The government’s plans to cut solar subsidies could mean that plans to install solar panels on social homes across the UK, halving the energy bills for thousands of residents would be shelved.
Amber Rudd’s cuts proposals have caused widespread controversy among environmental groups who have criticised her decision to focus on and support gas production and fracking campaigns instead of solar or wind farms.
But now further criticism has been rained upon her by campaigners who have found that her claims that her plans are designed to increase energy security among lower income hardworking families during the long term switch to greener forms of energy are groundless.
Plans that were supposed to go ahead to install solar panels on 45,000 social houses in some of the most economically deprived areas of the UK look to be halted if the cuts go through since they would be no longer be financially viable.
Some 5-10,000 of the houses should still have panels installed, given the already advanced stage of development on them, but the rest will most likely fall by the wayside. This has been described as “totally a sole consequence of the FIT [solar feed-in tariff] cuts”.
The problem is that these plans were intended to sever the energy bills of up to 135,000 social housing residents. The installation of the solar panels would have cut bills in half for many of these customers, saving around £200 per year on average.
Alex Grayson at Empower Community said that these potential savings “can literally be the difference between a family being in fuel poverty and not. It seems preposterous that this policy action would be being taken in the name of protecting hard working families when it does precisely the reverse.”
Rudd had previously said that the cuts proposed to the solar feed-in tariff incentives would be an essential step towards reducing customers’ bills across the UK. However, given the above it is uncertain to whom exactly she is referring since those worst affected would likely be those who are worst off to begin with.
So far the government has scrapped support for onshore wind farms and to subsidies for the installation of solar plants creating less than 5 megawatts of power, as well the financing of a scheme to increase energy efficiency by insulating homes across the country.
Grayson believes that the upshot of all of this “almost certainly means the era of free PV [solar panels] for social housing tenants will become a thing of the past.”
Almost farcically, this all comes just “a couple of years before PV reaches grid parity and doesn’t even need the subsidies anymore.”
A government spokesman has defended the cuts saying that “our priority is to keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses, while reducing our emissions in the most cost-effective way. We have engaged extensively with industry and the public via the feed-in tariff consultation and we intend to publish a government response later in the year.”
Said response will likely be looked forward to by the several bodies who dispute both the claims of support for hardworking families, and of reducing emissions.