Britain's solar sector is reeling from an overhaul of the Government incentives offered to those installing the technology, the head of the industry's trade association warned yesterday.
Howard Johns, the chairman of the Solar Trade Association, said forecasts that last month's revamp of the feed-in tariff rules would damage the sector – and Britain's efforts to generate more energy from renewables – were already proving correct.
The revamp, introduced at the start of August, saw the Government reduce what is paid to those who generate more power than they need from solar installations. In most cases, the tariffs on offer to installations feeding such energy back into the national power grid are now much lower.
While the cuts did not affect the smallest solar installations – with domestic homes that have fitted the technology still benefiting from higher rates – these projects provide far less energy than panels on large commercial premises. However, Mr Johns warned that in many cases, these bigger projects, which could have substantially increased the amount of energy generated by solar power, were not economically viable under the new feed-in tariffs.
"We cannot understand why, at such a critical point, the UK is turning its back on a major opportunity to strengthen its position in what will be the biggest and cheapest energy generation technology," Mr Johns said.
However, the Government has insisted the feed-in tariff scheme was never meant to incentivise large commercial solar projects – and that such schemes were taking the lion's share of resources put aside with the aim of encouraging domestic households to install the technology.
Mr Johns added: "It isn't just large-scale solar that has been affected – communities, hospitals and schools have also been forced to halt their own solar panels."