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Solar Power Panels (Installation)

Volume 592: debated on Thursday 5 February 2015

4. What assessment he has made of the effect of recent changes to the incentive scheme for installing solar power panels on businesses that install those panels. (907445)

Solar PV has been a major success story, with the most recent deployment figures showing a total of 5 GW of capacity across the UK, 99% of which has been put in place under this Government. The solar strategy, published last spring, set out a range of actions that will allow more businesses to enjoy reduced energy bills through installing solar PV. The changes we have made, financial and non-financial, for solar PV will make it an affordable part of our low-carbon energy mix, and we anticipate that splitting the feed-in tariff will promote rooftop solar, particularly at industrial premises.

Unfortunately, I do not have many small businesses in my constituency, so it is a tragedy when I lose one; losing MG Renewables, which had invested in a fleet of vehicles, was a matter of great regret. Will the Minister reassure the House that we will have a steady and clear set of incentives, rather than this constant changing, which makes it particularly difficult for small businesses to plan and maintain their viability? Will she talk to the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure that?

Small businesses are essential to economic growth, and we are determined to support them. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, which is about the support for solar through our feed-in tariffs. Owing to the reducing capital costs of solar, we have reduced the support. It is essential that we strike the right balance between using taxpayers’ money and supporting businesses, but I appreciate his point and will bear it in mind.

Given that we are constantly told that the reducing costs of solar panels will soon render them competitive with conventional electricity, why do we not abolish subsidies completely? Or do Ministers not believe their own projections?

My right hon. Friend is entirely right. The reduction in cost and the success of solar PV mean that, according to the industry itself, it will become subsidy free, we hope, by the end of the decade. That is because of investment under this Government. It will be something to celebrate, and something that the taxpayer, as well as everyone in the Government, will appreciate.

There are some excellent energy companies springing up in my constituency, such as Saving Energy Renewables, a PV solar panel firm, but projects are stalling because of the low-grade capacity for exporting energy from the systems. What can the Government do to ensure that companies can connect these systems and make serious contributions to both rooftop solar and deployment as part of the solar road map laid out by this Government?

Solar is an essential part of the renewable energy mix; the hon. Gentleman is entirely right. We continue to look at this under the community energy strategy, and hope to develop plans to help deliver the sorts of projects he mentioned.