Greg Barker, the climate change minister, believes it would be madness to delay cuts in the Feed-in Tariff (FiTS) rate until April and that essentially means the government is highly unlikely to change its mind. His attitude is motivated by his belief that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) massively underestimated the effect that tariffs would have on domestic energy bills. Barker made his comments while giving evidence to the House Energy and Climate Change Committee and Environmental Audit Committee who met recently as part of a joint enquiry to investigate the effect that the government's proposed cuts will have on businesses and consumers. Barker's only regret was that the cuts were not announced earlier.
Questions presented by MP's during the inquiry so far have mainly focused on DECC's analysis of how much FiTS would add to energy bills if the cuts were introduced in December 2011 or delayed until April 2012 as the solar industry would prefer. DECC's initial assessment was that in the absence of FiTS cuts there would be a £26 increase on annual electricity bills by 2020. This figure was subsequently increased to £55 with Barker arguing that it could reach £80. Moira Wallace, DECC's permanent secretary stated that this was because of the increasing deployment of solar technology. Barker has supported this argument, rejecting a claim made by MP Alan Whitehead that a delay until April would be financially viable and warning that such a decision would mean DECC exceeding its budget for Feed in Tariffs.
According to Wallace DECC decided to call for a review after discovering that solar PV registrations for September 2011 had exceeded all previous figures to date. Solar developers registered 80.5 MW in September compared to 35 MW in August, however industry sources have argued this increase was caused by a rush of customers attempting to install systems before the April cut-off date. Nevertheless, Wallace and Barker argue that this is evidence of the continuing growth which they believe is likely to continue meaning increased pressure on the department's budget.
The matter is a source of continuing dispute between the industry and the government with industry representatives continuing with plans to seek legal redress. Howard Johns of the Solar Trade Association told BusinessGreen that he believed these high installation rates were not necessarily going to continue claiming that figures dropped in October after the September peak. Industry representatives, including SolarCentury's Jeremy Leggett and HomeSun's Daniel Green, have also appeared in front of the inquiry claiming that some 25,000 jobs are at risk if the government continues with its plans. Johns is optimistic that the inquiry will increase pressure to order a rethink.
Figures for November 20th to 27th have shown a fall on the previous weeks installations by 839 according to a weekly solar PV installation graph published by DECC following Barker's appearance. It is argued that this shows a peak in installation caused by the announcement of the December 12th cut-off date.