Yesterday's announcement the government is to review the level of support for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations suggests it's back to the future as far as Government policy on solar PV is concerned.
It's taken the new Government just seven short months to undermine what by their own admission has been a successful programme to date. Bizarrely, DECC officials appear to now be advising their Ministers that anything above 50 kW of PV, the size of a medium school installation, is "super size" solar. This is total nonsense.
At no point in the period running up to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and its aftermath has there been any hint from DECC that they had concerns about solar uptake in the built environment at any scale. Indeed, quite the reverse. But now, any PV above 50 kWp has been unfairly and unjustifiably pushed into an immediate review with an uncertain timescale. On what basis? What is their evidence base for doing so? They don't have one. What is the justification for rushing through an urgent review of PV greater than 50 kW when all other technologies up to 5 MW are spared that process? We are not given any beyond reports of a few planning permissions for solar parks greater than 1 MW.
This is the very worst kind of knee-jerk policy response, which we thought was consigned to the dustbin of history with Ministerial promises of certainty and transparency in policy making.
The surprise capping of the feed-in tariff through the CSR and today's announcement has done enormous damage to our trust in the new Government and its ability to work with this sector constructively to deliver a positive way forward.
It has also created significant and real job uncertainty in one of the few industries to create thousands of new jobs in the UK in the past 10 months. Hiring plans throughout the UK solar sector will now be placed on hold meaning more unemployment and less tax take from this industry at a time when Ministers are struggling to work out where the new private sector jobs are going to come from. And again, we have no explanation for the Government doing so.
The fact is that Chris Huhne and Greg Barker are taking a very large sledge hammer to crack a very small nut.
Jeremy Leggett is Executive Chairman at Solarcentury