You may have followed the debacle surrounding the December 2011 reduction in the Feed-in Tariff. The government gave only 6 weeks’ notice of the cut. What’s more the cut came into effect before the consultation period relating to the cut had ended. So the cut took effect from December 12th 2011, and the consultation period relating to the cut ended on December 23rd 2011!
It was not surprising that two solar companies and Friends of the Earth took the government to court, winning victory in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and finally in the Supreme Court.
Whilst this court case was taking place there was utter confusion as to what rate would apply to an installation commissioned before the outcome of the court case was known. It was at this point that MD of Spirit, Erica Charles, stepped in and took the question right to the top. At a meeting of entrepreneurs and small business owners on January 6th she asked David Cameron himself what rate would apply to a PV system installed that day.
Since then Spirit MD has become something of a spokeswoman for the industry, appearing on Radio 4’s Today Programme, commenting on the court case, and more recently on BBC South, on a pre-budget programme debating the state of the economy in the south of England. She has also talked about renewable energy several times on local BBC radio.
Prior to the statement made above on January 6th that the tariff applying to installations made after December 12th and before the Court of Appeal hearing would be `at least 21p’, there was utter confusion as to what tariff would apply to an installation.
DECC said it would `almost certainly’ not be less than 21p. `Almost certainly?’ When you are spending £5,000 or more you want `certainty’ not `almost certainty’.
By contrast Greg Barker tweeted:
@SolarChampion 2 b clear DECC r consulting on 21p (not lower) 4 anyone fitting pv btwn 12 Dec & 31 March. #FiTs
This appeared to give more certainty, but then DECC said “It’s up to the minister what he says on twitter – this is not an official DECC outlet”.
In exasperation our MD has no choice but to take her question right to the top!
So on 6th January, at a meeting of local business owners, Spirit Solar MD Erica Robb asked Mr Cameron what rate would apply to an installation made today, telling him that “if you ring up DECC and ask them what tariff applies today, they can’t tell you if it’s 43p, 21p, 0p or somewhere in between.”
A very nice girl from Number 10 came up to our MD after the meeting and proffered her email address.
So our MD wrote an email to the PM seeking further clarification. We didn’t get a reply, but we did get the following statement via REAL which was all we needed to offer our customers certainty:
“The tariff rate for PV installations less than or equal to 4kW will not fall below 21p for installations with an eligibility date between 12th December 2011 and 31st March 2012.”