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FiT for purpose?

Those hardworking families have got a lot to answer for, haven’t they?

It seems like barely a day goes by without them being at the heart of every tough decision the government is forced to make.

Today, the Department of Energy and Climate Change responded to the news that almost 1,000 jobs have been lost at two companies (Mark Group and Climate Energy) that invested heavily in rooftop solar installation, with the following statement:

“Our priority is to keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses.”

And while it’s difficult to argue with economic reality, there does seem to be a problem with that principle if the unwitting effect is to reduce the number of those same hardworking families.

Companies such as Mark Group and Climate Energy, both of which have gone into administration in the last 24 hours, must have taken David Cameron at his word when he declared this would be “the greenest government ever” back in 2010.

As some have pointed out, a lack of diversity in a company’s activities always leaves it vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune - in this case a major policy u-turn. However, few in the industry expected the cuts to subsidies to be so swift, nor so widespread.

Clearly, subsidising the installation of solar panels has become an unaffordable luxury for a government that is so famously tightening the purse strings. But there is now concern that the feed-in tariff cuts announced just weeks ago are likely to destroy an entire industry.

As a source at one solar energy firm told me today, “the City has lost confidence” in investing in solar. And that confidence is notoriously hard to win back.

Finally, it won’t be lost on some observers that another industry is also facing up to the possibility of extinction in the UK, after SSI’s decision to close its Redcar steel manufacturing plant cost 1,700 jobs.

There is an irony - if not a particularly funny one - that while the government has been unable to intervene to save the jobs of SSI workers, its intervention in the solar industry has contributed to the loss of nearly the same number.

Sometimes, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

In the news

HS2’s Beth West explains to our infrastructure reporter Jack Simpson why the chancellor’s appeal to Chinese firms to bid for work shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

The government’s proposed apprenticeship levy could exist alongside the CITB version, according to Build UK’s members.

The longer read

Our panel of experts takes on the thorny issue of late payment.

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