Our direct experience of PV (solar) subsidy cuts

I have been working with others on the planning to development of a PV solar farm in Hampshire, so I speak in regards to the government’s direct attack on the solar industry as a whole over the last 5 years in office, and also the recent attack on small scale ground mounted solar subsidies last week. Although my coming suggestions may still be relevant to other areas of the green energy sector.

The government had previously removed the ROC’s (renewable energy certificates) for any development over 5mw so giving the industry a strong signal to build ground mounted solar farms smaller than 5mw, which the industry did. Organising the necessities to get a site to development take two years to include getting a farmer to sign a lease, applying for initial assessments, respond by obtaining numerous reports and surveys, finally get permission and get a grid connection offer which you have to accept and pay for. Typically you are looking at £150,000 up front costs – minimum – per site. Lawyer’s fees alone to negotiate a lease are £20,000.  The planning fee for a 5MW application is £19,000.  Some companies will have been working simultaneously on ten or twenty sites assuming that’s what the government wanted then to do.

Yet in regards to cutting PV subsidies the government have pulled this trick three times now. Without any warning on the day. They suddenly announce that unless you have already filled the conditions – lease, planning, grid acceptance your project is dead. No time allowances are ever made.

So they encourage you to spend £150,000 then they dump you. Hugely out of pocket and two years of wasted work down the drain.  If the government had any respect at all they would give 12 months’ notice. NOT ZERO. They have been downright dishonest.

So my suggestion for what we should do:

Put a message out asking all small companies they have just done this to to send us statements of costs and expenses. Add the whole lot up – Which will be Millions upon Millions – and then tell the government to play fair and reverse the policies on subsidy cuts, and pay compensation – including future loss of revenue to developers and the farmer who will not get any rent on their land. With this much accumulated data and support from said solar companies legal action could also to sought.

In UK politics money talks. It must be shown that the Tory government have wrecked a vast number of small green energy businesses. If this was presented in parliament and to Europe it would get well needed media attention.

It is true that the energy market can be volatile. But the motivation for the creation of renewables as a means of energy production goes beyond economic convenience, of lack of, to whom ever is in power. It is about building a clean energy infrastructure, so to hit critical carbon reduction targets if the planet is to survive. This is the primary importance. If the people in the small companies developing sites where only in it to make money we would have all become bankers! Still, having the rug pulled from under ones feet time and time again, so undermining every ones business, will stop food being put on the table.

To effectively develop renewable sites businesses must be ensured economic stability in order to create investor confidence. This is the purpose of subsidies – to keep the sector stable. Cutting subsidies with little warning and no reasonable grace period, in relation to the time it takes to organise, plan, and fund developments, is utterly irresponsible. It makes any attempts to plan developments, on the whole, unfeasible. Constantly moving the goalposts is bad business practice. They are attempting to destroy the renewable’s sector one move at a time.

We also see plenty of subsidies going to non-renewables, which rather indicates that this in not due to a lack of funding. It is about keeping energy production centralised and out of the hands of small developers. The big boys do not want to loose there control of the sector and so keep the government in their pockets (no grass root production thank you sir!) This is also to do with vanity. Labour set up the subsidies. The Tories want to, rather typically, undermine this.