Lords from All Parties Champion Solar

Lords from all sides of the House championed solar yesterday, as motions put down by Lord Lucas and Baroness Smith were debated.  Extracts of the debate are pasted below.

The Solar Trade Association had briefed Lords that the motion provided a good opportunity to draw attention to the benefits and huge potential of solar power in the UK and the dramatic cost reductions taking place. 

Lords who spoke in the debate expressed frustration that key questions about solar had not been answered by Lord Marland, who spoke for the Government.

Ray Noble, PV adviser to the STA said;

"Solar did not even feature in the top ten technologies in the Renewables Roadmap launched this week.  Yet it will be a major contributor to 2020 electricity in key EU countries.  Parliamentary time spent discussing solar energy is precious, and the STA believes every opportunity should be taken to raise awareness and show it is a serious mistake to marginalise this technology."

The issue will go to the Commons shortly.

Extracts from the debate

Lord Whitty, former Chair of Consumer Focus and long term fuel poverty campaigner, said all were concerned about energy bills, but derailing solar was not the answer. He pointed out that the tariffs could have been reduced in the manner recommended by the STA – i.e. a reduction of 25-30% across all sizes of projects - thus ensuring the cost of the scheme would be reduced, but not penalising the larger more cost-effective schemes.  Instead the Government is cutting the tariffs by up to 70% for the largest schemes, and leaving the tariffs at current levels for everything under 50kW.

Also, reflecting on his involvement in getting the Feed-in Tariff established in the first instance, Lord Whitty said;

‘We were talking about single-site operators; we were talking about farmers; we were talking about all-district heating schemes; we were talking about individual large buildings, schools, university campuses, community projects and small industrial estates. Those were exactly the sites on both the public and community side and the commercial side which we were attempting to encourage to adopt solar energy by extending the limit to 5 megawatts. The idea that it has been a distortion that the benefit has gone to farmers and industrial operators is quite wrong.’

Conservative Peer Lord Lucas felt the industry had been treated poorly. He said;

‘....the Government said that adjustments would be made to the feed-in tariff, "as evidence on actual deployment, costs and performance emerges ... with the first review due to take place in 2013," subject to degression in the level of feed-in tariff from 31 March 2012. The meaning of that seems plain to me: anything that you get under way before 1 April 2012 will be at the stated tariff. Fine, that was said by a previous Government, but new Governments cannot just tear up what has been said before, which is what we appear to be doing.’

Baroness Smith referred to the recent Ernst & Young report commissioned by the Solar Trade Association, saying;

‘Ernst & Young has set out the effects, stating that the whole investor market has been ripped up by the feed-in tariff review’.

LibDem Lord Teverson supported the motion and asked for solar to be given sufficient report under the Renewables Obligation. Solar PV is already cost-competitive with some forms of renewables supported under the obligation, and is rapidly becoming cheaper.

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