With all the furore that’s been going on about Brexit and what exactly is going to happen next year when we leave the EU, you may be forgiven that it’s the only important news story out there.
For those interested in the development of solar energy and other renewable power, however, a stark admission by the Government at the end of last week certainly set a few heads in the renewables sector spinning.
The Feed in Tariff which has been responsible for getting homeowners and businesses to invest in solar panels will cease to exist for new customers from April next year. The announcement was largely lost in the milieu that has been created by the Government’s inept Brexit performance. It was hardly reported in the main stream media.
According to the Guardian last Thursday, the decision was laced with an extra kick in the gut for green activists and those who want to see cleaner, cheaper energy for their homes:
“The government’s announcement came on the same day that it launched a consultation to allow exploratory shale well gas wells to be built without planning permission.”
The History of the Feed In Tariff
The Feed in Tariff is a subsidy for those taking on renewable power sources such as solar panel and it pays a certain amount per kWh of energy produced. This means that homeowners and businesses can make a reasonably decent return on investment by getting regular payments. That was the case at least until the Government decided to slash the tariff rates back in 2016, something that also caused a stall in the solar market.
Since it began back in 2011, over 800,000 homeowners have taken the plunge to get solar panels installed on their roof tops. Those that already get access to the Feed in Tariff will not be affected by the change which is due to take place next year. And, to be fair, the demise of the FiT has been on the cards for some time.
What Next for Solar Power?
There’s no doubt that the decision by Greg Clark at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will have a major impact on smaller renewable companies and set the agenda for clean energy back a good deal. The fact that more credence has been given to fracking than solar has not been lost on many experts in the marketplace.
According to Emma Pinchbeck from Renewable UK:
“Today’s confirmation that there will be no replacement for the Feed-in Tariff is a major blow to small-scale renewables in the UK. The Government has known the FiT would be closing for three years and the fact that they are only now beginning the conversation about new policies is far too little, far too late for many companies.”
The Government has said that it is looking at how to support small scale renewables but what shape this takes is far from certain. In the meantime, those hoping to take advantage of the FiT scheme have until next April to get their solar panels installed.
The news about the FiT comes not long after the Government confirmed that it would not be supporting the proposed tidal lagoon at Swansea Bay. That’s despite a report produced in 2017 that said the lagoon would bring huge benefits and could be a very cost-effective way of generating electricity. It appears that Greg Clark and his department doesn’t see it that way. This may be disappointing but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
What many people will see is a Government that is unwilling (and may never have been really willing) to support green, renewable energy initiatives. Better to go for nuclear power and large discredited fracking operations than making the case for ‘all that green crap’ as David Cameron once put it.
While Brexit fills the headlines, unfortunately, it has become even easier for the Government to get away with dismantling the clean power agenda. The surprising thing is that anyone has noticed at all.