Chris Huhne’s Emergency Energy Summit with UK’s leading independent suppliers to facilitate increased competition in the energy sector

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne will today hold a high level Energy Summit with new energy suppliers to find out what help they need to break the dominance of the Big Six utility companies, boost competition and keep household energy prices down.

Around 80pc of the electricity in the UK is generated by the Big Six: British Gas, npower, Scottish and Southern, Scottish Power, E.ON and EDF. These same companies also supply 99pc of electricity. Small electricity and gas suppliers will today ask ministers to help them break the market power of the Big Six companies that provide energy to 99pc of households. Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary,said “Our energy market has been too cosy for too long,” he said. “We need more competition to keep bills down. It is madness that 99pc of people get energy from the Big Six.”

Solar is an important and fundamental technology that can help increase competition in the UK energy sector and put power into the hands of small innovators, individuals and communities.

The Solar Trade Association believes that solar – now recognized as the fastest growing energy technology in the world – should play an important role in opening up the electricity sector to new entrants and that this fact has been overlooked by the Coalition Government and urgently requires attention.

“The lack of competition in the electricity sector is increasing cause for concern from consumer groups, to politicians of all parties. However, despite current political rhetoric, the government is limiting the potential for solar to open up the electricity sector with its 50kW cap on the FIT scheme and the exclusion of solar from its Electricity Market Reform analysis and proposals”, says Howard Johns, Chairman of Solar Trade Association.

“STA is urging the government to recognise the strategic role of solar with proper support under FITs and the RO. Ernst and Young anticipate with support today solar could be subsidy free by 2017, totally transforming electricity sector competitive and choice beyond all recognition.”

Ernst and Young’s recent UK Solar Outlook report said: “solar PV sector has provided the opportunity for a number of new, non-traditional players to enter the UK energy market. As such the solar sector is a useful platform for increasing the level of competition in the UK energy market.”

We think that solar power could be a solution to Chris Huhne’s problem. Solar has the potential to increase competition and finally put power in the hands of the people!

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Ed Miliband joins fight to save solar feed-in tariffs

Labour leader Ed Miliband today lent his weight to the campaign against cuts to the feed-in tariff incentive scheme he introduced as Energy and Climate Change Secretary, signing an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling on the government to ditch plans to slash the level of support available to large solar installations.

EDMs rarely secure enough support to pass through parliament, but Labour is hoping that a significant turn out in favour of the motion could prompt the government to host a parliamentary debate on the controversial decision. Shadow climate minister Irranca-Davies, who has led opposition to the proposed cuts to feed-in tariffs, has urged the government to rethink its decision to cut incentives by between 40 and 70 per cent for all solar installations with over 50kW. Read the full article HERE

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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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Solar Power – Understanding the UK Opportunity: STA meeting @ Houses of Parliament, 29th June

A great STA event was held at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting was to present to MPs the results of the STA’s Alternative Strategy Document and Ernst and Young’s recent report on the UK solar industry. A number of acting MPs were present at the meeting and some excellent speakers from the Industry. You can read all about the event on Toby Ferenczi’s blog HERE

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10 Reason Why We Should Invest in Solar Energy

1. Solar Energy is better for the environment than traditional forms of energy.

2. The worldwide demand for Solar Energy is currently greater than supply.

3. Solar energy has many uses, from powering cars to cooking food.

4. In one hour, more sunlight falls on the earth than what is used by the entire population in one year.

5. Shell Oil predicts that 50% of the world’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2040.

6. Solar energy benefits you by reducing your home energy costs, and not to mention, caring for the environment.

7. Solar panels on all south-facing roofs and facades across the UK could deliver around 30% of our electricity needs – the technical potential is many times greater.

8. Germany estimates over 50% of daytime electricity needs will be met by solar by 2020.

9. A solar revolution in the UK will bring hundreds of thousands of jobs in installation and new manufacturing.

10. And finally, solar puts the power to generate directly in the hands of millions of millions of people like us, rather than the hands of a few big energy providers.

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Finally, UK’s first community-owned solar power station!

A neighbourhood community in Lewes has managed to raise over £300,000 to pay for the construction of PV solar panels on the roof of a local brewery, which will generate 92,000 kilowatt hours of green electricity each year and save more than 40 tonnes of CO2 annually. Ouse Valley Energy Services Company Limited or Ovesco for short, have successfully encouraged over 200 residents to invest amounts between £250 and a few thousand pounds, since the plan was first announced on Tuesday 19 April at Lewes Town Hall.

The scheme plans to fully repay all shareholders within 25-years. We at Our Solar Future definitely agree with Norman Baker, MP for Lewes and transport minister, who said that “Energy should be bottom up, not top down”. Hopefully, this will be the first of many local initiatives to do with Solar power energy. You can read the full article click HERE

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Coalition Government Derail 50kW Solar – as E&Y Report Launched Today Confirms its Potential

The UK Solar PV Industry Outlook Report on 50kW to 5 MW market, launched today, by independent consultants, Ernst & Young, reveals that non-domestic solar could thrive in the UK without subsidy from 2017 and that solar power is providing the opportunity for new non-traditional players to enter the UK energy market, increasing competition with the utilities. The report also reveals the benefits of solar for UK PLC.

The UK 50kW to 5 MW solar PV market
Click here to see a copy of the Report

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FIT review a farce to begin with

Huw Irranca-Davies MP, shadow energy minister, posted this article on Business Green’s Industry Voice blog on 13th June 2011. To read the article in full, please click here.

DECC Minister Greg Barker’s fast track solar feed in tariff consultation was one that Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud of. “Government is about principles. And the principle is, never act on principle” Sir Humphrey said, and it looks to everybody like Barker’s taken those words as a manual on how to run a review.

From the very start, this review screamed farce and last Thursday’s announcement confirmed it, leaving everyone – industry, green NGOs, community groups – feeling like they’ve been stitched up, with a clear sense that any green principles this Minister had would never be acted upon.

Just in the last two weeks you see a snapshot of the fiasco that was this review. On June 3rd, the Minister attempts to hold out a fig leaf to industry (and to anyone else who’s interested). He pronounces – in response to a Solar Trade Association report – that solar power is underestimated in the UK, raising hopes that things may not be as bad as first feared.

Even DECC industry insiders thought that the tariff rates wouldn’t be great, but better than what was announced in March. Yet, only days later the Minister announces he will go ahead with the proposed tariff reductions for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations larger than 50 kilowatts – not only hammering a nail into the coffin of many future modest medium-scale community, school and hospital schemes, but risking thousands of jobs in an industry that was beginning to flourish. So it is no surprise that people are angry.

It is no surprise that Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association, said the move would cripple the UK’s fledgling solar panel industry. “Crushing solar makes zero economic sense for UK plc because it will lose us major manufacturing opportunities, jobs and global competitiveness,” he said.

To read the article in full, please click here.

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It is shameful that this government is resisting a solar revolution

This article was posted by Leonie Greene on on 14th June 2011. To read the full article, please click here.

You report that “subsidies for large-scale photovoltaic installations are to be cut drastically” (Solar power industry dismayed as subsidy for large plants cut, 10 June). However, the most devastating impact of the government’s actions will be on “community-scale” solar – which is poorly understood but crucial to building a modern green electricity infrastructure.

As you state: “The government said its review of feed-in tariffs (FITs) for renewable energy would divert funds from field-sized … solar power plants to panels on house roofs.” The Renewable Energy Association campaigned alongside Friends of the Earth for the FIT legislation to ensure that diverse people and groups can invest easily in renewable power, including solar. Solar projects in schools, farms, businesses and local councils were beginning to flourish.

The UK solar industry is asking for as little as £3 per household per annum during the lifetime of this parliament to start a solar revolution in Britain.

Minister Greg Barker says: “I want to drive an ambitious roll-out of new green energy technologies in homes, communities and small businesses.” I can’t support his very limited domestic plans. He has been boxed in by the Treasury (no experts on energy), and let down by his own department’s shockingly poor understanding of solar: the latest report by its “expert” consultants anticipates a 37% drop in solar costs between 2010 and 2020. Prices dropped around 25% last year alone.

The government needs a fresh approach to this technology, which has the potential to revolutionise the way we own and generate electricity. Solar energy has to be allowed to compete directly with fossil fuels and new nuclear. It empowers millions of people, not a handful of energy companies. Could that explain the resistance?

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Large-scale solar could be saved

Emma Hughes at Solar Power Portal posted this response to the Financial Mail’s article on 13th June 2011. Click here to read the full article.

Financial Mail revealed this weekend that there could still be hope for the UK’s solar industry. According to an article published in The Daily Mail, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is working on a plan to save the future development of large-scale systems.

Last Thursday the Solar Power Portal reported that DECC had made the controversial decision to go ahead with its proposed feed-in tariff cuts, affecting systems over 50kW. Industry has been up in arms since this announcement, claiming that the decision serves only to kill the industry, losing thousands of people their jobs, billions of pounds of investment and casting yet more uncertainty over the as-yet-untouched residential sector.

It is now thought that ministers plan an abrupt change of policy in an effort to rescue the industry.

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