Solar panel plans might be put on hold by council

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PLANS to install solar panels on many of Hampshire County Council’s buildings are to be reconsidered.

Members of the council’s cabinet will be asked to suspend the installation of around 7,5000 squared meters of solar panelling at its next meeting on Monday.

The move is a result of the government’s announcement that it is to slash the ‘feed in tariff’ paid for every kilowatt generated by the panels.

This financial incentive was originally guaranteed for 25 years at a set level, but at the end of October the government announced that future feed in tariff payments would be cut by around 50 per cent.

It also decided that the change would affect all installations registered after December 12, 2011 – meaning that even the first phase of proposed HCC installations would receive considerably less than the originally promised rate.

Council leader Ken Thornber, said: ‘It is disappointing that the Secretary of State has made this unwelcome and unexpected decision, which has brought the solar energy industry to a stop overnight.’

This has severely affected the business case and the projected return that was expected on the first phase investment of up to £3.5million.

Hampshire To Suspend Solar Panel Plans

Following the Government’s decision to slash the value of financial incentives to install solar photovoltaic panels, members of Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked at their next meeting (19 December) to agree that plans to install panels on County Council buildings be put on hold.

Approved earlier this year, the County Council’s original programme would have seen panels that generate electricity from sunlight, installed on around 7,500 m2 of County Council roof space. Work was due to start on site in January 2012 to take advantage of the cash incentives offered through the Government’s Feed in Tariff paid for every kilowatt generated by the panels which was guaranteed for 25 years at a set level.

It was known that the Government was reviewing the scheme for 2012/13, and at the end of October it announced that future feed in tariff payments would be cut by around 50%. The Government also decided however, that the change would affect all installations registered after 12 December 2011 rather than after April 2012. As a consequence, even the first phase of proposed Hampshire County Council installations would receive considerably less than the originally promised rate. This has severely affected the business case and the projected return that was expected on the first phase investment of up to £3.5million.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, The decision to fix on a cut-off date in December, even before the consultation has closed on the proposed changes, has forced us to re-evaluate our plans, and in the current economic climate, we, along with many others must reluctantly shelve our plans.

“Although no contracts had been let on any of the projects, we had carried out extensive technical work on the buildings proposed for inclusion in the scheme and have been through a full procurement exercise, so the scheme was literally ready to go. We have progressed the programme as quickly as is possible given the public sector procurement rules that we must comply with for this scale of installation. Previous indications from Government were that cash incentives would continue at the current levels for all installations completed before next April and we were proceeding on that basis. There was no indication of an earlier cut-off date for installations to qualify for the higher tariff, indeed the Secretary of State has consistently promoted the need for investment in renewable energy schemes.

“Nevertheless, the County Council continues to have a strong track record when it comes to carbon reduction and energy cost savings, having recently exceeded targets for cutting emissions from our buildings, schools, street lights and other operations over the last year. Solar PV panels were a further means to help achieve such targets, reduce energy consumption and costs and they may still have a role to play in the future. Unfortunately, our scheme is no longer viable and does no represent a sound investment of County Council funds now that the feed in tariffs have been cut so dramatically.”

In addition to the recommendation to suspend the current programme, Cabinet Members will also be asked to agree that the Council keep the Solar PV market under review should the costs of installation and efficiency of panels merit reconsidering the installations at a future date.

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