Following on from the recent changes by the government to onshore wind subsidies and large solar developments, Amber Rudd the secretary of state for energy and climate change this morning announced that they intend to take the cuts a whole lot further. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is launching a consultation on proposals to stop solar farms with less than 5MW of capacity accessing the Renewables Obligation (RO) subsidy scheme from April next year. The consultation will close on September 2nd and DECC said it would aim to publish its decision as soon as possible thereafter.
The reason for the move is stated to be a projected overspend of the government's clean energy support budget, known as the Levy Control Framework (LCF), which is designed to limit the impact of subsidies on household energy bills. "In real terms (2011/12 prices) current LCF forecasts are equivalent to an increase from £7.6bn to £9.1bn in 2020/21."
Is this too simplistic approach though? There appears to be little distinction between different types of solar installations and no recognition that there should be a clearer merit order which the government itself was pushing just a short time ago. It wouldn't be a bad proposal to remove the incentives from badly planned solar installations of which there is a growing number. Creating great fields of solar panels out in the middle of rural England where there are no customers creates problems for networks to carry it back to towns and cities resulting in reduced efficiency and added expense to the cost of the power.
There still remains an opportunity that should be actively encouraged where smaller solar installations are mounted on the roofs of buildings and factories, producing power where it is needed and helping improve the overall efficiency of the GB system.
Lets hope the consultation is well enough though out to make the correct distinction between different projects and not throw the baby out with the bathwater as we have seen so many times before in Government Energy Policy.