The Sun is Setting on Large-Scale Solar

This week, Department of Energy and Climate Change announced plans to cut financial support for large-scale solar in the UK from April next year, halting subsidies currently received through the renewables obligation (RO) scheme. The consultation, which was released on Wednesday, states that the industry is growing much faster than expected and therefore needs pruning back so that other sustainable areas have the opportunity to blossom.

Aside from the sneaking suspicion that this is actually a spooked Governmental response to the rising numbers of UKIP voters, aiming to stop the progress of large solar before it becomes as unpopular as wind with NIMBY voters and causes anyone else to defect, there is a far more immediate problem.

What the Government appears to have missed entirely is that at the end of these subsidy-funded schemes there are entrepreneurs and business owners who have devoted serious investments of both money and time towards building organisations that form the backbone of the budding low-carbon economy.

In one fell swoop they have been cut off at the knees.

“All’s fair in love and war” you might say, and if the funding no longer supports wider growth then maybe DECC are right to abandon it. On the other hand, perhaps they could try a dazzling new method of forward planning that doesn’t result in the imminent loss of thousands of jobs and huge, lasting damage to future private sector investment. Call me crazy but I think that would be more effective.

This kneejerk reaction is demonstrative of a complete absence of long-term planning, something that has plagued the energy sector for decades; shockwaves will be felt throughout the clean tech world and beyond as investors find further proof that their money is simply not safe when left to the apparent whim of government. What chance does the industry have to strengthen itself when it keeps hitting these political walls? Just as they’re getting going with a clear trajectory, another obstacle floors them and lives are ruined.

Rather than have the government slam their foot on the accelerator and then performing an emergency stop in a never-ending cycle of go-stop-go-stop, the UK desperately needs to have an energy strategy that outlasts this ludicrous four-year political thinking. The constant threat of reneged policies is hugely damaging for the transition to a clean economy, and it would not be unreasonable to see the solar industry, along with however many others, relocate to a more favourable setting far from British shores.

 

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As Chairman of the Rolton Group, Peter provides high-level strategic advice to a range of governmental, public sector and commercial clients. He is an acknowledged specialist in the renewable energy sector, and there is good reason for this: when it comes to energy, Peter is clear about the issues we face and the need for a cohesive strategy to tackle them. He is a passionate advocate of informed debate, and has consistently brought clarity to this complex situation."If the UK is united on one thing about energy it is that, on an individual basis, the public knows what it’s not in favour of. When it comes to offering up solutions, it’s not that confident. Pointing at single solutions like wind farms and saying that they are too expensive is missing the point. Carbon-based forms of energy like oil and gas are running out. Energy is going to be more expensive and a portfolio of renewable energies will necessarily be part of our solution in the future." Peter holds particular expertise in the areas of site-wide energy planning, zero carbon power generation, low carbon design, carbon offsetting and the application of renewable technology. He has acted as a Government advisor on numerous consultations and white papers, presenting to the Secretary of State on a number of occasions on the subject of renewable planning and public sector engagement. He has worked as a strategic partner with some of the world’s largest and most successful blue-chip companies, and is a Director of Renewables East, the renewable energy agency for the east of England.Peter is both a chartered building services engineer and a chartered member of the Institute of Energy, and has gained accreditation under the Carbon Trust Consultant Accreditation Scheme for solution development, with particular expertise in the establishment of energy strategies. He founded his first business, Rolton Services Consultants Limited, in 1989, and founded Cool Planet Technologies, a specialist renewable energy delivery partner which was sold to British Gas in 2010. He has been the architect of the path through which Rolton Group has addressed the challenges of renewables, carbon and the built environment."We need to see the bigger picture and not become hung up on individual technologies and individual costs. We need a completely different technology mix and not a reliance on one form of energy supply. We need all forms of technology to be applied – and we need it to happen quickly."

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