More than 150 businesses have called for prime minister David Cameron to support the UK solar industry in a letter to Downing Street.
The letter, signed by a coalition of 150 businesses including brands such as IKEA, KYOCERA, Interface and Triodos Bank, warns against destabilising the lucrative solar power market in the UK, when the global solar market could be worth £78billion a year by 2020.
The warning comes on the day the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) closes its consultation on proposed changes to subsidies for solar power. The proposals, the signatories argue, will have a damaging effect on the solar industry.
DECC has held two consultations, on large-scale PV solar within the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme and promoting midscale building-mounted solar PV under the Feed-In Tariff. In May, DECC confirmed plans to close RO subsidies to solar farm applications with a capacity of more than 5MW, despite 85% of the public favouring the technology.
Solar Trade Association (STA) chief executive Paul Barwell, who presented the letter on behalf of the signatories, urged DECC not to close the RO scheme for solar and warned the UK’s place in the solar market was under threat:
“The level of policy uncertainty risks derailing the extraordinary progress the large-scale industry has made in delivering jobs and reducing technology costs in the last few years. It is also putting the UK’s position in the booming global solar market at risk.
“So serious are the implications of these consultations for the British solar industry that we are asking the prime minister to intervene. We need only one more push, one more period of policy stability, to be able to compete with fossil fuels without support.”
The STA, which organised the letter, has argued that DECC’s solar PV strategy of boosting the market in roof-top solar will fail under current policies, and the current Feed-In Tariffs will not fully enable the take-off of small and medium roof-top solar deployment.
Solar Aid chair and SolarCentury non-executive chairman Jeremy Leggett, who also presented the letter, said: “with stable support, jobs rich UK solar will be cheaper than onshore wind during the next parliament, opening up immense opportunities for UK PLC and driving costs of delivering the 2020 renewable energy target.
“Far from slamming the brakes on large-scale solar, the prime minister should be hailing it as one of Britain’s renewable energy success stories and getting behind it. Instead he prefers to push fracking, even in National Parks.”
DECC’s proposals have also attracted criticism from Friends of the Earth, with energy campaigner Alisdair Cameron stating: “They say their plans are ambitious, yet this proposal attacks solar parks while doing almost nothing to boost large rooftop solar systems.
“The solar industry has made phenomenal progress in recent years: solar power is already cheaper than new nuclear, could be less expensive than gas, and can be installed safely and discreetly in the heart of our communities.”
The call for action comes as solar energy group Conergy announced plans to build and operate a new 21MW capacity solar farm near Bristol. The UK solar industry is thought to include more than 2,000 small and medium sized businesses, supporting 16,000 jobs.