still very clear that the Whitehall mindset has yet to catch up,” says Leggett.  “Too much of the wording in the current solar consultation has the whiff of Groundhog Day about it.

“It’s about 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 targets in the process."

The two DECC consultations focus on controlling spending for large-scale PV within the RO and “promoting the deployment of midscale building-mounted solar PV” under the FIT.

However, the STA says DECC’s claims that large-scale solar is a threat to the RO budget are ill-founded, given that solar currently accounts for just 5% of total RO expenditure.

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