By Ross McGuinness.
The government announcement at the very end of October detailing the depth of the cuts to the Feed in Tariff dealt what many thought would be a hammer blow to the burgeoning solar industry here in the UK. Solar PV companies were left scrambling to salvage what they could from their order books before the December 12th deadline passed and the new, vastly reduced rates came into effect.
The argument about the necessity and legality of the cuts has pinged over and back between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the various action groups for the past six weeks, with a huge gulf in ideology between the two sides. Whatever about the legality of what the government has done, the fact is that they are intent on cutting the FiT and whether or not people agree with them on this issue is a moot point. I’m certainly no apologist for a Tory led government which has reneged on not only its financial commitments, but also on it responsibilities to the green agenda, but they like their former leader are simply not for turning. The level of influence that the big six energy companies have within the walls of Westminster ensures this. The whole fiasco has been a case study political mismanagement, ministerial ineptitude and environmental short sightedness. Giving any industry which employs over 25,000 people only six weeks to adjust to a new financial landscape is not only reckless but it demonstrates a level of contempt not often shown by the usually PR savvy political classes.
So where does the industry go now in light of this new economic reality? Undoubtedly we will sadly see people lose their jobs whilst the market consolidates, but despite the new feed in tariff rates I believe that PV is absolutely here to stay in the UK. In terms of a proposition for householders on an individual basis, PV may no longer be viable but community lead schemes will still be viable, even at these lower FiT rates. For industry and businesses looking to embrace green technologies and still receive a good rate of return on their investment the overall signs are positive. PV has broken down the barriers and entered into the mainstream regards how building owners and developers now view it as a proposition. What the FiT has achieved is that it has provided the vehicle to drive PV towards being more cost competitive. Module prices are vastly reduced on rates before the tariff began, inverter prices the same. There is a definite interest and demand for PV in the marketplace now, certainly the old image of solar power being something of a novelty and only appealing to environmental idealists has changed, and the challenge for business is capitalising on this interest and demand. The positive message about PV and its future in the UK must not be allowed to be drowned out by poor governance or public scepticism. The ball is firmly in our court, it’s up to us to make the play.
Area Sales Engineer, Kingspan Powerpanel