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Feed-in Tariff

Volume 599: debated on Thursday 17 September 2015

6. What assessment her Department has made of the effect of the proposed changes to the feed-in tariff on the numbers of jobs in the solar power industry. (901436)

The report “The Size and Performance of the UK Low Carbon Economy” from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimated that there were over 34,000 jobs in the UK solar sector in 2013. Our consultation on the feed-in tariff review reflects the need to balance sector support, while keeping bills down for consumers. We strongly welcome evidence from the sector during this review consultation, which ends on 23 October, and only then can we begin to analyse the impact on jobs.

Estimates suggest, as we heard earlier, that over 20,000 jobs are at risk. Some companies are already giving notices to workers, and projects such as the Greater Manchester community renewals project, which is planning to install solar roof panels in schools in my constituency, will become unviable. How can the Secretary of State fulfil her promise to “unleash a solar revolution” when she undermines jobs and investment in this way?

Jobs are always an important priority for this Government. Under the last Government, of course, we created 2 million jobs and we are expecting, hoping and planning to create another 2 million under this one. Solar is a great opportunity for consumers and for businesses, and I believe it will continue to flourish. As the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) said earlier, we had to do this as part of the European Commission’s requirement for a proper review to make sure that we get the right balance between bill payers and producing more solar. I hope it will reach subsidy-free status soon.

I very much welcome the review of feed-in tariffs. We should be working towards a zero-subsidised solar industry, but does the Secretary of State not agree that the way to deliver zero subsidy is to have a slightly more tapered reduction so that we continue to have a vibrant solar industry and also make sure that we do not deliver a huge rash of applications over the coming months?

I know that my hon. Friend takes a particular interest in solar power. It is too early to say what the outcome will be—we are the middle of our consultation—but we are receiving some very helpful replies from businesses and other participants, which will help us to work out the correct level of support. We want to be careful with bill payers’ money, while also ensuring that we support the solar industry.

While the world embraces solar power, here the Government change feed-in tariffs, thus costing jobs—20,000 in the United Kingdom, as we heard earlier, and 25 from BayWa r.e. in Machynlleth. That may not sound much, but the vast majority of those who are employed in Machynlleth earn less than the official living wage. Will the Secretary of State agree to table, on behalf of the Government, a prayer in the names of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and me to annul the Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) Order 2015, which amends the preliminary accreditation arrangements, so that Members can debate the issue rather than rushing into economically damaging implementation?

I am always interested in listening to other people’s views on this matter. If the hon. Lady would like to write to me, or to engage with her constituents in order to participate in the consultation, I will consider what is said very carefully.