Opinion: Solar subsidy cuts: is the panic justified?

Westmill Solar Farm in the UK. Photo credit: Richard Peat via Flickr.
By Phil Foster
The news that the UK Government has announced another round of cuts to renewable sources, this time aimed at solar subsidies, has been met with shock and dismay from green campaigners. After the Renewable Obligation Subsidy cuts were announced last month, aimed at onshore wind generation, this latest revelation has heightened fears that the UK will fall behind in the race to reach its own ambitious carbon emission reduction targets.
While doom and destruction has been the overriding narrative, is the panic justified?
Government reports released in July (23rd  July) highlighted that the uptake of renewable energy sources is actually growing and suggests that green advocates should maybe have more faith in the market to stand on its own two feet.
The RHI Quarterly report stated that, since the scheme began, 42,741 domestic applications have been received (November 2011- July 2015). Over a quarter of applications were in regards to using biomass boilers notably exceeding the number of applications for Solar Thermal, which only accounted for 18%.
The monthly report on the Domestic Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation has also shown no let-up in green measures being promoted. Since its launch, 1.54 million measures have been installed in 1.25 million properties across Britain, with the number of plans for installation increasing by 7% between May 2015 and June 2015. Of new installations, 51% were in regards to biomass with only 12% being for solar thermal measures.
Clearly biomass is a very popular choice when it comes to renewable energy but that is not to say that solar power should be underestimated. The UK’s solar capacity set a new European record recently, successfully supplying 15% of the countries power during the heatwave and it has shown great resilience to cuts in the past.
In 2011, Feed-in Tariff support for solar panel installation was cut in half, as a result of the huge underestimation of uptake on the part of the government. Instead of killing solar dead (as the press at the time threatened) the installation of solar panels has continued to flourish, so will further cuts make much of a difference?
In a recent poll by YouGov, over a fifth of people wanted to see more solar power being used, showing that there is a public desire for renewable energy use.
To us this shows that there is public support for renewable. The fact that it was our governments underestimation of solar panel uptake, that led to over-spending, demonstrates that the demand is there and it is unlikely that this demand will fall too much even if the subsidy is less generous.

The outlook therefore does not seem as destructive as first thought. Instead it seems that we should be rejoicing that the reason cuts are needed is possibly because the subsidies have been too successful.
Phil Foster is the CEO of businesses energy tariff comparison company Love Energy Savings. His strong desire to support UK SME’s make much needed savings on their energy bills. That’s why he created a business energy comparison service to help business owners not only improve their profits through savings but also save valuable time in the process of comparing and switching suppliers.
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