Paris Agreement heaps pressure on UK solar approach, says industry

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The British government is at risk of being on the wrong side of history if it does not seriously consider amendments to its recent policies on renewable energy in the wake of the Paris Agreement signed over the weekend at COP21.

As 196 governments around the globe signed an agreement to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C, critics of the U.K. government’s stance on clean energy have said that a "complete u-turn" on policy is required if the U.K. is to stand by its words backing the Paris Agreement.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has reminded the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) just how important solar power is in tackling climate change and ensuring governments around the world will be able to stick to the pledge signed in Paris.

With a decision due this week on when support for the feed-in tariff (FIT) will be cut, the STA has urged U.K. energy secretary Amber Rudd to rethink its proposals.

"Has the British government now realized the value of backing its superb domestic solar industry within an International Solar Alliance expected to mobilize $1 trillion of investment in solar power?" asked STA head of external affairs, Leonie Greene.

Rudd was in Paris talking at length of how solar power is a prime example of the renewable sector’s cost-cutting efficacy, provided mass markets receive the support of effective national policies. "Not that Amber Rudd and her team are back in London, the next thing they have to do is decide on FITs for solar," Greene said. "Will they go ahead with their proposed extreme cut of up to 87%, or will they choose a more gradual, tapered reduction in support, consistent with the actual fall in the costs of installed solar?"

The director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairbairn, said that ministers need to begin taking action at home as well as grandstanding on the international stage.

"The government must provide a stable environment that enables investment in cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy generation, including renewable technologies and new gas plants," she said.

Solarcentury founder and renowned environmentalist Jeremy Leggett has said that the U.K. government has a huge credibility problem, stating it had "signed a treaty of historic importance, and yet has been pursuing a path of energy policy travel that is 180 degrees opposed to what is needed."

Rudd has been criticized for overseeing some of the sharpest cuts ever delivered to the U.K.’s solar sector, but defended her decision at the weekend on U.K. politics program, The Andrew Marr Show. Rudd said that "there was no point in having renewables" that were permanently expensive, adding: "Subsidies are not a long-term plan. The costs of solar have come down over the past 15 years by 80%. If the cost comes down, then the subsidy comes down."