Since the government cut green subsidies, the amount of household energy produced by solar power has fallen by 75% in the last two months, according to recent figures.
The news that this figure had dropped will not come as a surprise to many after the government cut household incentives by 65%, but the size of the fall will not be welcomed by environmental campaigners who want to see the number of renewable energy sources grow.
The figures were released by Ofgem this week, they show that the amount of solar panels installed in the UK during February and March equated to 21 megawatts. Figures from the energy department show that in the same months of last year, 81 megawatts worth of solar panels were installed.
The energy secretary, Amber Rudd, was accused of hypocrisy when she announced the cuts to green energy only days after taking part in the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris.
Friends of the Earth representative, Craig Bennett, said at the time:
“The government is totally hypocritical on climate change.
“George Osborne’s anti-environmental policy decisions on energy fly the opposite way to the low-carbon route the vast majority of other countries are pursuing.
“There is a total mismatch between his policies and the warm words of David Cameron. The reality is that on energy policy the chancellor is effectively prime minister already.”
The United Kingdom has also been heavily criticised for the lack of financial aid that it is willing to give to developing countries as they try and reduce their emissions through new technology.
At first, Britain had been praised for doubling its funding towards this cause. However, it was then revealed that this money would be siphoned away from the regular foreign aid budget.
A representative of the group Least Developed Countries in Paris said:
“The Copenhagen climate meeting made it clear – climate finance should be new and additional funds, which means it should not come from foreign aid – which is meant for development.
“Think of it like building a road. You use the aid money for the road, but if temperatures rise due to climate change, you will have to thicken the tarmac, which is an extra cost.
“If you build a road which is liable to flood due to rising sea levels, you will need to build in flood protection, which is again additional to development. It’s that simple.”
The shadow secretary for energy and climate change, Lisa Nandy, said:
“The chancellor ignored the warnings and slashed support for this important industry in the clear knowledge it would cause job losses and deter investment. These figures show the damage his decision is causing.”
People from within the industry have said that the sector is facing tough times at the moment, but also that there were some reasons to be optimistic.
An analyst at the STA (Solar Trade Association), David Pickup, said:
“The market is going through a very difficult time with deployment down considerably compared to this time last year. This is of course because of the cliff-edge cut to the feed-in tariff [the incentive scheme], and has caused a handful of businesses to close shop over the last few weeks,
“However we are confident that solar can still provide an attractive investment in certain circumstances and that the market will recalibrate by selling solar as a package with other smart cutting edge technology to increase self-consumption of the solar electricity.”
The data that has been cited may be slightly skewed due to the fact that a lot of people rushed through their installations in order to meet a deadline for a more attractive rate in March 2015, and also because the scheme was not active in the first week of February this year. However, most analysts still believe that the majority of the drop is down to the cuts.
Diana Vogtel, a Greenpeace energy campaigner, said:
“The UK government is going against both public opinion and economic sense by cutting support for this booming technology. If lowering bills for hard-working families is indeed a priority for the government energy policy, why are ministers backing astronomically expensive new nuclear whilst ditching much cheaper energy sources?”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change released a statement saying:
“It’s only fair that the costs on people’s energy bills to support solar projects should come down as the industry establishes itself and costs fall. Ultimately, we want a low carbon energy sector that can stand on its own two feet rather than relying on subsidies.”
This news comes in the same week as the IPPR think tank stated that the next mayor of London should strive to make the capital a “global green city” by upping investment in solar power. Shortly afterwards, a waste and recycling company announced that it had installed the largest solar photovoltaic scheme in the capital; the 1MW fixture is located in Bow.