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UK Climate Minister: Solar Subsidies “Morally Wrong”

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker this morning told an audience of local councillors that it was “morally wrong” that the feed-in tariff scheme was offering such large returns when it is funded by a levy on everyone’s energy bills.

Prime Minister David Cameron has today side-stepped a call to halt government plans to impose deep and rapid cuts to feed-in tariff incentives for solar photovoltaic installations.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour MP for Southampton test Alun Whitehead asked Cameron to intervene in “the appalling chaos” that has been caused by the government’s proposals that within six weeks solar incentives will be effectively halved.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched the fast-track consultation on Monday, proposing to cut the level of feed-in tariffs for small- and medium-size projects registered after 11 December.

Whitehead warned the cuts would have a “devastating effect” on community schemes in particular. The plans reserve the deepest cuts for aggregated solar schemes, such as social housing or free financing schemes, which could face a further 20 per cent cut to incentives on top of the 50 per cent already planned for small-scale installations.

He asked the prime minister if he stood by his commitment to deliver the “greenest government ever” and if, as a result, he would now order a rethink on the proposed cuts.

In response, Cameron side-stepped the question about feed-in tariffs, instead listing other green initiatives the government is taking, such as investing £3bn in a Green Investment Bank and £1bn in Carbon Capture and Storage technology.

The proposed cuts to feed-in tariffs have sparked intense criticism from green groups and solar firms, many of which have warned the scale and speed of the cuts will result in significant job losses and could kill the fast-expanding industry “stone dead”.

The government today mobilised its response to the criticism, with Conservative Cabinet Minister Oliver Letwin telling the House of Commons before PMQs that the controversial changes to the incentives were urgently required.

Responding to concerns from Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh Mike Crockart about the impact of the cuts on local business, Letwin described the previous feed-in tariff rates as “a disgrace” which “cast ill repute” on plans to develop a low-carbon economy by delivering excessive returns of more than 10 per cent to those installing solar panels.

His comments were echoed by Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, who this morning told an audience of local councillors that it was “morally wrong” that the feed-in tariff scheme was offering such large returns when it is funded by a levy on everyone’s energy bills.

Barker faced some heckling at the Friends of the Earth conference, with councillors complaining they would be forced to scrap plans to install solar panels on public buildings and social housing, and had been given just six months to modify their plans.

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