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Whitehall pulls plug on solar panel scheme

Plans for a Government-wide solar power scheme have been put on ice following last month's controversial cuts to the solar subsidy scheme.

At a Cabinet Office-sponsored meeting in November, Whitehall departments and other public sector bodies were briefed by industry experts on the opportunities of the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme for solar-panel installations on public buildings such as hospitals, barracks, and council buildings.

But preparatory work by the Government's procurement office, Buying Solutions, was pulled shortly after the announcement of a fast-track review of the FIT, according to industry sources.

Buying Solutions stresses that the solar power workshop was part of the organisation's ongoing work looking at power supply initiatives and that although some public bodies interested in participating in the scheme were identified at the initial meeting, it was made very clear that all discussions were purely exploratory.

"No procurement was commissioned and therefore nothing has been cancelled," a spokeswoman for Buying Solutions said.

But industry sources say the level of interest at the meeting suggested several megawatts-worth of potential schemes, sufficient to achieve significant price reductions if bought jointly through the central procurement agency.

"The total economic equation would have saved the country money and also created jobs in the solar industry," said one insider.

The solar power industry is in uproar after the Government announced proposals to slash the FIT for all but the smallest domestic installations.