The energy and climate-change secretary Chris Huhne has ordered an immediate review of the feed-in tariff (FIT) amid concern that large-scale solar installations are taking advantage of the scheme that was intended to help homes, communities and small businesses generate their own electricity.
“Large-scale solar installations weren’t anticipated under the FIT scheme,” said Huhne. “If left unchecked, they could take a disproportionate amount of available funding or even break the cap on total funding.”
Although most of the more than 21,000 installations that have been registered under the FIT since it was introduced in April 2010 are domestic installations, such as solar panels, wind turbines and micro-hydro plants, evidence is mounting of more commercial-scale installations registering under the scheme.
Several have now received planning permission, and the pace at which large-scale projects are seeking to register is increasing, largely because of fear that the £40 million cuts from the scheme that were announced in the comprehensive spending review (CSR) will see tariff levels reduced.
DECC had been planning to review tariff levels in 2013, but says that an immediate review is necessary because the number of large solar installations already in the planning system could push FITs uptake off trajectory and may make the CSR savings diffi cult to achieve.
The energy department says that the review, which as well as examining tariff levels will look at scheme administration and eligibility of technologies, will be completed by the end of the year.
The review will fast-track consideration of large-scale solar projects (more than 50kW), with any changes to tariff is introduced as soon as is practical.
Unless the review reveals the need for greater urgency, DECC says that tariff s for smaller-scale installations will remain unchanged until April 2012.
DECC has pledged that it will not act retrospectively and any changes to tariffs implemented as a result of the review will only aff ect new entrants to the scheme.
As part of the review, DECC is also examining the lack of uptake of FITs for farm-based anaerobic digestion plants.
2nd March 2011