Solar Cuts 'Catastrophic' Warns Former Tory Energy Minister Greg Barker

Solar Cuts 'Catastrophic' Warns Former Tory Energy Minister Greg Barker
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The government’s cuts to solar power subsidies are “catastrophic”, former Conservative energy and climate minister Gregory Barker warns Amber Rudd, the new energy and climate secretary.

In a letter to the editor published in the Times today, Barker writes: “Solar needs a bold plan, not just pruning shears.”

There needs to be a clear vision and sense of ambition radiating from the top,” Barker explains. “Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, has impressed many with her grip but somehow the impression has been allowed to take hold that the government has had a change of heart on renewables.

I do not believe that to be the case but a clear message of intent to support the clean energy revolution needs to be sent out.”

Industry Casualties

Barker was energy and climate minister between 2010 and 2014 under the coalition government. During this time he oversaw the creation of the Green Investment Bank and travelled with Prime Minister David Cameron to the Arctic Circle ahead of the 2010 election in a bid to show off Cameron’s green credentials. He is now the chair of the London Sustainable Development Commission.

As Barker writes in the Times: “I was the minister who slashed the tariffs for solar photovoltaics in 2011. So with the government cutting tariffs again, you might expect me to be taking the latest screams from solar businesses with a pinch of salt. But I am not. The current proposals are catastrophic.”

The government’s feed-in tariff review, announced at the end of August, proposes cuts of up to 87 percent to support new solar installations from January. Ministers maintain that the industry is ready to “stand on its own two feet” and assert that cuts are required to ease pressure on energy bills.

However, this month has seen a series of high-profile casualties to the solar industry with three leading solar panel installers announcing they will be put into liquidation, blaming recent changes in government energy policy.

Mounting Criticism

Barker is not the only one to have voiced criticism. Lisa Nandy, the shadow energy secretary, took to Twitter yesterday to accuse the government of overseeing a “chaotic energy policy [that] is putting jobs at risk particularly because of the severe cuts they have made to solar energy schemes”.

Nearly 24,500 people have signed a petition for Parliament to debate the issue, warning government cuts will shrink affordable clean energy choices, “taking away power from people and handing it back to big energy firms.”

And, with a series of heated tweets sent out by energy minister Andrea Leadsom earlier this week, it seems tensions may be high within the department as it continues to defend its decisions against mounting criticism.

Barker advises that rather than stretching subsidies out to 2020 (which would “thinly spread the remaining subsidy over all technologies and all sizes”) solar subsidies should end by 2018 and be replaced with net metering. This must be accompanied by a new scheme to support batteries in homes for use with solar panels.

These measures, taken together, could propel Britain to the forefront of global growth in decentralised energy,” he says. “They would empower consumers, break the grip of the ‘Big Six’ and unleash massive investment.”

You can read the full letter here.

Photo: DECC via Flickr

Solar Cuts 'Catastrophic' Warns Former Tory Energy Minister Greg Barker
Kyla is a freelance writer and editor with work appearing in the New York Times, National Geographic, HuffPost, Mother Jones, and Outside. She is also a member of the Society for Environmental Journalists.

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