Proposals to reduce the financial support available to larger-scale solar-produced electricity were published by the U.K. government on March 18 as part of plans to protect financial support for homes, communities and small businesses.
The consultation follows the launch in February of a fast-track review into how the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) work for solar Photovoltaic (PV) over 50 kW after evidence showing that there could already be 169 MW of large-scale solar capacity in the planning system--equivalent to funding solar panels on the roofs of around 50,000 homes if tariffs are left unchanged.
Such projects could potentially soak up the subsidy that would otherwise go to smaller renewable schemes or other technologies such as wind, hydro and anaerobic digestion.
Projections at the start of the scheme had shown no large-scale solar under the FiTs was expected until at least 2013.
The consultation also covers proposals to provide added support to farm-scale anaerobic digestion given the disappointing uptake of such technologies to date.
Greg Barker, Climate Change Minister said, “Our cash for green electricity scheme is a great way to reward homes, communities and small businesses that produce their own renewable power.
“I’m committed to an ambitious roll out of microgeneration technologies as part of the coalition’s green vision of a much more decentralized energy economy.
“I want to make sure that we capture the benefits of fast falling costs in solar technology to allow even more homes to benefit from feed-in tariffs, rather than see that money go in bumper profits to a small number of big investors.
“These proposals aim to rebalance the scheme and put a stop to the threat of larger-scale solar soaking up the cash. The FiTs scheme was never designed to be a profit generator for big business and financiers.
“Britain’s solar industry is a vital part of our renewables future and our growing green economy. The new tariff rates we’re putting forward today for consultation will provide a level of support for all solar PV and ensure a sustained growth path for industry.
“Taking a proactive approach to changing tariffs will allow us to avoid the boom-and-bust approach we have seen in other countries and enable us to support more homes and community schemes, and a wider range of technologies such as wind, hydro and anaerobic digestion.”
As solar PV technology has developed, its costs have reduced, and are now believed to be around 30% lower than originally projected. This means the technology does not need as much support to be competitive.
The government is, therefore, proposing reducing the support for all new PV installations larger than microgeneration size (50 kW) and stand-alone installations. The new proposed rates are:
-19p/kWh for 50 kW to 150 kW
-15p/kWh for 150 kW to 250 kW
-8.5p/kWh for 250 kW to 5 MW and stand-alone installations
These compare with the tariffs that would otherwise apply from 1 April of:
-32.9p/kWh for 10 kw to 100 kw
-30.7/kWh for 100 kw to 5 MW and stand-alone installations
Such changes are in line with amendments made to similar schemes in Europe where in Germany, France and Spain tariffs for PV have been reduced sharply over the past year.
Alongside the fast-track review of solar, a short study has also been undertaken into the lack of uptake of FiTs for farm-scale anaerobic digestion. The study suggests that the tariff for this technology is not high enough to make such schemes worthwhile. The proposed new tariffs are:
-14p/kWh for AD installations with a total installed capacity of up to 250 kW
-13p/kWh for AD installations with a total installed capacity of between 250 kW and 500 kW
These compare with the tariffs that would otherwise apply from 1 April of 12.1p/kWh for AD up to 500 kW.
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Government policy is specifically to deliver an increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion, not to promote energy crops, particularly where these are grown to the exclusion of food producing crops. DECC is talking to Defra and others about the best way to implement controls to make sure this does not happen.
The government will not act retrospectively and any changes to generation tariffs implemented as a result of the review will only affect new entrants into the FiTs scheme. Installations which are already accredited for FiTs will not be affected. Solar PV installations less than 50 kW are not affected by this fast track review.
These changes are proposed to be implemented in advance of the comprehensive review of FiTs, which is currently underway and will look at all aspects of the scheme.
Further Information: The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (www.decc.gov.uk)