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Energy: Tariffs

Volume 734: debated on Monday 30 January 2012


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the costs they will incur by appealing the court rulings on solar panel tariff payments.

My Lords, we estimate that the Government have incurred costs of approximately £66,400 to date. This includes the cost of the recent Appeal Court hearing. However, if the Supreme Court agrees to hear our case, we will incur more costs.

My Lords, I am slightly thrown by that Answer from the Minister, because exactly the same Answer was given a week ago to my right honourable friend Caroline Flint in the other place. At that stage, the Government did not know that they had lost the appeal. They have now lost the appeal and have to pay the costs of the other side as well, and have incurred additional costs at the Supreme Court. My Question asked,

“what estimate they have made of the costs they will incur by appealing the court rulings”.

I think they will be significantly higher than the figure of £66,000 or so which the Minister has just given me.

Even at this late stage, does the Minister really think that it is good use of government money to keep chasing this merry-go-round of court decisions that the Government are losing? Would it not be better to sit down with the industry and negotiate a way forward? Everyone accepts that there need to be some cuts, everyone accepts that there need to be changes, but should we not try to do this in a way that does not cost jobs and that protects the industry?

My Lords, I must admit that I was hoping that the noble Baroness would say well done on incurring only £66,400 of costs. It is a curious old world when we save the consumer £1.5 billion at a cost of £66,400 and are told that we should declare to the nearest penny. Let us look at what we are taking to court. This is one of the most ridiculous schemes that have ever been dreamt up. It is already going to cost the consumer £7 billion for £400 million of net present value.

Exactly; it is ridiculous. That is on a product where you need electricity when the sun does not shine. It will produce 0.1 per cent of our electricity supply and it does not target the needy or consumers. This is one of the most ridiculous policies ever dreamt up. Guess who did it: yes, the dying embers of the Labour Government.

My Lords, I should declare that I have recently sold some solar PV panels, but before the December deadline, so I have no financial interest in the current controversy. I have two questions for the Minister. Why did the Government show such contempt for the consultees by attempting to implement the tariff changes before the end of the consultation period, and then add insult to injury with this futile appeal? Secondly, why do the Government seem to be doing their very best to kill off the solar PV industry, an industry that generated 30,000 jobs over the past two years by first delaying and then botching the announcement of the new feed-in tariffs?

My noble friend has a point. We are certainly not trying to kill off the solar PV industry. Only today, I received a letter with a cheque for £960 for the Government. That shows that it is alive and well. Perhaps I can help my noble friend by telling him that I received an e-mail on 18 January. I know I am not much good at anything, but—

Addressed to me. Thank you very much; you are warming to the theme. It read:

“Start a lucrative NEW career as a Solar Panel (PV) Installer ... At present there is BIG DEMAND for skilled Solar Panel Installers in the UK, there is a great opportunity for you to re-train and have a rewarding new career”.

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on this outbreak of numeracy in their energy policy, but can the Minister reassure us that this might spread to offshore wind?

I am not sure what I should be reassuring the noble Lord about—whether we should or should not carry on with offshore wind. However, we are committed to offshore wind, if that is the answer that he or anyone else wants. Our numeracy is still very much intact, and I am very grateful for his compliment.

My Lords, I missed the noble Lord explaining who had sent him the cheque and what reason they gave for sending it. I am sure it was not from redundancy money given to people who have been thrown out of work by the Government’s policy.

I think the noble Baroness is being a little trite. It comes from a firm called Solar Fusion. No one has yet been made redundant from the solar panel industry, which is alive and well. We have sought to reduce the amount that the consumer pays to help people in the solar industry. For a panel costing £4,000, you can still generate a £500 feed-in tariff benefit—which is more than 10 per cent and in the current market is very good—and a reduction of £190 on your bill. I do not think that there will be redundancies. I think that more of these things will be sold, and that that is good for jobs.

My Lords, before my noble friend pursues this attractive alternative career, could he follow the advice of the noble Lord opposite when he is thinking of numeracy and have regard to onshore wind, which produces unpredictable amounts of energy at enormous cost and where the Government can save a very great deal of money?

The noble Lord is right. We are considering the renewables obligation certificate that we are providing for onshore wind. We have finished our consultation and will announce and publish the results of our thinking on it on or before 9 February. I therefore ask the noble Lord to hold his breath until that date.