Why is the government trying to destroy a nascent solar industry?

By Cllr. Leonie Cooper – GLA Candidate Wandsworth and Merton

It’s hard to imagine building companies and Friends of the Earth getting together to sue the Government, but in December this is exactly what happened.

Last February, I installed a small 1.2 Kilowatt Peak (KwP) system of solar (PV) panels on my roof. Since then, I have received 2 Feed-In Tariff (FIT) cheques, and am now awaiting the 3rd.

Even better, my monthly electricity payment is now a paltry £20 – yes, £20. With the FIT income alone the system will pay for itself in 10 years, but taking account of the reduction in my electricity bills it’s more like 5 years.

But ministers Chris Huhne & Greg Barker suddenly announced on 31st October that any new PV systems fitted after 12th December would only attract FIT payments of 21p from 1st April.

A so-called consultation on this change was simultaneously announced, but as it finished 2 weeks after the 12th December, most people regarded it as a charade. A judge then found that the Government had acted unlawfully.

PV panel prices have come down, as a small industry was stimulated and started to grow from 1st April 2010 onwards. This was exactly what the previous Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, Ed Miliband, had hoped for when he introduced the FIT system.

Green growth, providing real jobs during a time of economic difficulty, that also tackles fuel poverty and increases the percentage of renewable energy in our energy mix, would seem like something the new Government would support.

But Huhne and Barker sped ahead and squashed an entire blossoming green industry by pulling the plug early. Individuals and companies that had signed contracts, based on a level of FIT payment that now will not pay back the initial investment for years and years – can’t turn back.

Redundancy notices have been served on numerous electricians and scaffolders as orders have been cancelled. People who can personally raise cash (mostly owner- occupiers) have benefitted, while tenants, usually on more limited incomes, have not.

Huhne and Barker are now planning to appeal the judgement. Why don’t they just accept they have created a complete car crash by reducing FIT so suddenly?

Why not reduce it from 1st April 2012, as originally planned, instead of reducing it to a point suddenly where a new industry is destroyed, & thousands of jobs lost?

Author: Wandsworth Labour

News and opinion from Wandworth Labour councillors

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