DECC rejects call for subsidy deadline extension for flood-hit solar parks


Industry warns weather could delay connections needed for higher ROC payments, but government rules out extension

Solar developers hindered by flooding and poor weather will have no leeway in registering for the current level of subsidy ahead of the next wave of cuts, the government has confirmed.

Many projects in the south west of the country have been delayed by the storms that have battered the region for the past two months, although trade body the Solar Trade Association (STA) is unclear as to precisely how many are affected and is asking for developers to help it gather information on the scale of the problem.

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the STA, said that projects are facing problems getting district network operators to connect them to the grid as conditions have been too dangerous for work to proceed and priority is understandably being given to reconnecting homeowners without power.

The subsidy rate for solar projects under the Renewable Obligation (RO) regime is due to drop from 1.6 tradable Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) per MWh to 1.4 for larger solar systems at the end of March, and as such developers across the country are racing to complete projects ahead of the deadline in pursuit of the higher subsidy rate.

However, fears are mounting that the weather could leave some projects unable to meet the deadline, and the STA has written to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) asking for a grace period to allow projects that are otherwise ready to go extra commissioning time.

"There's a race to get this done," Greene said. "Some developers are going to be left out of pocket very seriously." She added that the prospect of repeated flooding in the future could also raise insurance premiums and push up costs further for developers.

But while the Department of Business Innovation and Skills has offered flooded businesses extensions to file accounts, DECC told BusinessGreen that renewable energy projects looking to register for support under the RO scheme will be offered no such concessions.

A spokeswoman said: "To take advantage of the higher ROC rate, large scale solar developers must accredit their stations with Ofgem by March 31. There is no extension."

In related news, investment group Ingenious Clean Energy has today announced that its three solar parks in development in Devon, Hampshire and Dorset have beaten the flooding and are on course for commissioning before the end of March.

The 7.5MW Stonebarrow Farm solar park outside Axminster, the 7MW Westover Farm development, and the 6.5MW Redbridge Road project all faced delays with connection owing to the storms and flooding. However, the company announced today that construction has been completed and all farms should be commissioned and in operation well ahead of the changes to the RO regime at the end of March.

The news follows the recent announcement that Ingenious Clean Energy intends to raise a close-end listed fund, Ingenious Clean Energy Income Plc, that will invest up to £200m in a diversified portfolio of solar, onshore wind and energy efficiency assets.

"We are delighted that the farms were completed on time and in budget," said Sebastian Speight, managing director of Ingenious Clean Energy. "It is a testament to the professionalism and commitment of the developers and contractors involved in the construction of these solar farms that they have been able to complete their work undeterred by some of the worst weather conditions we have seen in decades."

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