The Government has been accused of trying to kill off Britain’s solar energy industry just as it is about to become one of the cheapest suppliers of electricity – with no need for any kind of state subsidy. In fact, according to the Government’s own projections, only onshore windfarms could provide cheaper power within the next decade or so – and the Conservatives pledged in the party’s election manifesto to “halt their spread”. Amid ongoing concern about rising energy prices, the industry expressed disbelief that the Treasury is about to impose a swingeing business tax on firms with rooftop solar schemes, which c ould increase the bill by up to eight times. Domestic installations could also be hit by a VAT increase from five to 20 per cent. And large-scale solar has been excluded from Government auctions of contracts to supply electricity to the grid for the lowest guaranteed price, effectively a form of state subsidy. Representatives of the Solar Trade Association (STA) plan to meet Jane Ellison, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on Thursday in a bid to persuade the Government to drop the business rate increase and to give the sector a “level playing field” with fossil fuels. At the same time, a group of children will deliver a letter to the Treasury appealing to scrap the business rate rise after they helped to raise funds to install panels on their state school, Eleanor Palmer Primary in Camden, London. Unlike private schools, exempt because of their charitable status, it will be forced to pay the new tax. It comes on top of cuts to subsidies and regulation changes since the Conservatives came to power in 2015, which have been blamed for causing the loss of more than 12,000 jobs. Speaking ahead of the meeting with Ms Ellison, Leonie Greene, of the STA, told The Independent: “The damage to solar jobs and the industry has been severe and put major investment by the British public in this vital industry at risk. “It is a massive own-goal to derail the solar industry after a success that has shaken up the entire UK energy sector for the benefit of consumers. “There is strong consensus amongst mainstream energy analysts globally that solar will dominate future power systems. Hampering the British solar industry now is akin to shackling mobile phone operators on the cusp of the telecoms boom – extremely unwise.
Independent 9th Feb 2017 read more »