Fast-track Review

The ‘Fast-track’ part of the FITs review covers so-called ‘large scale solar’ (and farm-based AD)

This ‘review within a review’ seems to have been designed to curtail the UK’s embryonic solar electricity industry. There is a secondary look at ‘farm-based’ anaerobic digestion.

Outcome published 9th June 2011

The government published its response to the consultation on 9th June 2011.

In effect it said it was ignoring the vast majority of responses to the consultation and pressing ahead with its original proposals (see here).

House of Lords questions outcome 24th June 2011

The House of Lords Merits Committee’s latest report has drawn the Government’s proposals to the special attention of the House – see here.

This creates the opportunity peers to call for a debate and even a vote on the issue. Our parent company was one of the signatories to the letter their lordships refer to at 6(i).

System extensions – secondary consultation 27th July 2011

The government later introduced a further consultation on proposals to prevent system extensions claiming the FITs registration date of the original system. See further details here.

Scope and timetable

This sub-review was limited just to considering changes to the tariff levels for PV (i.e. changes to this table).

The consultation on this element was published on 18th March and closed on 6th May 2011. The government response was published on 9th June.

Government would like to get the legislative changes through before the summer recess in July 2011, with the new tariffs to take effect from 1st August.

The ‘grounds’ for the fast-track review

While the language in the ministerial statement was slightly more measured, the accompanying press release barely disguised the government’s intentions under the heading:

Huhne takes action on Solar farm threat

While his ministerial statement says:

I have become increasingly concerned about the prospect of large scale solar PV projects under FITs, which was not fully anticipated in the original scheme.

Some inconsistencies

In our efforts to protect the tariffs, we have pointed out some inconsistencies to the review generally. The fast-track element is especially questionable.

“Large scale solar installations weren’t anticipated under the FITs scheme”

said Chris Huhne in the press release …

Rubbish! The regulatory impact assessment for the Feed-In Tariffs had a specific forecast for ‘large PV’

… and there is a specific tariff band for PV between 100kW and 5MW (all of which they now define as large scale …)

What is ‘large-scale’?

The Energy Act 2008 specifically defines all FIT-eligible systems – i.e. everything up to 5MW – as ‘small-scale’

Now they are seeking to define systems above 50kW (just 1% of the statutory definition) as ‘large-scale’.

“growing evidence that large scale solar farms could soak up money …”

  • Not a single penny of tariff money has yet gone to such a plant.
  • Not a single such plant has yet been built.

What evidence were they using?

DECC against HM Treasury?

“Feed-In Tariffs will be refocused on the most cost-effective technologies”

said the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review. Yet DECC now seems to want to stop installations paid 29.3p/kWh in favour of those paid 41.3p/kWh.

We said they should encourage both.

Why consult if you’ve already decided the answer?

The press release sounded from the heading onwards to have decided what the outcome should be.

The final government announcement confirmed this, by sticking to the original proposals in the face of overwhelming opposition from respondents.