Southern Solar: Ministers accused of sabotage as another solar firm collapses

Solar Trade Association warns that most companies in its industry are not expecting to survive next year

Ian Johnston
Thursday 15 October 2015 21:49
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Leo Smith, project manager with Southern Solar, at work in West Sussex, before the company went out of business
Leo Smith, project manager with Southern Solar, at work in West Sussex, before the company went out of business

A solar panel company has become the latest renewable energy firm to collapse, with its chief executive claiming that the Government is “sabotaging” UK jobs and businesses.

The news that Southern Solar had gone into administration prompted the Solar Trade Association (STA) to warn that most companies in its industry were not expecting to survive next year.

The Government has slashed subsidies for solar power while maintaining those given to nuclear and fossil fuels.

Amber Rudd, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, defended the Government’s decision and insisted that solar energy had a “great future” in the UK.

However Southern Solar’s chief executive Howard Johns said: “The demise of Southern Solar is the latest example of human misery generated by the misguided policy of the current Government.

“This is a direct result of the Government’s recent announcements that kill off support for solar energy via the feed-in tariff scheme.”

Amber Rudd says subsidies for renewable energy are out of control and need to be cut

He added it was “madness that the UK Government should sabotage UK jobs and businesses” in the sector.

Last week, almost 1,000 jobs were lost when the Mark Group in Leicester went into liquidation, while Climate Energy also went out of business, putting a further 128 jobs at risk.

A spokesman for the STA urged the Government to think again. “The Government’s proposals for solar are so extreme that most solar companies are not able to envisage surviving next year. The few that can are looking to exit the UK,” he said. “The Government must recognise they have made a very serious mistake and act quickly to stabilise the British solar industry.”

The STA has sent a “rescue plan” to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and every MP, calling for urgent action to prevent the industry “unravelling”.

Ms Rudd said solar was a “great British success story”.

“I want to make sure that bill payers, who pay for the subsidy, are making the right contribution to solar and that they don’t overpay,” she said.

She blamed her Liberal Democrat predecessor Ed Davey for allowing the money spent on subsidies to get out of control.

“I’m doing a consultation at the moment to look at what might be the right level of support for solar,” she said.

“I would add to that that solar has had a large subsidy… [and] we are working in an environment now where we have to stay within budgets.”

This month, the renewable energy firm Ecotricity called for the Government to scrap subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuels to “create a level playing field after it slashes support for renewable energy”, saying subsidies to fossil fuel industries amounted to about £30bn a year, compared with £2.6bn for renewables.

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