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YouGen press release

Government's broken promises outrages early adopters of renewable generation

Posted on 17 September 2010 at 9:32 am

YouGen is calling on early adopters to write to their MPs in a last ditch attempt to get a fair deal on feed-in tariffs. Both the Conservatives and LibDems promised equal feed-in tariff rates to early adopters of renewable energy in the run up to the general election. Now they have reneged on that promise.

Asked yesterday, by Green MP Caroline Lucas, whether he would backdate the clean energy cashback scheme for pioneers, Chris Huhne said: "I am afraid that the advice from my officials was clearly that we cannot introduce retrospection in such cases because it does not represent value for money."

In an email to a constituent, West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin said: "Unfortunately, Chris [Huhne]was unable to establish that the administrative savings would be anything like large enough to counterbalance  the additional costs - and I am afraid he has therefore concluded that this  would not represent value for money."

Cathy Debenham, founder of YouGen, said: 'This is a huge blow for early adopters. We've been campaigning on this issue since last August with our Equal Cashback for Microgenerators campaign helping microgenerators to give voice to their anger and frustration. While I understand that new schemes are not generally applied retrospectively, I think there is a case to be made here to do so.

"Many of the early adopters needed dedication and persistance to work their way through the difficulties and bureaucratic barriers and get their systems up and running. Their experience has fed into the development of the feed-in tariff, and their enthusiasm and advocacy is needed if solar panels and wind turbines are going to become commonplace in communities and homes. Yet again they have been let down, and with many are financially worse off as a result of this 'financial incentive'.

"This decision also has implications for the renewable heat incentive. Renewable heat is much more complicated than generating renewable electricity, and the enthusiasm and knowledge of pioneers is going to be essential in encouraging the cultural change necessary for mass take up."

Solar pioneer, Henry Lovegrove is outraged: "It seems LibDems and Tories are blaming each other, and the financial situation, for not changing the rules. In practice they are both reneging on promises and it has nothing to do with the financial situation. The effect of increasing the payment is a microscopic increase in electricity bills which is probably offset by administrative savings - there is no cost and probably an administrative saving to the exchequer.

"I have just extended my system and am now in the process of simultaneously registering a 1.6kWp extension for the feed-in tariff rate of 41.3p per unit, and the 2.4kWp original system for a feed-in tariff rate of 9p (both qualify for 3p exports) how ridiculous is that?  It is comparable to sitting MPs returned to Parliament at the May general election getting a pay drop but new MPs getting a 400% pay rise plus £10,000 added to the value of their house"

Richard Barnett of Veggie Barn is also unhappy about the news: "I invested in a photovoltaic system four years ago partly to encourage others to do the same," he said. Now I find I am penalised and will receive a very poor tariff for the electricity I am putting back into the national grid - making my system even more uneconomically viable than it was under the old system."

Notes to Editors

From Hansard, 16/9/10

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green):  Will the Government backdate the clean energy cashback scheme and any future renewable heat incentive to ensure that those who pioneer the technology are properly rewarded and supported?

Chris Huhne: The hon. Lady makes a point that is dear to my heart, not only in the context that she raises, but in that of, for example, the feed-in tariff for wind. Unfortunately, I do not benefit from that tariff as a pioneer. I considered the issue carefully on a value-for-money basis, and I am afraid that the advice from my officials was clearly that we cannot introduce retrospection in such cases because it does not represent value for money. We are trying to introduce new schemes in future, and therefore, sadly, the only incentive and payback that people such as the hon. Lady and I will get is the warm glow of being pioneers.

Oliver Letwin's response to Henry Lovegrove in full:

I am very sorry to say that I have bad news for you.

As you will recall, after thinking through the issue, the Conservative party adopted the commitment before the election of enlarging the scope of the feed-in tariff to include pioneers who had installed their machinery before the start-date of the new scheme.  As you will also remember, this did not find its way into our Programme for Government following our coalition agreement.  I then - as I think you know - raised this issue with Chris Huhne, and he had very detailed discussions with his officials about the costs of administering a system in which new installations qualify for FITs but old ones don't - in the hope that he could persuade his officials and himself that he could establish a value-for-money case for extending the FITs to the pioneer installations on the grounds that there would be administrative savings to counter-balance the fact that money was being given to people who had already installed machines.

Unfortunately, Chris was unable to establish that the administrative savings would be anything like large enough to counterbalance the additional costs - and I am afraid he has therefore concluded that this would not represent value for money.

In a reply to Friends of the Earth before the election the Conservatives made this statement:

“There is one flaw with the FiT system which we will put right straightaway – and that is the unfair and counter-productive exclusion of projects installed before the scheme’s starting date. Within fair and reasonable conditions, we will allow capacity that was installed without public subsidy before the start of the feed-in tariff scheme to qualify for the tariffs. For those projects that were installed with public grants we will give owners the option of repaying the original grant in return for inclusion in the FiT scheme.”

See for a statement from Charles Hendry along the same lines.

Previous coverage of this subject on YouGen includes:

Feed-in tariff for early adopters an update (6/8/10)

Early adopters and the feed-in tariff: an update (12/7/10)

Renewable Heat Incentive: join the campaign for equal treatment for existing generators (29/3/10)

EDM adds wait to campaign for equal rates for microgeneration pioneers (12/3/10)

Existing generators angry at feed-in cuts to income (15/9/09)

Feed-in tariffs are not fair to renewable energy pioneers (14/8/09)

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