UK: FIT timeframe, not rates problematic

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Gary Summers is CEO of the Alumet Group, of which EOS Energy is the photovoltaic integrator and installer. EOS Energy has installed over 1.5 megawatts of capacity in the first nine months of 2011 and is based in the Midlands region. Summers said that the proposed halving of the UK FIT from 43.3 pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh) to 21 pence p/kWh is no reason for panic.

The current Midlands Entrepreneur of the Year has spoken out saying that householders and business owners can be confident that the majority of orders placed by November 11 will be completed before the December 12 FIT tariff rate cutoff date. He has also added that it is the timing of the cutoff date, not the severity of the rate reduction, that will cause problems for the industry.

"I believe that the Government has acted correctly in cutting the tariff to a sustainable level, it’s just the timescale that has taken the industry by surprise."

Summers continued that Alumet had been planning for the cutoff date for the higher FIT to be in April rather than December: "We now have just six weeks to put our plans in place instead of six months."

The cutoff date and rate cuts are "proposed" according to government announcements. However, there is some confusion as the December 12 cutoff date is before the public consultation period is set to close. EOS Energy has informed pv magazine that there are moves within the U.K. photovoltaic industry to address this.

Lee Summers, the Technical Director at EOS Energy has also said that it will not be operating above capacity to ensure projects are completed before the cutoff date. "There’s always a danger of that [unsafe or poor quality installations], when you get into a situation where people are installing above capacity. But while we won’t be cutting any corners, I can see the potential for that."

He continued that he foresees some customers having to be turned away so that the company does not take on installations above its capacity.

The Technical Director told pv magazine that in the present climate of falling system costs, photovoltaic installations will remain profitable under the new rate and managing the expectations of consumers is the next challenge for the industry.

"I think we’re pretty much where we were before this whole tariff began, so we’re around ten to 12 years payback and certainly less for commercial properties. We were making sales then, so I don’t really see what’s changed. The problem will be public perception and investor perception."

As such, Lee Summers said that the photovoltaic industry in Britain will have to work together to get this message across and to present a unified voice.

In terms of ensuring continued growth and system profitability, Summers sees the challenge in lying with integrators and installers to work with suppliers to continue to drive down cost.

"We don’t see the industry as dead, that’s for sure."