STA drafts one-pound-plan to save UK FIT

The U.K.’s solar trade associations are up in arms with the British government over the recent policy changes concerning the country’s feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme. The U.K. government has proposed a reduction of the current FITs down to £0.0103/kWh for new ground-mounted systems starting in January 2016.

Rooftop PV is also facing draconian FIT reductions, with new systems over 1 MW eligible for a £0.0103/kWh, systems smaller than 10 kW eligible for £0.0163/kWh, systems between 10 kW to 50 kW eligible for £0.0369/kWh, systems between 50 kW to 250 kW eligible for £0.0264/kWh, and systems with installed capacity between 250 kW to 1 MW eligible for £0.0228/kWh.

The country’s Solar Trade Association (STA) has crafted a so-called "£1 Plan" that offers new PV systems meaningful feed-in tariffs and costs U.K. electricity consumer just an additional £1 per year until 2019.

The STA’s £1 emergency plan comprises four elements: higher FITs "set to provide minimum investable returns (£0.08 domestic to £0.04 stand-alone)", where stand-alone STA means non-rooftop PV; higher and flexible installation caps that avoid the sector’s stops and starts; automatic and deployment-based degression of FITs; and inclusivity for various parts of the society to invest in solar (e.g. the plan suggests a separate social housing degression band and ground-mounted FITs to become community-only).

The £1 Plan suggests that a reduced set of new FITs starting in January 2016 could be £0.04/kWh for ground-mounted systems and gradually higher for rooftop PV depending on the system’s installed capacity. Thus, the STA says, new solar tariffs can be: £0.08/kWh for systems smaller than 10 kW, £0.055/kWh for systems between 10 kW to 50 kW, £0.05/kWh for systems between 50 kW to 250 kW, £0.045/kWh for systems between 250 kW to 1 MW and £0.0425 for systems larger than 1 MW.

A spokesperson for the STA told pv magazine that the association is holding a presentation this evening at Westminster to present its £1 Plan to the members of the U.K. parliament and answer any questions they might have about the technology.

The jobs quest

STA’s president Paul Barwell presented the £1 Plan last week at the Solar Energy UK trade show in Birmingham, adding that the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) scenario for 0.6 GW of additional PV capacity to be added in the country between 2016 to 2019 is not viable under its recent FIT proposals. On the contrary, Barwell added, the £1 Plan allows 2.7 GW of new solar PV to be deployed by 2019 for an extra £1.06 on average household electricity bills per year in 2019.

The £1 Plan will be STA’s formal reply to the consultation DECC has called on the proposed solar PV FITs. The consultation closes on Friday 23rd October and Barwell asked all solar PV supporters to answer it.

Nevertheless, an interesting question was raised by a member of the audience at the Solar Energy UK presentation. The attendant asked Barwell what is DECC’s reply on the argument that its proposed FIT cuts will cost the industry 27,000 jobs. Interestingly enough, Barwell said that energy secretary Amber Rudd has told him that it is not her responsibility to mind for the forecasted job losses. Such requests, Barwell said Rudd replied him, should be iterated to the department of the economy.

Overall though, the vast majority of speakers at the same event argued that the British chancellor George Osborne simply does not like renewable energy and prefers nuclear power and coal. "If in the following months George Osborne announces something positive for the renewable energy sector, it will be because renewables are popular and not because he likes the industry," a speaker at the conference said.

A decision on the FITs will possibly be published in the end of November or beginning of December and will be into force from January, said Barwell and the decision is going to affect greatly the U.K.’s solar sector in the immediate future.

Equally interesting is a decision about the Level Control Framework (LCF), which is the government’s mechanism to control the country’s expenditure for renewable energies. The government has said the LCF budget is overspent. The U.K.’s spending review, set to be announced on 25th November, will indicate what’s the future of the LCF.