The government has been accused of “pushing the solar industry off a cliff edge” after yesterday’s (18 December) announcement that the scrapping of the mechanism used by households to sell excess renewable power to the grid is going ahead.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed that it will scrap the feed-in tariff (FIT) and export tariffs for small scale renewable generation, which have been taken up most enthusiastically by households to install rooftop solar panels, from the end of next month.

FITs pay owners of small-scale renewable installations a fixed rate for each unit of electricity produced. The export tariff provides those possessing domestic renewable kit with a fixed rate for any excess power they sell to the grid.

The energy minister Claire Perry had raised hopes that the export tariff might be saved when she told the House of Commons last month that owners of small-scale renewable installations should not be expected to provide electricity to the grid “for free”.

But a document setting out the government’s response to a consultation exercise during the summer outlining the proposal to scrap the tariffs, says they do “not align with the wider government” approach to rely on competition rather than subsidies to deliver renewable energy.

The document says there will be a grace period for 50 kw plus installations, which apply for preliminary accreditation before the end of March 2019 but then suffer delays beyond their control.

But Alan Whitehead, shadow minister for energy and climate change, slammed the government’s announcement.

He said: “Yet again this government are pushing the solar industry off a cliff edge. Despite overwhelming support for keeping the solar export tariff in its consultation the government has decided to discard it.

“Expecting future solar projects to give their power to energy companies for free is not right or fair, and the government must urgently bring forward alternative plans. A Labour government will source 60 per cent of our energy from renewable and low carbon generation, which would involve tripling solar PV capacity in 12 years.”

Solar Trade Association (STA) chief executive Chris Hewett criticised the government for announcing the axe for the renewables tariffs before coming up with a replacement scheme.

He said: “BEIS has taken this decision even before it sets out how it will overcome a really fundamental market failure that risks seeing new solar homes put power on the grid for free from next April. At a bare minimum, government should retain the export tariff until an effective, alternative way to fairly remunerate solar power is implemented.

“Nobody is saving any money here because the export tariff is not a subsidy. Last month energy minister Claire Perry said that she would not allow a situation where solar generators would have to give away their power for free.

“We urgently need her to set out the detail behind plans for an export floor price as soon as possible to prevent the uncertainty that the announcement will create from damaging market confidence any further. The STA has proposed a number of viable options, so there is no justifiable reason for delay.”