"I have long been an enthusiastic supporter of solar power, both small scale and farm scale solar for several reasons; it enables everyone to become engaged with renewable energy through solar panels on the roof of the house; 'big' solar does not cause unsightly damage to our landscapes if sited sympathetically; solar power is infinite, and new technology will make new generation, battery based solar a major source of power in the future when our energy supply will become completely decarbonised; solar farms can be located close to the grid, making unsightly pylons unnecessary; and the solar industry provides a lot of jobs in Montgomeryshire, many in the Machynlleth area, where it's always been difficult to attract other jobs. But the immediate future looks a bit bleak.
When the Coalition Government came to power in 2010, solar power was given a massive boost. A budget for renewables development was set for ten years - up to 2020. Confusingly this budget is known as the Levy Control Framework. It's best to just think of it as a 10 year budget. It was set to rise to around £8 billion per year by 2020, a figure considered very generous at the time. Unfortunately, investment in renewables was so hugely successful, that when the new Secretary of State took office earlier this year, she found that the budget had already been overspent, with pledges made after 5 years committing to over £9billion per year, already exceeding the 2020 target. In my view, far too much of the renewables budget has gone to support onshore wind development, which is another story! And the Treasury is rightly so committed to bringing our National Debt under control that no more money is being made available. Inevitably all subsidy schemes are being cut, many ended.
At present, there is a consultation taking place on how best to proceed in respect of solar subsidies, known as Feed-in Tariffs. The consultation ends this week. I have had several discussions with Ministers about the future of solar power, and hope my involvement will make a difference. I hope that a realistic level of solar subsidy will continue for next three years at least. I accept there must be a big reduction in levels of subsidy for solar development, but not to the extent of killing it off altogether. The solar industry tell me it will be only a few years until no subsidy will be needed at all. It would make no economic sense to build up an industry on the back of major subsidy to almost self-sustainability, only to then destroy the industry by ending subsidy too quickly. I hope we will continue to have a solar industry when new support arrangements are put in place.