Solar is the public’s favourite source of energy, with over 80 per cent public support. And it’s cheap too – we have calculated that solar could provide the same amount of electricity as the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C at half the subsidy cost.
A recent report also showed that solar and wind are already starting to bring down the wholesale cost of electricity, with an estimated £1.5 billion reduction in prices in 2014.
So is the government supporting British solar power? The honest answer at the moment is no.
Since the election solar has been subject to a slew of cuts to subsidies, with the most extreme being the proposed 87 per cent cut to the feed-in tariff for solar. The government’s short-term thinking on cutting costs is not in the long-term interests of consumers.
We reckon that across the country 27,000 out of 35,000 jobs in the solar industry and its supply chain are at risk. Three major solar companies – Mark Group, Southern Solar and Climate Energy – have already gone into administration because of the market’s uncertain future. Over 1,200 people have lost their jobs, and many others are at risk. Companies like Zep Solar have already pulled out of the UK market.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Solar Trade Association is putting forward an alternative £1 plan that we hope will be acceptable to both the government and viable for solar businesses. The plan would only entail an extra £1 on consumers’ bills by 2019. So the government can still support solar power – if it wants to. And many jobs up and down the country will be much safer for it.
If, like us, you think that cutting the solar industry back is madness, and you want to see our energy supply provided by the thousands of British companies in the solar sector rather than foreign state-owned utilities, do get in touch with your MP to ask him or her to take action. And do also sign the official petition on the Parliament website. We expect the final decision on the feed-in tariff later this month or early December, so there is still plenty of time to influence the final outcome.
Sonia Dunlop is communications and public affairs manager at the Solar Trade Association (www.solar-trade.org.uk)