Solar industry should put champagne on ice…

…and take a reality check.

Before I start, I need to say that I am in favour of solar energy, both PV and thermal. Several years ago I had the privilage of touring the Sharp solar PV factory at Wrexham and to say I was impressed is an understatement.I have also spoken with several people who have solar thermal installations and I firmly believe that, for the past 5 or 6 years they have been the best value investment in renewable energy that a household can make. My uncle installed them on my recommendation and has been extremely happy with their performance over  the last 2 years.

So, once again, before the hate mail starts to flood in I AM NOT AGAINST SOLAR ENERGY USE IN THE UK OR SUPPORTING IT VIA GENERAL INCENTIVES FOR RENEWABLES.

However, with the news that the High Court has rejected the Government’s appeal over an earlier court ruling that the Government’s consultation on reducing support for solar PV under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) scheme was invalid has excited environmental tweeters throughout the UK and, judging by the press releases arriving in my inbox, solar firms think a great new era awaits them.

Renewable solar PV panels installed at the Eden Project

Solar PV panels installed at the Eden Project. Image from Sharp UK

For example, I have just read tweet from @CraigBennet13 which says: ‘Govt must now safeguard 29000 jobs in solar industry; drop appeal; use ¬£330m tax revenues from solar sector to top up FIT budget. Simple.‘ Only, it isn’t that simple…

I’m not going to go into the details of the court decision. There is loads of coverage out there, including (in no particular order): edieEnergy; greenwise; Renewable Energy Focus; businessGreen; The Guardian The Telegraph; The BBC… well, you get the idea. (As an aside, how come they only seem to have 2 stock images between the lot of them?)

According to @Solartwin (Barry Johnson) ‘In solar nothing is 100% sure: UK govt may reappeal to Supreme Court. Unless it wins here, 43.4p is the rate for installations by 3 March’ and ‘All three UK High Court judges were unanimous that government was acting unlawfully in retrospectively cutting solar PV FIT’s. Now what?’

Well, it’s easy: The money is running out and Solar PV has sucked the heart out of the FIT scheme like a vampire in a blood bank.

Before today’s ruling, former MP Alan Simpson wrote on the Friends of the Earth Blog that the Government had got it wrong on solar. I might not agree with everything he says, but he is right on that. If the Government (read Treasury) hadn’t been so desperate to shut the tap, it would have proposed a bigger drop in the solar FIT rate and made the cut off date something sensible in late February.

I understand why it didn’t, as it wanted to avoid a massive rush for last minute installations (that’s backfired!).

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