Inverness renewables chief warns solar subsidy cut is ‘blow’ to industry

Monokristalline Solarmodule vor sonnigem HimmelBy DARA BUTTERFIELD

A top 20 UK firm of accountants has warned that government cuts to solar subsidies will ‘severely undermine’ consumer confidence.

The Government has recommended that after April small solar farms of 5MW and under will no longer qualify for support under the Renewable Obligation.

The decision has been taken ostensibly to keep the cost of energy to the consumer down by removing the contribution they make to the subsidy system. However, some commentators have estimated this to be in the region of just £1.20 per year on the average annual household electricity bill.

But Shirley Mathieson, Inverness-based Head of Renewables at Saffery Champness, said: “This will come as a blow to many rural businesses for whom solar at this scale, in the region of 25 acres, has been an option, but who may not yet be far enough into projects to satisfy the grace period requirements.

“Undoubtedly there will be some consideration and re-evaluation of the viability of schemes in the light of this announcement, albeit this is just a consultation at this stage.

“Also of concern is the proposal to remove pre-accreditation from the FIT scheme for solar. If this measure is brought in as proposed it will severely undermine consumer confidence when considering investing in small- scale solar panel installations. Even though the time that it can take to plan and install solar panels can be relatively quick, these new measures mean that there will be no certainty at the point of committing to the investment as to the rate of return that the consumer can expect.”

The proposal for the cut in Renewable Obligations for solar schemes of less than 5 MW does allow a grace period for developers who obtained preliminary accreditation before 22 July 2015, who have made significant financial commitments to projects before that date, or where there have been grid connection issues outwith their control.

Meanwhile, renewable electricity company Good Energy has deeply criticised the new renewable subsidy cuts.

Juliet Davenport, Chief Executive, said: “We agree with the Secretary of State (Amber Rudd) that climate change is an issue for everyone.

“She’s also right to say that bills need to be affordable, so it makes no sense to be pulling the rug under innovative technologies which can deliver both lower bills and energy security in the long term.

“Innovation and enterprise are key to helping us move away from an unhealthy reliance on fossil fuels, and British industry has the opportunity to be at the forefront of providing that solution, both here in the UK and abroad.”

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