Barker “regrets” not cutting FiT earlier

Energy minister Greg Barker, has said his only regret about introducing an early December cut-off point for solar PV subsidy was that he “didn’t do it earlier”.

But the DECC minister did reveal he was looking seriously at raising the payment of generating solar PV to cushion the impact of the earlier than expected introduction of the lower Feed-in Tariff (FiT) rate.

Giving evidence to a Parliamentary committee, Mr Barker said he stood by his decision to bring forward the deadline for the Feed-in Tariff to December 12, saying he had to act to avoid destroying the entire FiT scheme.

He said he was first made aware that demand was outstripping the forecasts in the second week of September when DECC switched from relying on outdated Ofgem data to up-to-date information from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.

The minister said: “One thing that I am absolutely sure on is shifting the eligibility date to April 1 would be absolutely catastrophic.

“I’ve been made aware of schemes that have been cancelled because of the review and they include some very large schemes, not just household schemes but social housing projects.

“However, the level of demand that was out there was absolutely mind-blowing and there is absolutely no way that this scheme could have coped with the volume of demand out there.

“My only regret is that we didn’t do this earlier – the notion that we could have delayed any later is absolutely bonkers.”

During a prickly exchange in which he also confirmed the government Cabinet has not discussed the Impact Assessment report of the solar subsidy cut, Mr Barker did say he was “actively exploring” the possibility of raising the export component of the Feed-in Tariff to support the solar industry past the December 12 deadline.

He added: “I am a strong supporter of the solar industry, we have got to manage it through this very difficult period within the constraints of a budget.

“I am really pleased with the way my officials are working constructively with the industry and we are looking for solutions to sustain the industry in ways that doesn’t put unsustainable burdens on consumer bills.”