How FIT cuts killed plans for UK solar manufacturing hub. With the European Commission claiming its €100 billion ‘Just Transition’ fund will ease EU coal mining regions into a post-fossil-fuel future energy system, Adam Smith considers what happened in one deprived area of Britain when government policy failed to support talk of clean energy ambitions. The sun was shining on the U.K. solar industry in 2012 when one deprived town in the English West Midlands was promised its future lay in PV. Module manufacturer Sunsolar Energy Ltd secured a £5 million (€5.97 million) government grant towards a £10 million solar panel factory intended to create 500 jobs in Oldbury, in the district of Sandwell. It was expected feeder companies would spring up nearby as a consequence of the new fab. Greg Barker, U.K. minister for energy and climate change at the time, said: “This announcement is fantastic news for Oldbury, bringing new jobs and investment and a huge vote of confidence in the outlook for the solar industry in the U.K.” Eight years on, Sunsolar has gone bust, the £10 million factory was never built, no feeder companies opened and there is still high unemployment in Oldbury after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government headed by David Cameron which had backed the proposed the factory in April 2015 slashed feed-in tariffs (FITs) for PV just weeks before a general election which swept Cameron’s Conservatives to outright control. Local authority Sandwell Council had backed the government grant awarded for the factory and bought into the vision of Oldbury being turned into the U.K.’s first solar manufacturing hub. Former Sandwell councillor John Tipper told pv magazine: “We were all so excited about Sunsolar’s plans for Oldbury. The town is suffering from classic post-industrial decline and any long-term jobs created are seen as a success.
PV Magazine 26th Feb 2020 read more »