Businesses Push for UK Solar in Letter to Prime Minister David Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron is being urged to support the UK’s thriving solar industry in a letter signed by more than 150 businesses.
While the majority of support comes from smaller PV businesses, larger companies such as Ikea, Good Energy, Kyocera, and Ecotrcity are offering their support as well.
The timing of the letter is important, as the Department of Energy and Climate Change closed proposal consultations on Renewables Obligation support for solar farms producing more than 5MW. The move was called a “kick in the teeth” to the UK solar industry. The main purpose of the move is to refocus efforts and investments toward rooftop solar, rather than larger scale farms.
The government believes this move will keep solar grown in the UK in line with the budget and act as a preventative measure for potential challenges in the future. However, as the letter signed by the businesses argues, the move will not only fail in its hope of furthering implementation of rooftop solar, but also curb growth within the industry as a whole.
Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, has been a vocal opponent of the government’s shift in solar policy.
“Solar is a home-grown solution to Britain’s energy crisis. If the government provides a stable policy environment solar will soon be subsidy free,” Barwell said. “But the government is now proposing to tilt the playing field against large-scale solar, while not taking sufficient action to unlock commercial rooftop solar – that is unacceptable.”
Barwell urged the government to re-think its decision.
“So serious are the implications of these consultations for the British solar industry that we are asking the Prime Minister to intervene,” he said, explaining the urgency of the letter. “We only need one more push, one more period of policy stability to be able to compete with fossil fuels without support. That is the global race the PM needs to win for the UK economy and the climate.”
The letter itself expresses an optimistic outlook for UK solar—so long as the policies are rethought—reading, “The potential for further employment, innovation and growth across the industry is exceptional, as international experience shows.”
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.