Keeping FiT

In the light of the Feed-in Tariff cuts, Toby Ferenczi, Engensa, describes a roadmap for surviving policy changes – one company’s journey.

So the Feed-in Tariff was slashed.

The ambitious scheme the UK government implemented to increase the level of renewable energy production and build a new industry – the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) – was so successful that DECC now feels it has to slash it deeper and sooner than planned. The FiT scheme has incentivised more than 80,000 homeowners to go solar – especially through companies being able to offer free solar schemes. Most – if not all – solar installers in the UK have been impacted by the recent slash, leaving many of us wondering “what next?”

Here’s the Engensa story, with insights and lessons learnt for weathering the FiT storm by banding together and branching out.

When we first heard rumours of the cuts, Engensa started producing content to inform people of the potential impact on UK jobs. We broke down the numbers and wrote a press release and blogged and tweeted about it to let our community know. We also set the wheels in motion to expand our offerings beyond just solar to diversify our range of products and services to whole home energy efficiency.

When the cuts were confirmed in September, we knew we needed a community effort to pool our resources to present a unified voice and cohesive message if we were to have a chance to oppose the proposed FIT cuts. Along with our colleagues from the Solar Trade Association, we brought together a coalition of solar companies, non-governmental organisations (including Friends of the Earth, 10:10, Greenpeace and Trade Union Congress), and independent activists to form The Cut Don’t Kill coalition.

Each member of the coalition has invested significant time, money and effort to raise awareness about the ways in which the cuts would impact our businesses, our employees and UK homeowners who want to go solar. Here’s a recap of our insights about what we’ve seen in the past six weeks and what we’ve learned.

We started by raising funds to hire experts to help us articulate our shared voice to key media and policy influencers. Then, we mobilised our customers and encouraged UK homeowners to sign petitions to save the FiT and write to MPs.

Some of Cut Don’t Kill’s achievements to date include:

  1. 1.       Materials and information: we produced lobbying packs to aid companies, employees and individuals with templates and messaging to communicate with MPs, maintain the Cut Don’t Kill website, petition, and Facebook/Twitter presence with more than 3000 subscribers, produce a regular newsletter for subscribers
  2. 2.       MPs: We coordinated Parliamentary questions, visits to MP surgeries by solar companies, met with Minister and Shadow Minister and briefed key Lib Dem advisors and other potential allies.
  3. 3.       Events: we organised mass lobby day on 22nd November that was attended by 400 people
  4. 4.       Media: the Cut Don’t Kill group has been featured in every national business publication and on several broadcast outlets.
  5. 5.       Independent research: The Cut Don’t Kill campaign and Friends of the Earth commissioned new independent analysis by strategic energy consultants Element Energy that further illustrates the job and revenue loss of the FiT slash to the UK government.

As the Green Deal rapidly approaches, here at Engensa we are preparing to expand our offering to help UK homeowners with energy efficiency and whole home solutions. By diversifying we are able to absorb some of our losses from the early FiT slash and still continue to offer free solar to homeowners who need to save money on their electricity bills but may not have the funds to pay for their installation outright.

The solar industry is still nascent in the UK, and for the next few years we will still be dependent on government policy (like all energy technologies).  As an industry, we need to join together and give a clear message that solar energy and decentralised generation should be a major part of the government’s strategy.  If you would like any more information on the campaign then please get in touch at www.oursolarfuture.org.uk.