Ministers seem to be hell-bent on undermining the UK solar industry with constant briefings about imminent cuts to renewable energy subsidies. A number of national newspapers have carried misleading reports recently indicating that Energy Secretary Amber Rudd is gearing up to further slash solar power subsidies.
The newspaper reports constantly refer to a feed-in-tariff of 43p per kilowatt-hour, a subsidy that has not existed for almost four years. The current tariff stands at a very much reduced 12.92p. The Governments main argument for their unpopular plans are that this is necessary to limit the cost to consumers who help fund the subsidies via their energy bills.
David Hunt, Managing Partner of specialist renewables recruitment company Hyperion Executive Search, said: “Every time the Government indulges in unofficial briefings, it further undermines a sector that is still in its formative stages but which is already doing so much good for the economy. The most recent figures produced by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) showed an 8.7 per cent increase in the number of people working in our industry, compared to a mere one per cent rise in overall employment during the same period. There are also now more than 6,800 companies operating in the renewable energy sector, of which over 2,000 are in the solar PV industry. Even more importantly, there is a genuine spread of companies and jobs across the UK including the much vaunted Northern Powerhouse which is responsible for 11,000 jobs in the sector.”
David, who is also Chair of On-site Renewables Group for the REA, said a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that the UK Government was continuing to pour billions of pounds in subsidies into fossil fuels while slashing support for renewables.
He added: “The IMF survey highlighted how fossil fuels receives a staggering £26billion in subsidies, compared to the £3.6 billion cost of supporting renewables. “Any suggestion that this Government is a friend of the renewables sector is totally shot to pieces by its continual chipping away at a sector which is doing so much good for the UK economy. In addition to the repeated cuts to subsidies, we have witnessed a string of unbalanced planning directives including the fast-tracking of fracking and the scrapping of the Code for Sustainable Homes which would have made all new homes more energy-efficient and therefore cheaper to run for the consumer. How can the renewables sector plan for the future when faced with chaotic policy-making aimed at winning headlines as opposed to helping the renewables sector continue to play a key part in the economic success of the UK? Until Ministers start to wield their power more responsibly, the renewables industry will continue to see a drain of jobs, talent and tax receipts out of the UK and into the arms of global competitors.”
“The present government seems to be exceptionally good at manipulating the media, in particular the tabloids” says GBEzine editor, Keith Hall. “The solar industry” he continued, “is not the only sector that have come under enormous pressure since this (small majority) government came to power in May. All corners of the renewables industry have taken massive knocks to their confidence following unexpected moves by the government to scrap the very schemes that have, to date, been so successful in engaging the public with power generation and consumption. So far since May we have had promises to scrap the zero carbon strategy, end the Green Deal and dump the renewable heating incentive (RHI) – and all largely hidden away in an insultingly named document called ‘Fixing the Foundations’ while at the same time they are committing to ever-more fossil fuel and nuclear contracts.”
Whatever next you might well ask?