Clean Growth Strategy Has No New Measures To Boost Current Deployment For Solar
The Government’s long awaited Clean Growth Strategy has been published with limited early opportunities for solar power, despite solar's status as the UK's most popular energy source, and as one of the cheapest, with the largest future world market. While the cost reductions in solar are cited several times in the Strategy there are no new measures to boost current deployment which has plummeted and which has been kept afloat by progressive planning policies by some local authorities.
The industry has been waiting over a year for clarity on the FIT Review and the clean power auctions. Major job losses have been incurred in the industry which employed 34,000 people just a few years ago. The central role of solar in any modern economy means that solar power is implicit in many of the policies, such as smart systems, public sector emissions reduction, EV charging, retrofitting existing properties, Green Mortgages and industrial sector efficiency, although there is little detail on when and how these new proposals will be implemented.
STA Policy Manager Chris Hewett said; “It does seem extraordinary that when a technology as vital to the world's future as solar is asking, not for any new public support, but for simply a level playing field with other technologies that the Government is not moving to respond. This technology will dominate global power supply in years to come so in the interests of UK plc, the Government needs to stop putting the UK solar industry at a competitive disadvantage.
" Whether it is tax breaks for fossil fuels, a continued emphasis on big centralised power over local power, or access to auctions - solar is not being treated fairly. Solar empowers local people and communities, and it stimulates smart innovation more than any other energy technology. That's why communities and City leaders all over the UK want to see the Government support solar power. The British solar industry is being artificially held back by the Government and that doesn't help consumers, innovation or local leadership.' We will be looking to the Autumn Statement for the measures we need urgently to level the playing field for solar power." The solar industry has been left to continue fighting for a level playing field, including for the same tax benefits available to some fossil fuel technologies in the UK, such as business rate exemptions and 100% Enhanced Capital Allowances. There has only been one solar farm built this financial year, cited in the Strategy. Domestic rooftop deployment in 2017 stands at 20% of the 2015 market and commercial rooftop at 15% of 2015 deployment. In a further surprise Government is allowing onshore wind on Scottish Islands to be made eligible for Pot 2 'less established' auctions, while solar has been shut out of clean power auctions for 2.5 years.
The STA revealed it has written with major investors in solar power urging the BEIS Sec of State to bring forward a new auction round for solar power, where contract prices of £50-£54MWh are anticipated - half the price of the Hinkley contract in today's prices. The STA has also previously argued that solar + storage should be eligible for Pot 2 auctions.
STA Chair Jonathan Selwyn said; "We will be looking carefully at the implications of this and the continued exclusion of solar power despite State Aid Rules." There are several aspects of the Clean Growth Strategy where solar will benefit and where solar will be crucial for delivery in future including; Green mortgage products; business energy productivity targets; industrial energy efficiency; domestic retrofits to level Band C 'where affordable'; EV charging networks; public sector carbon targets and smart systems. The STA looks forward to engaging with BEIS on the detail of how these can be effectively delivered.
STA Chair Jonathan Selwyn said; “Solar power is transforming global energy systems. Until this year, the UK was at the vanguard of this movement. It therefore beggars belief that the government’s Green Growth Strategy almost totally ignores solar power - the most popular and cost-effective means of driving the UK’s energy transformation. We call on the government to shake off its blinkers and provide a level playing field for all energy technologies to ensure the solar industry, consumers, local people and the environment get a fair deal. This will enable solar to take its rightful place at the heart of clean growth."
The STA will continue to press for recycling and making best use of the remaining FiT budget, fair access to clean power auctions, 5% VAT for storage installed alongside existing solar systems and a supportive tax and regulatory framework for commercial and industrial rooftop solar investment including business rate equivalence with gas CHP; strengthened new build policies for E&W. HMT is now key to effective solar policy and STA will be looking to the Autumn Statement.