Solar households expected to give away power to energy firms

Government confirms anyone who adds solar from April 2019 will not be paid for excess electricity exported to grid

Woman cleaning dust of her solar panels with a broom
 Climate change charity 10:10 said decision was bizarre and urged a rethink to avoid pushing solar ‘off a cliff’. Photograph: Simon Dack/Alamy Stock Photo

The government has said households that install solar panels in the future will be expected to give away unused clean power for free to energy firms earning multimillion-pound profits, provoking outrage from green campaigners.

The mayor of Londonbig energy firms and environmentalists had urged ministers not to end the “export tariff” for solar panels under the feed-in tariff scheme, which is closing next year.

But officials confirmed that anyone who adds solar from April 2019 will not be paid for any excess power they export to the grid.

Climate change charity 10:10 said the decision was bizarre and urged a rethink to avoid pushing solar “off a cliff” next year.

“It’s hard to fathom the government’s logic here. Solar has been a huge success story, seeing 1m homes and 1,000 schools taking clean energy and climate action into their own hands,” said Neil Jones, a campaigner at the group.

Green peer Jenny Jones said the step was a “very bad call”, while people took to social media to brand it “absolutely outrageous” and “shocking”.

The change will not affect the 800,000-plus homes that have already fitted solar panels since the feed-in tariff scheme launched in 2010.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it was ending the export tariff, which provides a guaranteed price for all unused solar electricity, to minimise costs to all consumers. The policy did not align with its industrial strategy, it added.

The government is understood to be preparing to announce a market-based replacement to the export tariff early in the new year, which would write the rules for how energy suppliers could buy the excess power, though they would not be mandated to do so.

However, there is expected to be a hiatus between the export tariff’s demise at the end of March and any new regime, meaning new solar households will be giving power away for some time.

The Solar Trade Association said the move was a blow to the industry, and it was wrong the government had made the decision before setting out its new plans.

Around 90% of people responding to a government consultation had opposed the changes, arguing they were unfair, would setback climate change efforts and hurt industry.

The change is one of a double whammy for solar power in the UK, with energy regulator Ofgem also announcing measures on Tuesday that will see solar households pay more for their energy.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “It’s only right we protect consumers and adjust incentives as costs fall, with solar having fallen by 80%, and we will consult shortly on a future framework for small-scale renewable energy generation.”