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.