Image credit: Morgan Solar, used under Creative Commons license.
We've been following the introduction of feed-in tariffs with great interest over on the other side of the Atlantic. From accusations of solar subsidies being a sweetener for the well off, through a massive growth in UK solar jobs, to news that the Government is reviewing the feed-in tariffs because they were unexpectedly too popular among large-scale industrial solar developers, it has been an interesting ride. Now one leading renewable advocate is claiming that Government claims of industry exploiting loop holes, or using up a "pot" of money intended for residential power generation, are nothing but inaccuracies and lies.
Feed-In Tariff Always Included Large-Scale Solar
Not long ago James Murray of Business Green argued that a review of the Government's solar subsidy plans was unfortunate but necessary, claiming that the original intended recipients of the scheme were small-scale solar installations on residential buildings, as well as community-based projects on schools and such. Dale Vince of Ecotricity, however, disagrees.
As a developer of the UK's first industrial-scale solar power plant, it should be noted that Vince has an obvious vested interest in halting any review. But, he argues, the idea that large-scale solar was never intended to benefit from feed-in tariffs is just plain wrong:
The rules of FiTs are clear, big solar is an intrinsic part of it, who in their right minds could think that rules specifically allowing solar projects of up to 5MW (or 25 acres of land) were an oversight or something. On the contrary the last government knew exactly what it was doing. The new government simply wants to change the rules - they should say so.
Vince goes on to argue that claims of industrial interests hoovering up money intended for households is false too. There was, he says, never a specific pot of money attached to the scheme. He also notes that on a simple return-on-investment basis large-scale solar comes out streets ahead of distributed power in terms of cost per kWh.
Ideology or Economics?
There is, suggests Vince, reason to believe that the u-turn is more about ideology than it is economics—although the proposed motivation that Vince gives is a little fuzzy—though to be fair if the Government's own reasoning doesn't stack up, you can't blame those who disagree for having to guess what the real motivation actually is:
"I think it's about ideology, about the countryside. I just wish the government would be honest with us, and rather than demonize big solar in a series of ministerial announcements (from three ministers now Gregg Barker, Chris Huhne and most recently Charles Hendry) just tell us the truth, big solar might spoil the countryside or something. Then we can have an honest debate on the facts."
More on Solar and Feed-In Tariffs
UK's First Utility-Scale Solar Park
As Solar Subsidies a Rip Off?
Massive Growth in UK Solar Jobs
Solar Subsidy Review: Unfortunate But Necessary?