Are 'Massive Forces of Darkness' Lining Up Against Solar?


Image credit: Solarcentury, used under Creative Commons license.

The introduction of solar feed-in tariff's prompted a huge surge in the UK's solar industry, yet others were driven to ask whether solar tariff's were really a rip off subsidy for the better off. Now it seems a larger cultural war may be looming, with politicians, fossil fuel lobbyists and other actors lining up to dismantle this new found support for renewables. In fact, says solar entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett, "massive forces of darkness" are lining up against the industry.In an interview with Sarah Arnett of The Independent about the impending solar storm he sees coming, Jeremy Leggett—former oil man and founder of Solarcentury who I interviewed about the future of solar back in 2006—reveals that the newly established feed-in tariff's only very narrowly survived the Government's recent spending review:

"We've had a lucky escape," he says "There were massive forces of darkness lined up against us - a whole cadre of politicians and officials trying to, at the minimum, cut back the FIT and, if they could get away with it, shut it down completely.

Such manoeuvres were seen off by the progressive elements in the Coalition only "at the 11th hour", Mr Leggett says, citing sources "who could not be more highly placed."

But this is not just about temporary austerity measures or Government cut backs in the face of recession, says Leggett. There is, he says, a civil war going on between the old and the new guard in the energy industry, and it's getting close to crunch time. While renewables and clean energy have been tolerated by the status quo for some time, we are, says Leggett, reaching a tipping point when the two competing paradigms of centralized, fossil-fuel based power and a decentralized, smarter, cleaner grid can no longer coexist:

"In both Whitehall and the energy majors, "retrograde thinkers" are already defending the status quo "with amazing vehemence" - and the battles are only just beginning. The rhetoric in recent years has been about an energy mix generating capacity of every sort, but the old and the new can no longer co-exist, Mr Leggett believes. And once renewables really take off, the war will begin in earnest, he says, pointing to evidence from Germany that even the fraction of electricity consumption supplied by solar PV is pulling down midday-peak electricity demand, clipping prices and hurting the profits of the energy giants."

The trouble is, says Leggett, this isn't just about Greenpeace versus the utilities, or conservatives versus liberals, or any other such distinction—there are people in every Government department, in every company, and in every organization that get it, and there are people that don't. We are in for a fascinating ride...

More on Solar, Renewables and the Feed-In Tariff
Solar in UK Now Affordable? Feed-In Tariffs Introduced
Are Solar Feed-In Tariff's a Rip Off?
Solar Companies Inundated: Feed-In Tariff Prompts Industry Surge
Turning Energy Savings in London into Solar for Africa

Tags: Economics | Renewable Energy | Solar Power | United Kingdom