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Solar 'market rush' expected after government cuts

Industry leaders have warned of a “market rush” in solar installations after government announced plans to slash subsidies for electricity generated from rooftop solar panels.

Leading figures from the UK solar industry have predicted that the next four months could see a spike in demand for solar panels ahead of the government’s proposed cuts in January.

Yesterday, the government announced that it had begun a consultation on cutting the feed-in-tariffs for rooftop solar energy by almost 90 per cent.

Under the new proposals, feed-in-tariffs for solar electricity would fall from 12.9p/kW to 1.63p k/W, with many believing that this change could push the UK’s solar installation industry “over a cliff”.

The government proposals come as it looks to cut other renewable energy subsidies over fears that subsidy costs could run more than £1.5bn over budget.

Solar Trade Association head of policy Mike Landy said: “A sudden cut combined with the threat of scheme closure is a particularly bad idea – it will create a huge boom and bust that is not only very damaging to solar businesses and jobs but does nothing to help budget constraints. We really are astonished at how self-defeating these proposals are.”

It is feared that this “boom” could put increased strain on the solar installation industry, leading to the risk of poor quality fittings and many panels remaining uninstalled due to the industry’s limited capacity.

Head of UK Solar Stuart Pocock told Construction News: “Our biggest fear, whenever we get these rushes, is quality. If your trying to cram as many jobs into a short period of time as possible, there is a risk that the quality of installation might not be as good as it should be.”

He added: “The industry is of a limited size and it only has a certain capacity to do so much, so I expect a lot of people might end up disappointed and not get there installs done.”

The latest cuts have also led to doubts over the long-term future of the UK’s solar industry.

Solar Trade Association head of external affairs Leonie Greene said: “The solar industry has flourished thanks to public support and delivered unprecedented cost cuts. Government should back that momentum, not push the industry over a cliff when it is so near to being able to repay public investment through lower & more stable bills in future – as well as tens of thousands of jobs.”

Currently, there are more than 30,000 people employed in the solar sector, with a total of 2,900 active domestic solar installers nationwide.

Mr Pocock said: “With the cuts proposed, we could end up losing quite a large chunk of our industry, because the cuts are a lot more than we initially expected.

“In the domestic sector for example, a cut of 90 per cent means that a homeowner who was at one point looking at a very attractive investment, now is looking at something a lot less attractive. This will have a massive impact on installation companies.”

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