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Solar Power: Feed-in Tariffs

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 19 November 2015

14. What assessment she has made of the effect of proposed changes to feed-in tariffs on solar power companies in the UK. (902233)

15. What assessment her Department has made of the effect of proposed changes to feed-in tariffs on the number of jobs in the solar power industry. (902234)

19. What assessment she has made of the effect of proposed changes to feed-in tariffs on solar power companies in the UK. (902241)

During consultation on the proposed changes to the feed-in tariffs, we strongly encouraged all parts of the small-scale renewables sector to provide evidence on the likely impact. The actual impact on solar companies will, of course, depend on the options taken forward when the responses to the consultation have been considered.

The Minister will be aware of the thousands of job losses on Teesside, with steel, construction and mining all shedding people. Even the Government are contributing to the misery, sacking hundreds of employees at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Does she really want to add thousands more from the solar, energy conservation and energy-intensive industries as a direct result of her policies?

We are huge supporters of the solar sector. The point is that there is a balance to be struck between the enormous success in deployment, which is exceeding our expectations, and the impact on the bill payer. We have to keep that balance. We have consulted on it and will issue our response in due course, but it is absolutely our intention to see the solar sector continue to thrive.

A number of leading solar community projects and green energy companies are based in my constituency, including Good Energy, which supplies more than 50,000 UK consumers. People who work in the industry fully understand the need for it to be sustainable, but they feel that a drop of up to 87% overnight is more than the industry can cope with, in terms of local jobs and growth. Will the Minister look at what more can be done to support existing projects and for mechanisms to keep the solar industry alive until grid parity is reached?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this very important matter for her constituency. I can absolutely assure her that we are looking at it carefully. I had a round table meeting with a number of solar firms and heard their views at first hand before the consultation closed. We are looking carefully at the more than 55,000 responses and will come forward with our policy response as soon as we can.

Virginia Fassnidge is one of my constituents who installed solar panels to cut her family’s household bills and save carbon. Will the Minister explain to those who want to follow her example why they should, when the 98% cut to the feed-in tariff subsidy scheme no longer makes it attractive to consumers, risks the very viability of the domestic solar industry when it is about to become viable without subsidy and completely undermines the Secretary of State’s solar revolution?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. Obviously her constituent will be pleased to know that the subsidy from the bill payer that she has received will continue to be available to her—I think there has been some confusion about that point. For those who come later, the proposal in our consultation is for the return to investors to be in the region of about 4%, as opposed to the current level, which is significantly higher. We were required by the EU to look at the tariffs on a three-year basis and that is what we have done. We have put forward a proposal and we are looking carefully at the responses.

The Government’s decisions have had a devastating impact on our manufacturing industry in the UK. That flies in the face of exactly what the Government say they want to achieve in creating an industrial balance within our economy. Just like the steel industry, the Government have been found wanting.

We have a big and growing energy sector. We are bringing forward policy proposals to develop new sources of energy, which will mean a whole raft of new jobs and new opportunities for people, but there is always a balance to be struck. What we cannot do is permanently subsidise at the expense of the bill payer; many issues have already been raised about fuel poverty. In the end, industries need to stand on their own two feet.