Meeting local companies affected by Government cuts to solar subsidies
I met with local renewable energy companies and Friends of the Earth members this morning to discuss the Coalition Government’s sudden decision to cut support to solar power for panels registered after 12 December. Councillor Dave Merrett, Cabinet Member for City Strategy at City of York Council was also present.
We met at a house which is being fitted with solar panels and will be one of the last buildings to benefit from the current Feed-in-Tariff, which was introduced by the previous Labour Government.
The Feed-in-Tariff scheme has been a huge success since it was introduced and the solar industry is one industry in the UK that is growing and creating jobs. The UK solar energy sector currently employs 25,000 people, compared to just 3,000 in 2010, and the number of solar businesses has increased from 450 to over 3,000 in this period.
However, the Government announced on 31 October that it would be reducing the Feed-in-Tariff for solar installations with a capacity of 4kW or less by more than 50%, with effect from 12 December. This makes it more difficult for homeowners, businesses and local authorities who wish to install solar panels to make a return on their investment and will reduce takeup, putting thousands of jobs and businesses in the green economy at risk. City of York Council was hoping to install solar panels on around 2,000 homes by 31 March 2012 but this will now be difficult.
There are several companies in and around York that provide solar panels that will be affected by the Government’s decision. Today I met representatives from Solarwall, Solar Fit, Yorkshire Renewable Energy and Solar Panels 4U. They have seen a fall in their predicted turnover for next year. Solarwall hoped to recruit ten more members of staff but are no longer able to do this. Companies throughout the country will be forced to lay off staff as orders decrease.
I am a strong supporter of expanding renewable energy and have written to Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to argue that the Coalition Government, which promised to be “the greenest government ever”, should be supporting the solar industry, rather than strangling it at birth. I have urged the Secretary of State to withdraw the 12 December deadline and instead bring forward a more measured, sensible reduction in the Feed-in-Tariff that is fair to consumers and promotes the continued growth of the solar industry. My letter can be read here.
Cutting support for solar energy is another in a long line of broken green promises from the Coalition Government. Following the Chancellor’s Autumn statement earlier on this week, it is clear that the Government’s economic policy is failing. They have cut growth and driven up unemployment. The decision to cut feed-in-tariffs will only make things worse and will do nothing to help those who are struggling to pay rising energy bills. I will continue to press the Government to reconsider its cuts to Feed-in-Tariffs and hold them to account on their broken environmental promises.
Photo: left to right – Mrs Wallbanks, Hugh Bayley MP, Guy Wallbanks (Friends of the Earth), Revd Stephen Burgess (whose house is being fitted with solar panels), Ian Quarmby (Head of Sales at Solarwall, the York-based company which is installing the panels) and Councillor Dave Merrett (Cabinet Member for City Strategy at City of York Council).