Ed Miliband’s challenge to the Government today (Friday 1 July 2011) over its plans to scrap solar power subsidies has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth, the NFU and the solar industry, who warn the move could kill off the UK’s fledgling green power revolution in its infancy.

The Labour leader has tabled a motion that will trigger a Parliamentary debate on proposed 70 per cent cuts to the Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) payments for energy generated through solar panels over 50kW – equivalent to panels for around 15 homes. The cuts will effectively end the UK industry beyond the domestic sector, just as other major EU economies plan a massive increase in solar to meet 2020 electricity demand.

More than 60 organizations, including Friends of the Earth, the Solar Trade Association, the Co-operative Group and the National Farmers Union have warned that such drastic cuts are likely to have a devastating impact on community green electricity projects and small businesses, threatening jobs and undermining the UK’s shift to a low carbon economy. The cuts will also damage major UK manufacturing opportunities like Kingspan’s ‘insulate and generate’ roofing system. Baroness Smith, Labour’s Energy spokesperson, is also to challenge the cuts in the House of Lords.

Friends of the Earth’s green energy campaigner Donna Hume said:

“The feed-in tariff scheme has been a big success in encouraging people to choose solar – drastic cuts are bad news for businesses and communities who will miss out on cheaper bills and more energy security.

“Our schools, businesses and housing estates could become mini-power stations like in Germany, where proper funding for its solar industry has led to falling fuel bills for families.

“The Coalition says green growth is crucial to our economy – instead of short-term cost-cutting it should support a home-grown solar power revolution and create new jobs and businesses.”

Howard Johns, Chairman of Solar Trade Association, comments:

“We are delighted that the Merits Committee have drawn attention to the proposed changes to the FIT regime – because the Coalition Government would be making a terrible mistake to sacrifice the UK solar industry, and this needs proper Parliamentary debate.” says Howard Johns, Chairman of Solar Trade Association.”

“The debate should focus on the true potential of solar to the UK based on current costs and jobs and manufacturing opportunities. The FIT has been a huge success to date, but communities and businesses have been left reeling at the scale of the proposed cuts. With major EU economies now making solar a central plank of their 2020 energy plans the UK needs to take this technology seriously and support solar at all scales. We will not get another chance to take a major share in this booming global industry.”

Dr Jonathon Scurlock, Chief Adviser, Renewable Energy and Climate Change for the National Farmers’ Union said:

“The interests of farmer and growers would be best served by a balanced range of incentives across all scales of project. There are many entrepreneurial farmers who have been left stranded by the proposed cuts. The NFU would very much welcome the opportunity to air these issues in Parliament.”

Mark Shorrock, CEO Low Carbon Solar, leading developer of community solar projects, said:

“The Government has clearly not listened to the industry’s response to its consultation and having full debates in both Houses is a positive step for the issue to be discussed openly. We support the government’s objective for creating a sustainable basis for renewable energy in the UK for the long term however by the Government’s own admission, their proposal is likely to prevent any solar projects above 50kW being developed across the UK. This is not the appropriate way to lead the transition to a low carbon economy.”

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