New community energy and school solar projects fell by 99.4% after our incompetent government imposed cuts to the Feed in Tariff, an answer to a parliamentary question has revealed.

Using OFGEM figures, Energy Minister Richard Harrington (nope, not heard of him either) said that in the 12 months prior to cuts to the FIT (implemented for most community energy schemes on 30th Sept 2016) community groups and schools installed 209.7MW of new solar PV. In the 12 months after the cuts that fell radically – to just 1.4MW.

This vertiginous fall knocked out almost all of the community/ school solar PV sector.

The reason for this virtual standstill in school solar and community energy is simple: FIT cuts killed peoples’ financial models. Sector-wide, subsidy cuts have made renewable energy much less investable; government’s so-called ‘targets’; which – having been shown to be unacheivable under new subsidy regimes – are revealed to be simple greenwash.

New solar is not impossible, true, for those of us who have been doing it for a while. This year Brighton Energy Coop will install a significant amount of new community-owned solar PV and if you’re interested in supporting us you can get involved here. However, we have the knowledge, existing PV systems and a large membership to back us up. Most community energy organisations are only just getting going; the axing of FITs make an already difficult task almost impossible.

There’s one place to squarely put the blame: inept policy formation. DECC, BEIS, whatever they call themselves this month, are clearly fools. I’m not saying they are necessarily hostile. But they are clearly not fit for any sort of purpose that I can see, and I’m not sure which of the two I would prefer.

It is one thing to put the brakes upon large renewable energy schemes such as the multi-billion pound solar farm industry. It is quite another to totally undermine the community/school sector which has 30,000 members across 222 groups, and is worth upwards of £190m.

And government is killing it.

Congratulations, chaps: sherrys all round.

Will Cottrell, Chairman, Brighton Energy Coop.

See more of my stuff on my blog here

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