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Lobby Government to commit to solar power

Date: 21 Sep 2009

Lobby Government to commit to solar power

Small change big difference Small change big difference Lobby government to commit to solar power by increasing the 'Clean energy cashback' payment - visit the We Support Solar campaign.

According to the British construction industry, an additional 10p incentive is all that is needed to create nearly 30,000 jobs in the solar power sector by 2014. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) and Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) are calling for effective ‘Clean Energy Cashback' payments for solar electricity, at least an additional 10p for every unit of solar electricity produced in the UK.  In late 2009, the level of payments to households, businesses and other organisations generating their own electricity from solar photovoltaics (PV) will be set by the Government under its new ‘Clean Energy Cashback' scheme.  Adding just 10p to the Government's proposed rates would drive demand for 400,000 new solar PV installations on homes by 2014, and thus create substantial employment opportunities in the construction industry. 

The organisations wanting to change the proposed scheme represent almost 16,000 building companies. The scheme is under consultation as part of the Renewable Energy Strategy published in July 2009, for an April 2010 start. The ‘Small Change, big Difference' campaign for at least a 10p top up comes from umbrella group ‘We Support Solar'.  This follows modeling by the UK Photovoltaic Manufactures Association (UKPV), outlined in the report ‘2020: A Vision for UK PV', demonstrating that over 30,000 jobs could be created in solar manufacturing, design, installation and servicing by 2014 if the market price for solar electricity is set at a level to drive rapid expansion of the solar industry.

This support for solar power, set to provide an increasing percentage of the UK's electricity by 2020, comes as the UK construction industry continues to witness a slowdown.  The industry is expected to lose approximately 319,000 jobs between the industry's employment peak in 2007 and its expected trough in 2010, according to Experian, consultants behind the FMB's ‘State of Trade Survey'. The latest research from the FMB for the second quarter of 2009 shows that  49% of their members' workloads continue to fall; with manufacturers all but stopping production.  According to the ‘State of Trade Survey', one of the worst affected areas appears to be Wales, a potential hub for solar manufacture and assembly in the UK.

‘We Support Solar' has members from across industry, and is confident that the right investment in solar energy in Britain will create lasting economic, social and environmental change. The group and its supporters, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, 275 MP's, 500 businesses and 1000's of individuals, believes there is a huge opportunity to change the face of British industry with solar energy, that the UK must 'set the standard' and create effective rewards for those creating and using the clean power source.  The cash back scheme, as it is proposed, is a missed opportunity according to the campaign. The Government predicts that its proposed cashback scheme for solar PV will deliver around 0.5% of UK electricity demand by 2020, with much of this demand coming post 2014.  But  modelling from the UK PV Manufacturers Association suggests that adding just 10p to the starting tariff numbers from April 2010 would deliver well over six times the Government's target for solar, and begin to come close to the more ambitious targets set by the rest of Europe.  Under the proposals, in 2010 the UK will continue to fall further behind countries such as Belgium and the Czech Republic, where the solar power installation rate is already ten times that of the UK.  

Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs, Federation of Master Builders: "The FMB would welcome any change to the proposed Clean Energy Cashback scheme that maximises solar jobs for our members at a time when many of them are really suffering as a result of the recession. The construction and solar industry work in close partnership, with roofers up and down the country now being trained to install solar electric roof tiles.  By increasing the clean energy cash back level by at least 10p, the government is kick starting economic recovery in the construction industry - allowing solar energy to play a significant role in the greening of our housing stock. "

Ray Horwood CBE, Chief Executive, National Federation of Roofing Contractors said: "The NFRC fully supports the ‘Small change, big difference' campaign in the call for what would be an effective ‘Clean Energy Cashback' rate in the UK.  Many of our roofers are already trained to install solar electric roof tiles and there is the potential for many more to become qualified with the correct encouragement for the uptake of solar photovoltaics in the UK."

He added: "The time has come for roofs to be active parts of a building to help meet our renewable energy targets, to provide a viable solution to meet challenging future building regulations and to support a generation of new jobs for roofers who are eager to become involved in the emerging green economy. Adding at least 10p to the proposed price for solar electricity will help tackle the triple challenge of credit, energy and climate."

Paul Reeve, Head of Environment, Electrical Contractors' Association said: "We strongly advise the Government to introduce major incentives that will encourage the uptake of solar photovoltaics. A 'Clean Energy Cashback' scheme would help to provide the major step change we need to meet the UK's challenging carbon reduction targets. The ECA is committed to working with Government to increase demand for renewable energy and boost 'green technology'. This will generate a number of opportunities for electrical contractors, who bring considerable skills into this area."

Alan Simpson MP, Secretary of State Ed Miliband's ‘Clean Energy Cashback' advisor, added: "We needn't be so timid.  Only real rates of return of between 8-10% through the ‘Clean Energy Cashback' scheme will drive forward the UK market for renewables from 2010. We have to deliver massive benefits for UK PLC and UK jobs during the next Parliament. Crucially, we need a scheme which will ensure rapid uptake of solar PV from year one of the scheme, not one that may or may not deliver post 2014. This means an increase of at least 10p on the proposed solar PV payments for 2010.  Without that, we are not even in the game as far as solar PV is concerned."

Colin Challen MP, Labour Chairman of the Commons All Party Climate Change Group, said: "The Government has literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the 2010 starting feed-in tariffs right for all renewable energy technologies so that the UK can begin to catch up with our European neighbours.  But the proposed solar PV payments are simply set far too low to provide for a real kick-start for this technology in the UK and are way below the Government's stated aim of delivering a 5-8% rate of return from the tariffs. That's why I'm pleased to be backing the ‘We Support Solar' campaign's call for at least a further 10p on the solar PV generation payments. 10p is a very modest ask given the low starting point of the Government's proposals. But just 10p would deliver an additional 30,000 skilled solar installation jobs within the lifetime of the next Parliament and six times as much solar PV generation as under the Government's current proposals by 2020."

He added: "To date, 275 MPs from all parties have backed my Commons motion EDM 689 calling on the Government to do more to support this important technology, making it the second most popular motion out of over 1,900 tabled this Parliamentary session. It's now vital that solar PV is not penalised by the Government under the new ‘Clean Energy Cashback' scheme and payment levels are set to deliver meaningful rates of return for investors in this technology. I'm confident that Ed Miliband will respond positively to the 10p campaign."

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Spokesperson also commented:  "The Government's proposals fall far short of what's needed to boost investment and jobs in solar PV.   But that is hardly surprising given their starting point of restricting the ‘Clean Energy Cashback' scheme to deliver just 0.5% of UK electricity from solar power by 2020.  This is strangling the life out of the policy even before it's begun.  The proposed "cash back" payments are designed to dampen solar PV demand over the next three years rather than to encourage it.  This mindset needs to change.   Solar power can play a significant role in the "greening" of our towns and cities, while providing tens of thousands of new construction sector jobs."

Those wanting to add their voice to the We Support Solar "Small change, big difference" campaign, should write to Secretary of State Ed Miliband MP urging him to put in place a ‘Clean Energy Cashback' scheme that really can deliver for solar PV. See for more information.