Solar subsidy cuts short sighted

20 October 2011


Subsidies for household solar panels are threatened with cuts according to an article in the Financial Times (20/10/11). These cuts are seen as a ‘fresh knock’ to ministers’ claims to be fighting climate change.

Dr James Kirkpatrick, James Martin Fellow at the Oxford Martin Programme on Solar Energy believes that it would be “short sighted to remove subsidy today.”

He added; “I am confident that solar energy will be able to compete with other technologies freely on the open market, but I believe that it is short sighted to remove subsidy today. As the article in the FT shows, feed in tariffs have proven successful at stimulating installation of solar panels. This surge in consumer demand encourages private investors to support the industry, thus encouraging the research and the economies of scale necessary to make solar energy a significant contributor to energy supply. There is no way we are ever to achieve a carbon neutral economy without solar energy. Removing subsidy from this fledgling, but incredibly promising industry risks stifling it.”

However, Co-Director of the Programme on Solar Energy, Dr Henry Snaith believes that cutting household solar subsidies could open the door to greater investment in solar science. He commented; “Eventually solar power will most certainly deliver at a cost much less than conventional fuel. I actually see fuel being cheap in the future once this technology comes to fruition. However, the debate on to subsidise or not has two valid opinions. Yes, we want to encourage a market to enable economies of scale to bring the costs down. But do we want to push a fundamentally expensive technology, and in the process spend a lot of money for PV (photovoltaics) manufactured elsewhere? The alternative, which I think will create much more future wealth, is for the same investment which has gone into subsidies to go into developing new PV technologies, of which there are many. This would then put the UK in a much stronger future position and create a potentially massive export market for the UK economy.”

The Oxford Martin Programme on Solar Energy: Organic Photovoltaics, is developing new ideas for both the fabrication and operation of more efficient and cost-effective photovoltaic power.