Solar alliance urges UK government to support small-scale FIT

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One hundred British organizations representing tens of thousands of employees, small businesses, cooperatives, farming groups, retailers and local government representatives have signed a letter sent to British Prime Minister David Cameron urging the government not to pull the plug on the U.K’s feed-in tariff (FIT).

The FIT is due for review this fall and, following the U.K. government’s proposals to remove subsidies for ground-mount solar (the Renewable Obligation scheme for solar farms <5 MW), there is widespread fear that a similar fate awaits the FIT, with the Sunday Times reporting that a cut of up to 50% could be on the cards.

Around 700,000 homes in the U.K. currently benefit from the FIT via rooftop solar, and the alliance is calling on the Prime Minister to ensure this scheme is protected from further cuts, thus enabling thousands more homeowners, communities and small businesses to benefit from rooftop solar.

Standout signatories on the letter include IKEA, Hanson Group, Kingfisher, the National Union of Teachers, the Electrical Contractors Association, the Renewable Energy Association and the Diocese of London. An additional signatory, Julia Groves of crowdfunding platform Trillion Fund, said: "The FIT puts power into the hands of the people and communities, as can be seen from the sheer variety of organizations that have signed this letter. Rather than seek to take that away, the government should make sure it maintains support as costs continue to fall."

Further voices of support calling for the FIT to be protected emanated from throughout the solar and renewable industry, with Leo Murray, director of strategy at climate campaign group 10:10 stressing that this fall – with the UN climate talks in Paris right around the corner – was not an ideal time to begin rocking the climate boat.

"The U.K. will not be taken seriously at December’s UN climate talks if it has done nothing but undermine confidence in our national decarbonization plans for the last six months," Murray said. "The FIT has been one of the most successful and popular parts of these plans. Maintaining strong growth in local renewables through the FIT would be a clear signal that David Cameron is still serious about tackling climate change."

Cheap and reliable power

The FIT has proven decisive in driving the rooftop solar PV industry in the U.K. The Solar Trade Association (STA) estimates that 84% of the capacity of all FIT projects so far is made up of solar, and 99% of all solar rooftop installations take advantage of the FIT.

Solar requires just a short period of policy support to make it cost competitive, and will soon be at the stage where subsidy-free solar on rooftops will actually bring energy bills down, the STA stresses. A further 170,000 FIT-backed rooftop installations this year will add a mere $75 cents to the average annual household energy bill.

"We are looking to the Prime Minister to take control of energy policy after a summer of hugely damaging policy decisions," said STA’s head of external affairs, Leonie Greene. "Government says it wants to save householders money – it can best do that by thinking ahead and providing a stable path over the course of this parliament to subsidy-free solar power."

Community projects receive certification

One area of the solar industry the government has been keen to support is community solar, and this week three community-backed projects totaling 34 MW of PV capacity have been awarded certification under the global Climate Bond Initiative (CBI) standard.

Coordinated by community solar group Big60Million, the three solar farms (15 MW Atherstone Solar Farm, 10 MW Southam Solar Farm and 9 MW Paddock Solar Farm) have been successfully assessed for the CBI having fulfilled certain criteria, namely that they will "achieve resource efficiency consistent with avoiding dangerous climate change, and will contribute to a low-carbon economy."

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