UK government announces another crippling policy reversal on solar PV.

PVTech: The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has confirmed that it is planning to remove support for solar under the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme from 1 April 2015.”
“In a consultation published today, DECC has outlined plans to entirely remove solar support under the RO for developments over 5MW in 2015/16.
The UK is set to become the largest market in Europe this year. The latest forecast by NPD Solarbuzz estimates that the 2.875GW of solar capacity will be installed in the UK in 2014.
The consultation document states that the government “considers it necessary to take action to control the costs of large-scale solar PV to ensure it is affordable in the context of the RO and the Electricity Market Reform (EMR)”.
The government notes that solar projects over 5MW will be able to apply for support under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions, which will begin in October 2014. However, the industry has expressed serious reservations about solar’s classification as a mature technology and investors have been cool on the shorter, 15-year period of the CfD scheme.
Paul Barwell, CEO of the UK Solar Trade Association (STA) said the move would slow down the rate that the cost of solar has been falling.
“The industry will be alarmed by these proposals and surprised to be singled out for harsh treatment. It does look like the government is seeking to define the energy mix and hiding behind the false excuse of ‘budget management’.
“DECC challenged us to work with communities to ensure solar remained popular as the large-scale sector developed, and we’ve done just that,” he said. “Today’s proposals are no just reward. If these proposals go through they will knock the industry’s extraordinary progress back, and actually reduce healthy competition in the renewables sector.”
….The department notes: “In order to support rooftop deployment, we are consulting today on splitting the current ‘degression band’ for projects over 50kW under FiTs into two: one for standalone, one for non-standalone. In other words, tariffs for building-mounted solar panels would reduce at a slower rate than for ground-mounted solar panels, so giving rooftop-mounted schemes access to more of the financial support available through FiTs.”
Despite the threat of RO support being removed completely in April 2015, the large-scale solar sector in UK is predicted to become Europe’s largest in 2014, with some analysts predicting that the planned ROC closure for >5MW could trigger as much as 4GW of solar farms to be installed from now until April 2015.”
SolarPowerPortal:  “the industry has reacted furiously, accusing the government of a “witch hunt”.
Paul Barwell, CEO, STA: ….We had forecast solar could be cheaper than onshore wind by 2018, but for this to happen we needed stable policy sustaining a high-volume market. The Government is actually moving to slow down solar’s cost reductions towards grid parity.
DECC challenged us to work with communities to ensure solar remained popular as the large scale sector developed, and we’ve done just that.  With our ‘10 Commitments’ good practice guidance published last summer, and the National Solar Centre’s biodiversity best practice guidance just last week, the sector has developed high standards and a legacy to be proud of – public support for solar and large scale renewables is the highest it’s ever been. Today’s proposals are no just reward. If these proposals go through they will knock the industry’s extraordinary progress back, and actually reduce healthy competition in the renewables sector.
Seb Berry, Solarcentury: “Today’s announcement is unnecessary and totally at odds with the government’s desire to reduce the cost to energy bill payers of delivering the 2020 renewable energy target. Following close behind recent unhelpful media coverage of onshore wind policy, this policy proposal will undermine investor confidence in the entire UK renewable energy sector, by removing at a stroke the short and medium-term policy certainty required for major project investments. It is very surprising that such a deeply damaging policy proposal has been cleared by the Treasury.
It is equally surprising that the government is trying to justify this proposal on cost grounds. Large-scale solar is already significantly cheaper than offshore wind and will be competitive with onshore wind by 2017. In deliberately setting out to strangle the growth of cheaper solar from 2015, Secretary of State Davey can no longer claim that government policy will deliver the most cost-effective mix of technologies by 2020.
It’s extremely disappointing that these RO proposals were not tested out first privately with senior industry representatives in the Minister’s top level solar strategy group, which includes Solarcentury. The reality is that large-scale solar PV in the UK is one of, if not the major success story of coalition green energy policy since 2010, but now the outlook beyond the end of this financial year is extremely uncertain.”
Ben Cosh, TGC Renewables: “DECC’s justification not to let solar PV compete with offshore wind for CFD is not defendable. They cite potential cost reductions in offshore wind of 25-30% by 2030. I.e. from £140/MWh now to £98/MWh by 2030. The government must be being black mailed by the big six who have vested interests in offshore wind.”
SolarPowerPortal:  “The closing of the Renewable Obligation scheme to projects above 5MW could create a crippling rush of grid connections next spring the head of a power engineering firm has claimed.
Simon Phipps, CEO of Dragon Infrastructure, said the changes will make the traditionally hectic period extremely difficult for the companies involved.
….The rush could also create acute health and safety issues, according to Phipps.
“This winter was incredibly wet, last winter was incredibly snowy. I met with DECC prior to the announcement and I had to say to them, you are creating a huge health and safety issue, potentially there could be horrible accidents because of the massive rush, it’s ridiculous,” he said.”