Industry slams DECC incompetence claim

A number of installers have spoken out in dismay over allegations of government bungling in the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) saga.

Although the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) announcement that further FiT reductions could be delayed has generally been welcomed, less so is the claim of government incompetence being at the heart of its decision.

Speaking in Parliament last week, shadow energy and climate change minister Caroline Flint asked energy secretary Ed Davey whether the backtrack had arisen not through requests made by the UK’s solar PV industry, but because “the government has missed the deadline legally required to provide notice to Parliament for the next round of cuts.”

Although the claim is not supported by DECC, it has nonetheless provoked a sharp response from many installers losing patience with DECC following similar shifts in the timelines for both the introduction of the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive and non-domestic Green Deal.

Andy Buchan, managing director of Cotswolds Energy Efficiency Centre, said: “All these false dawns and date changes reduces the confidence in the market of our customers. All the promised dates keep getting missed.

“Joined up thinking is not happening and they’ve probably missed the legal date. I don’t think it is intentional but a breakdown in communication has happened somewhere.

“I don’t really believe what DECC are saying at all.”

The Green Electrician’s managing director, Rupert Higgin, added: “Whether the delay is due to incompetency or a better understanding of the industry, it exposes a bigger issue.  The real issue is that there is no transparency and poor communication with the industry as to the government’s plans or broader strategic intent for the sector.  What is needed is a transparent timetable that outlines dates and the degree of the proposed cut to the FiT.”

Equally suspicious of the government’s motives for delaying the FiT cuts are both Zara Glew of Environmental Energies and Ardenham Energy’s Harry Shepherd-Cross.

Said Glew: “I wouldn’t surprise me if they have missed a legal deadline – they got things wrong in December. I would hope that this has happened because they have listened to the industry but I’m not sure hand on heart that that’s true.

“The industry needs stability and the government needs to gradually introduce these changes. Changing things every five minutes is not a viable way to run a business.”

Shepherd-Cross added: “I would like to think that any delay in the next digression will be for sensible reasons but it is impossible to tell. We feel punch drunk from the whole saga so what DECC does now comes as no surprise.

“This has been driven by a lack of political vision. We will be pleased if DECC has missed its legal deadlines but it doesn’t put them in good stead.”

Finally, Eco Environments’ director David Hunt said that DECC deserved some credit if the FiT rate is not changed on 01 July, however, any truth in the latest claims would not reflect well on the government.

“We are pleased to hear that DECC is apparently listening to the industry and looking at the flatlined solar PV installation figures,” he said. “But let’s see if the FiT deadline is put back as the industry has requested. If that happens then we have to give credit to DECC for taking a tough but very necessary decision.

“However, after the government-inspired chaos which has surrounded the FiT scheme for the past six months, it is hard not to be suspicious that this supposed rethink is motivated more by the realisation that ministers have missed the legal deadline for notifying Parliament 40 days prior to introducing the cuts.

“Yet again the embattled solar industry is at the mercy of a bungling government which is incapable of communicating clearly and effectively with businesses or consumers.”