UK solar under scrutiny again

The UK coalition government is once again considering changes to support for large-scale solar power in the third review of the Renewables Obligation (RO) in less than three years.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) tells Recharge that it expects to hold a meeting soon with energy secretary Ed Davey to discuss the matter.

The UK is currently one of the world’s boom markets for PV, and analyst Solarbuzz this week said the country is on course to be Europe’s largest in 2014.

But when the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) launched its new national solar strategy – with a heavy emphasis on commercial-scale rooftop solar – it explicitly said it wanted to “move the emphasis for growth away from large solar farms".

A DECC spokesperson says: “We’re very clear that government support for solar PV has to deliver the best value for money to consumers. As technologies mature and costs of generation come down, those savings have to be passed on to bill payers.

“We will consult on any changes to current levels of support to solar PV. Our ultimate goal is for renewables to be competitive with other forms of electricity generation.”

The STA points out that hundreds of millions of pounds is currently being invested in projects not due to be built until next year.

“We are disappointed to read that DECC is launching another review of the solar industry,” says Paul Barwell, STA chief executive. “Investor confidence and market stability is absolutely essential in order to deliver sustained cost reductions for consumers and a healthy solar industry for UK plc.

“We are obviously on tenterhooks to see what changes DECC is proposing to make. We have been concerned that DECC’s solar strategy seeks to shift solar to mid-scale rooftops when the UK policy framework is inadequate for these scales,” he adds.

Energy minister Michael Fallon recently told the House of Commons that “there is no further comprehensive banding review planned for the RO scheme before it closes to new generation on 31 March 2017”.