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Solar campaigners march on Westminster to get FiTs answers

Solar campaigners have been demonstrating against Feed-in Tarrif cuts in Westminster today ahead of a meeting with MPs.

The ‘Cut Don’t Kill’ campaign has heard from MPs including Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint and Solar Trade Association chairman Howard Johns.

Legal challenges are being taken by groups including environmental charity Friends of the Earth against the decision to cut FiT rates on schemes completed after December 12 ahead of the end of a consultation on the scheme closing on 23 December.

North West based solar panel firm BSOLAR’s managing director Peter Bladen said: “Solar panels will still be a good investment after the rates go down but the payback will be longer which will have an impact on the sales and installation of solar panels. 

“The government’s actions have been irresponsible, because they’ve slashed the FiTs rates with little notice, which has shaken the stability of the sustainable market.”

He added: “Firms will be thinking that if they do this to solar they will do it to other renewables, and will be less likely to create new jobs and invest heavily in the sustainable sector.”

Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins reiterated the group’s belief that the cuts are illegal and stressed that the legal challenge was progressing.

“Government plans to slash solar payments will pull the plug on thousands of jobs and cast an enormous shadow over an industry that is helping to kick-start a clean energy revolution,” he said.

“The solar industry has been one of the UK’s brightest success stories in the last two years, helping homes and communities across the country free themselves from expensive fossil fuels. We believe these plans are illegal as well as ill-advised – so we are taking action to bring ministers to court.”

However the managing director of one renewable energy firm has said he hopes contractors will continue to choose solar panels for construction schemes due to planning conditions, despite millions in lost revenue due to the announcement.

Managing director of Myriad CEG Power, a sister company of Wates, Phil McVan said the recent FiT cuts were unlikely to see the death of the industry as predicted by many.

The company has a £24m turnover of which around £13m comes from wind and solar PV and it works as a subcontractor for solar installation with contractors including Wates, Kier and Galliford Try as well as housebuilder Taylor Wimpey.

Mr McVan said demand for solar installations was likely to continue from contractors who were trying to commit to renewable energy sources both from a corporate social responsibility point of view and also meeting planning requirements.

“We have seen millions in contracts withdrawn or put on hold after the 18 months it took to get the market to come to life in the commercial and industrial sectors which has come to a grinding halt.

“We are already seeing commercial and industrial customers looking at alternatives to solar but construction companies have got in-house drivers required as part of their projects.”

Speaking about the recent decision by Mears to withdraw completely from the solar market, Mr McVan said it might be indicative of a trend whereby contractors with solar arms start to subcontract work to avoid risk.

Mr McVan said the business will survive where others won’t as it offers alternatives such as wind and biomass energy.

He added that the cost of solar installations has decreased massively in recent years and with uncertainty over future energy prices and reliance on fossil fuels that the solar industry could still play an important part of the energy mix going forward.

The CBI has also hit out at the government’s changes to the scheme, claiming it is the “latest in a string of government own goals”.

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