UK Coalition hindering Scottish green revolution

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by a Newsnet reporter

The UK government’s plans to reduce feed-in tariffs for solar energy installations have come under fierce criticism from business, charities and opposition MPs.   

Feed-in tariffs are payments made to anyone who owns a renewable electricity system, for every kilowatt hour they generate.  The price paid to renewable systems for electricity is higher than the normal rate for power generation, in recognition of the high costs of set-up and as a means of encouraging the development of renewable energies.  

However recently the government announced it was reducing the feed-in tariffs paid for household solar power, as the scheme has proven more popular than was anticipated.  Government ministers fear that the costs of the scheme will escalate.  Under proposals announced last week, a new, lower tariff will apply to anyone registering their solar electricity panels for the scheme on or after December 12 – even though the consultation on the plans runs until December 23.

The green group Friends of the Earth has given the Government until Friday to change the proposals.  The group plans to launches legal action, saying the cut-off point before the end of the consultation is unlawful and will lead to projects being abandoned.

Policy and campaigns director Craig Bennett said: “The Government is breaking the law with its plans to fast-track a solar industry kill-off – as well as jeopardising thousands of jobs and countless clean energy projects across the country.

“Significant time and money has been invested in planning solar schemes for homes, schools and libraries – giving them just six weeks to install is completely unacceptable, and schemes have already been scrapped. Ministers must amend their proposals and extend the deadline for solar tariff payments, or face a judicial review.”

SNP MEP Alyn Smith agrees that implementing the new proposals before the end of the consulation period is unreasonable.  Mr Smith has written to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, demanding a rethink.

Mr Smith said:

“Feed in tariffs are not the ideal way to fund the renewables revolution, but this cut by the Tory / LibDem government will see funding for supplying the national grid slashed by half at a time when the European Climate Foundation is telling us that spending on updating the grid needs to double.

“This could have a devastating impact for households and businesses across Scotland.   The market needs time to develop and this move would see the rug being pulled from under it, just as it was getting off the ground.  There are thousands of jobs at stake in Scotland here, not to mention the lower energy bills and fewer climate emissions.

“As if this isn’t bad enough, the planned implementation of the December 12th date means that people seeking to have panels installed on their property will be penalised while the consultation is still on-going.  This is completely unreasonable and cannot be allowed to stand.  I’ve been contacted by constituents and interests professionals who are quite rightly up in arms about this proposal.

“I have myself been looking at PV solar panels for my house, however if these consultation plans are implemented then it would become on the verge of being financially prohibitive.  I can only assume that there are others like myself out there reconsidering investing in this technology.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We’re consulting on proposed new tariffs for a reason – to protect consumers from footing the bill for excessive subsidies.  This is a live consultation and will be open for people to comment until December 23.”