RECC Survey: UK proposal to end tariffs could cost thousands of jobs

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According to a new survey, the U.K. government’s plans to eliminate the tariff scheme for small scale renewable energy generation would result in widespread job losses.

More than 40% of the 140 companies who responded to the survey – by the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) – said they are considering whether to continue their business in the U.K. Some 78% of respondents said they would need to consider staff levels, running the risk of putting thousands of people out of work. More specifically, half of the respondents said they would cut more than 75% of their workforce.

In annual publication REView 2018, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) states the U.K. PV sector employs more than 10,000 people, with a considerable proportion in the installer segment. In the announcement made on Monday, the REA’s RECC unit said a previous tariff reform resulted in the loss of approximately 9,000 jobs.

The UK government has proposed an end to the export tariffs scheme for small scale solar PV and gave the industry until yesterday to respond. Last week the REA submitted its response, stating tariffs scheme must be kept on after March 31. The association also suggested new targeted tax incentives, such as the introduction of 0% VAT for on-site renewables, to retain deployment.

Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the REA, said: “While we would not normally be so stark, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government is endangering the jobs of thousands with the current proposals for the closure of the feed-in tariff without any adequate replacement alternative measures to assist this important sector. The retention of an ‘export tariff’ to fairly compensate projects for the energy they generate and then send to the grid for others to use would, as a minimum, provide some relief, and is a logical and fair measure.”

In the same vein, the U.K. Solar Trade Association (STA), issued its response in the form of an open letter signed by more than 200 organizations across the industry. The answer was just as emphatic in its rejection of the government’s proposal.

STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett said: “The latest government proposals for solar power are creating shockwaves well beyond the solar industry. Nobody can fathom how government can contemplate leaving households and small organizations as the only generators left unpaid for the valuable power they put into the electricity network. We are asking the energy minister to act quickly and promise to maintain the export tariff, and to uphold the basic rights of a market.”

James Watson, Chief Executive of SolarPower Europe, said he was astonished the U.K. could propose such a policy, just as Europe is moving in the opposite direction.