Don’t let sun go down on solar energy


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A leading solar installer has hit out against possible plans to reduce the tariffs customers receive for renewable energy.

According to Gareth Jones, the boss of the award-winning Carbon Zero Renewables and president of North Wales for the Federation of Master Builders, the idea was “crazy” at a time when the world needed to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

Mr Jones has written to the Prime Minister expressing his concern and urging a Government rethink.

Mr Jones said: “My purpose in writing to the Prime Minister is to urge him to ensure the continuation of the Feed-in Tariffs for renewable energy and ask him to ensure the forthcoming review supports an ambitious level of local deployment.

“I have been surprised and concerned at a succession of recent announcements – from sudden changes to the renewable energy market, to scrapping the Zero Carbon Homes initiative and the absence of energy efficiency schemes  – which undermine Britain’s position in the run-up to the climate talks in Paris.

“In light of this the upcoming review of the feed-in tariff is causing great concern.

“Introduced with strong Conservative support, the feed-in tariff has resulted in a thriving local industry employing tens of thousands of people and enabling hundreds of thousands of people to take a direct stake in renewable power generation.

“So far it has resulted in over 750,000 solar homes, businesses and innovative community schemes. It has also resulted in nearly 7,000 homes, offices and communities powered by small wind turbines, micro CHP, anerobic digestion and hydro power.

“No wonder last year the Prime Minister described the progress of solar, a key feed-in tariff technology, as ‘a huge success story’.

“Stable support provided through feed-in tariffs has been key to the sharp cost reductions delivered by British renewables and has put the prospect of zero subsidy within reach.

“Maintaining a strong feed-in tariff scheme offers excellent value for money and analysis shows that continued ambitious deployment of renewables under feed-in tariffs will have a very modest future impact on household bills, around an additional £3.50 per household by 2020.

“I welcome the prospect of generating our own clean power, subsidy-free. This would be an enormous prize – unleashing unprecedented competition and technological innovation for the benefit of consumers, communities, our health and the environment, and lowering consumer bills for hard working families. Yet this cost reduction can only happen through the maintenance of stable and effective policies.”

Mr Jones, a finalist in the Wales Green Energy Awards in the category for Outstanding Advocates in the Renewables sector employs 16 people at the company’s head office in St Asaph.

He added: “The situation makes it extremely difficult to plan a business for the future. We want to continue growing and creating employment but unsettling information rocks investor confidence.”

It’s a view supported by Carl Sargent, the Welsh Government’s natural resources minister who said UK government plans to change the arrangements for selling power to the National Grid would “undermine investor confidence”.

Mr Sargeant was speaking during a recent visit to the £1.25m Anafon hydro-electric project being built at Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd.

He and his Scottish counterpart Fergus Ewing have written to the department (DECC) urging support for renewable energy.

The Welsh and Scottish ministers claim proposals to change the feed-in tariff accreditation would leave project developers not knowing what rate they would be paid.

“We both see that the future direction for energy is one of local generation and supply, based on renewable sources, and smart storage and local grid management, with significant local benefit,” said Mr Sargeant.

“The current proposals will significantly damage the prospects for this future if the local ownership and benefits of projects are not considered within the support regime.”

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