08. 08. 2011

What’s Chris Huhne Got Against Solar Power?

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Comments (5)

I know that question will sound odd, since Chris Huhne professes to want more of all low-carbon sources of energy.  But how else can one explain the following:

1. He’s refused to meet with the Renewable Energy Association that has been intent on helping keep him up to speed on what’s happening with solar around the world.

2. He’s refused to meet with the boss of a company called Kingspan, one of the few manufacturing companies here in the UK positioned to take advantage of the growth of solar – and in the process, to contribute to the Government’s rather threadbare “growth strategy”.

3. His Department arbitrarily imposed major changes to the feed-in-tariffs scheme, with hugely damaging consequences for the emerging solar industry in the UK.  Kingspan’s integrated roofing PV (Photovoltaic) systems are already proven winners, and Kingspan was planning to invest in new manufacturing facilities here in the UK to create at least 1,000 jobs over the next 3 years. 

It seems likely that Kingspan will now locate its new plant in mainland Europe, where other governments seem to be free of the UK’s absurd prejudice against all things solar.

4. Officials in his Department continue to talk about solar in ill-informed and damaging ways.  What exactly, for instance, makes people in DECC believe that “the UK solar market will always be smaller than others”?  (Solar power is actually the second largest renewable resource in the UK).

He and his officials continue to play down the huge potential for solar whilst talking up the far more limited potential for nuclear and Carbon Capture and Storage with almost manic hyperbole.

5. All the technology assessments that his Department relies on have failed to understand how close to competitiveness solar already is, let alone recognise how a proper funding regime for the next 3 or 4 years would ensure the industry’s future success.

6. He has failed to prevent Treasury from imposing draconian limits on the overall amount of funding available for solar in a way that he must know will seriously undermine the industry’s prospects here in the UK.

The “Coalition Politics” here is mystifying.  Huhne has done nothing to mobilise Lib Dem colleagues (both in Government and on the back benches), with Vince Cable seen as “hostile” and Danny Alexander as “semi-detatched”.  The real champions for solar inside DECC are both Tories – Greg Barker and (to a lesser extent) Charles Hendry.  This is a weird world.

Chris Huhne has disappointed on so many different fronts over the last few months, though it’s true that he’s also done some good and important things, including the Renewable Heat Incentive.

He’s now got one last chance (through the Review of the different levels of support under the Renewables Obligation) to get it right on solar – after a sequence of calamitous errors.  Let’s hope he’s using his summer break wisely to get his head sorted out on this critical issue.
 

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18. 08. 2012
Suganthi

You don't control when the wind will blow or when there is cloud coivreng the solar panel. You design enough windmill and solar panel so the system can generate enough and stable energy year around.Obviously, you need to store the energy somehow.

28. 10. 2011
Nick Pascoe

OPEN LETTER TO GEORGE OSBORNE

Stop destroying UK jobs
OR
Seize the Opportunity for Jobs and Growth, Support renewable power

Dear Mr Osborne,

I write to declare astonishment that your policies appear continually ignorant of the magnitude of the business opportunity presented to UK PLC by the global necessity of delivering lower carbon industrialised economies. It is cited by many as being the ‘third industrial revolution’ but, having personally worked in power generation in several EU countries, the UK continues to be a reluctant bit part player, big on talk, lacking in delivery.

In your recent speech you stated that the UK emitted only 2% of global CO2 emissions, concluding that the UK should not lead nor act fast on this issue. YOU HAVE MISSED THE POINT. The UK’s businesses and entrepreneurs could be making billions leading the way on this huge change opportunity, yet your political outlook is to reduce and remove support, particularly for renewable energy generation, at every turn. YOU are driving the UK toward being a laggard in this respect, where is the positive leadership of your party supporting growth and a leading role for the UK in the global renewable power sector?

Particularly upsetting has been the continuing fiasco over the UK’s feed in tariff, a mechanism used by Governments world over to drive the growth of renewable power generation. It does not cost the UK Govt. a bean, FiTs being added to household bills currently at a level of less than £1 per bill payer per year. That trivial increase has since April 2010 generated a UK Solar industry now employing 25,000 people, all paying income taxes to HM Revenue far in excess of the Govt cost of operating the scheme. No denying that the FiT rates are now high compared to the cost of Solar PV as it continues on it’s downward trajectory, and should now be reduced. But not to the extent that happened when Greg Barker reviewed mid scale Solar projects earlier this year. During that review i personally made 40 British engineers & planners redundant and cancelled construction contracts that would have employed 500 UK construction workers. The £860M FiT budget to end March 2015 was only ever an estimate of the growth of the sector. YOU changed it into a capped (and reduced) budget and I say again, the FiT produces a NET INCOME for your government, it is NOT an expenditure.

I’d also implore you and your Government to lessen its unhealthy fixation on Nuclear power being the largest part of the UK’s strategy to a low carbon future. DECC appears to be Nuclear institutionalised, suspiciously protective of its Nuclear stance and the Committee for Climate Change appears blind (or lobbied into a corner) to what is happening now in Germany, the US, Sweden, Italy etc. In those countries post Fukushima costs of Nuclear (amongst other concerns) combined with continually falling costs of Solar PV & CSP have led to rational cost based decisions to reduce Nuclear’s role and increase Solar’s as part of the low carbon mix. In the US, grid parity is now achievable for utility scale Solar power generation, in lower Germany it is thought to be just 3yrs away. Why it is apparently OK for DECC continue to pump billions into UK Nuclear each year (as has been the case now for 50yrs), both overtly and through supportive policy, whilst renewable power is trivialised, can only be explained by entrenched positions and vested interest. You’ll shout, “5ROC support for tidal power, aren’t we green”, but really how much will that cost the Govt for the hundred Megawatts that may be built (before you reduce it) compared with the tens of thousands of Nuclear Megawatts DECC are fully behind.

I am proud to say that I am a British Engineer who has, despite Alan Sugar’s view on engineers, founded, grown and run several successful (and some not so successful) technical businesses creating UK exports, pools of technical expertise and jobs. 8 years ago I steered towards the business opportunity presented by the global shift to a lower carbon economy. Over those 8 years i’ve focused on Energy, having developed sustainable biomass CHP power stations in Sweden, built agricultural energy crop supply in the UK and Eastern EU, managed 1% of the UK’s grid power on a daily basis (reducing it by 15% or 250k tonnes CO2) as Head of Energy of Tesco Plc and latterly having constructed the UK’s largest fleet of Solar PV power stations (28MW operating now generating zero carbon electricity).

For the sake of British Entrepreneurs, Engineers and citizens, please grab hold of the opportunity staring you in the face and drive the UK to become a leading player in the business opportunity of delivering a global lower carbon economy. Take an easy, immediate, no cost action by raising your ambition for Solar Power in the UK by lifting the unnecessary FiT cap- a clear cap on growth and jobs.

Yours Sincerely

Nick Pascoe
British Mechanical Engineer and Managing Director of Orta Solar

22. 08. 2011
Toby Ferenczi

Jonathan,

I work with Ben above at the REA/STA and I agree that the solar industry feels as though we are up against a very strong anti-solar lobby which may explain in part the title of your posting.

Among the various campaigns we are running such as www.oursolarfuture.org.uk we have a concise set of arguments in favour of solar, none of which are being taken into account by the Government. I'd be very grateful if you took 5 minutes to read my posting '9 Resons Why the UK Should Support Solar' at http://engensa.com/blog/uncategorized/simplified-and-extended-9-reasons-why-the-uk-should-support-solar/ and gave me your feedback.

Toby Ferenczi

20. 08. 2011
Rev'd Peter Doodes

You say that Hendry is a 'real champion for solar power Jonathan, but have you seen this

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/nif10/nif10.aspx

and regarding Greg Barker this?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-05/u-k-says-nuclear-plants-will-move-ahead-during-study-on-safety.html

One wonders where their real priorities are, as I do with Huhne.

09. 08. 2011
ben cosh

Jonathan,
I couldn't have put this better. I have been part of the team that has been working behind the scenes with REA to advise Barker. He seems to have a sense of the potential of solar, but his officials frankly act like they are on the payroll of the nuclear and offshore wind lobby.

Despite frequent promises to meet to give them a better understanding of the facts, they stone wall. Again and again.
Information that is provided for round after round of FIT/ROC "consultation" is not used in the next publication. I will eat my hat if they even get their facts right in the ROC banding review.

Conspiracy or Cock up. Sadly, I suspect its the latter.
Ben Cosh

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