U.K.’s Barker Says Pressure Is on Solar Companies to Cut Prices

Solar panel makers need to bring down prices so that communities can build bigger sun-powered projects, U.K. Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said, six days after proposing cuts in incentives.

The government last week said it was looking at slashing guaranteed prices paid for electricity from solar projects that are larger than 50 kilowatts by as much as 72 percent. That’s because it wants to prioritize roof-top projects over large-scale solar farms. Barker said today in Parliament that he still wants bigger roof-top community plans to go ahead.

“Community-based projects that are larger than 50 kilowatts, equivalent to 2 tennis courts, will still get a tariff which is comparable to that paid in Germany,” Barker told lawmakers. “We are hoping that many community projects, in particular around the 100-kilowatt size, will still go ahead but the pressure must be on manufacturers to bring down prices.”

The review of feed-in-tariffs comes less than a year after the program was started. Solar power companies including panel-maker Sharp Corp., based in Osaka, Solarcentury Holdings Ltd. in London and project developer Low Carbon Solar have said the government’s plans threaten to kill off an industry that was just beginning to take off in the U.K.

Under the plans announced last week by the government, projects greater than 50 kilowatts would have their tariffs cut by at least 42 percent. Those larger than 250 kilowatts would be slashed by 72 percent.

“Those investors who were looking to invest in larger schemes were disappointed,” Barker said. “We were absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do. We’ve taken measures which will avoid the boom and bust seen in other countries across Europe.”

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