We have 4 months to save solar - and thousands of jobs
The Government says it wants economic growth. Jobs. Energy security. Clean energy. Competition, and a diverse market. Cost-effectiveness. But today showed that this is all nonsense.
Government has proposed that, after January, anyone who installs solar panels on their roof will get a tariff of 1.6p for the electricity they produce – a cut of 87%.
At that level only houses in the sunny south-west of England – and those owned by people who care more about ‘being green’ than whether they make their money back – would benefit from the feed-in tariff in future.
Jobs at risk
The cost of solar panels since 2007 has fallen by over 70%. It is now the cheapest of all renewable technologies. This week, India announced the creation of 50 solar cities. Solar around the world is booming. In a few years, it won't need any support at all.
But the UK Government seems to want to do everything it can to kill solar before we get to that point – and risk tens of thousands of jobs in the process.
This is not the first time the Government has tried to kill the feed-in tariff, the scheme that pays people to feed clean electricity into the national grid from their solar panels.
Back in 2011 Government tried to kill off 90% of the scheme with retrospective cuts. Friends of the Earth, together with the solar industry, took the Government to court - and won. Ministers were forced to backtrack.
But once more, 35,000 jobs in the solar industry are on the line.
Tell Amber Rudd to #SaveOurSolar
Drastic cuts to solar
With the proposed cuts so deep, even Greg Barker, former Tory climate change minister and solar champion, Cameronite, and as of today, Lord Barker, is tweeting that the evidence for this drastic cut needs to be looked at again.
But why has Government launched yet another attack on what was a booming renewable energy sector, bringing growth and jobs to Britain? Renewable energy is popular with the public - 81% of the public support solar (as opposed to 21% for fracking). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that solar has been bringing down peak energy prices, cutting into the profits of the big energy companies.
Support for fracking while solar cut
One thing is clear – this has nothing to do with economics. These are political choices. This Government is saying yes to fracking, yes to fossil fuels, yes to nuclear – no matter how much it costs the public and no matter the scale of the risks. But saying no to wind, and no to solar.
This time, however, I think they may have bitten off more than they can chew. There are 700,000 people in Britain with solar panels on their roofs. There are hundreds of companies, and thousands of solar employees – all of whom will fight this. In the meantime, solar gets cheaper and more popular every day.
Government can't stop the solar revolution
Long term, the solar energy revolution will progress whatever this Government, stuck in the last century, does. But right now we need to stop these cuts to save people's jobs. We need to keep some semblance of progress on Britain's climate change goals.
The reality is that as of today, many solar companies will be thinking about shutting their doors come January.
The consultation on these changes is open until 24 October.
We need a united campaign – from business, the renewables industry, trade unions and the environment movement - to save solar.
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