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Government policy puts solar industry 27,000 jobs at risk

New research has revealed that potentially 27,000 jobs could be put at risk by the government’s proposed 87% cut to the domestic feed-in tariff for solar energy.

The government’s research partner on low carbon jobs, data, TBR Economic Research, commissioned the Solar Trade Association to carry out an analysis of how 35,000 jobs within the solar industry and its supply chain are spread throughout the UK.

The South East would be most at risk with over 4,000 jobs under threat. The North West would also be severely hit with 3,500 out of its 4,300 solar jobs potentially lost.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change proposed at the end of August to cut the tariff paid for electricity generated by solar rooftop panels from 12.4p to 1.6p as of January 2016.

The research suggests that the Government’s proposal favours solar in the South West and the south coast of England and discriminates against much of the rest of the country.

Up until now the government’s calculations have been based on the average sunlight levels you find in Sheffield, roughly the middle of the country. The level of sunlight assumed determines the amount of electricity generated from a solar installation, which in turn determines how quickly a system will make a return the investment and the rate of return on that investment.

However, within the Feed-in Tariff review consultation published last month, the government makes the assumption on sunlight or ‘solar irradiation’ levels usually found in the South West of England. The Solar Trade Association proposes the government should revert to using Sheffield as its basis for calculations on solar PV.

Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association, said: “Within this new set of proposals, the Government has used sunlight levels you might find in Devon, rather than those found in Yorkshire as they have done in the past. Here at the Solar Trade Association, however, we believe more than just one corner of the country should be able to get the benefits of going solar.”

“The government’s short-term thinking on bills is condemning hardworking families to a future of higher energy costs.”

The government has been urged to reconsider its stance on sustainable energy with the CBI Director-General, John Cridland, issuing a warning that unless the government provide confidence and clarity to the renewables industry, companies risk losing out on billions of pounds in the export market.

Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth’s renewables campaigner said: “The government’s war on renewable energy threatens tens of thousands of solar jobs and billions of pounds in investment, which could leave the UK trailing far behind other countries on green energy.”

There are currently almost 700,000 solar homes in the UK.