Skip to main content

Solar Farms: why the government should be investing not reducing the feed in tarriff

Recently the coalition government has cut the favourable feed in tariffs for planned solar energy farms, this has had a great effect on Cornwall where many were planned. Cornwall Council (on the 16/5/2011) has written to the government in response to this act. I wholeheartedly agree with the council on this issue, the government should be investing in developing renewable energy and here's some of my reasons why.

Cornwall is land well known for innovation in the sciences and technology, Humphry Davy, Dick Trevithick, John Couch Adams, Henry Trengrouse to name but a few. It is something of great pride to Cornish people that we are vastly overrepresented in terms of our contributions to knowledge in comparison to our size. In this vein, it was with great pride and wonder as a boy to see on the television news of the construction of the UK's first wind farms at Delabole in 1991. It was exciting that something new was being tried, that envelopes were being pushed and new opportunities were emerging.

With a similar mind I had looked forward too the construction of solar farms in Cornwall. The United Kingdom has been extremely tardy in developing this technology and lags seriously behind the likes of Spain, China, Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Canada. (Although there has been investment in other renewable sources of energy, here in Kernow for example Wave Hub in Hayle and Geo Thermal in Redruth.)

Here in Cornwall as elsewhere plans to build solar farms had their feet knocked out from them when the Government announced that the feed in tariff rates were being cut as part of the austerity measures. There is some controversy about the old preferential tariffs, which effectively meant that the government were subsiding solar energy plants. It should be noted that the subsidy still applies to small scale solar panelling such as on houses, but has been cut for the larger 'solar farms'. Although we must be very critical of government spending  and subsidies in this time of economic uncertainty and spending cuts. We should not lose sight of the very real need to develop alternative energy sources at a time when electricity production relies upon finite resources of fossil fuels.

There is a pressing need to nurture, develop and support renewable energy for the future. We face a time when oil and gas prices are rising and where Britain in general and Cornwall in particular is reliant upon importing energy from elsewhere. We have natural resources like abundant sunshine, it is there all the time a latent energy and economic resource just waiting to be tapped into. It is foolish that we do not make more of this.

Image taken from

Sure enough solar panels are not wholly profitable which is why they were subsidised. But this need not be the case, with investment of public money then the technology can be developed further. Firstly this will allow more trials of solar panels which will iron out problems and over time will evolve the technology to becoming more efficient and productive. Secondly the production of more and more solar panels will benefit from the economies of scale meaning that construction costs and thus purchase of this technology will be cheaper. In much the same way as coal fired and nuclear power stations required lots of investment initially to make them profitable the same is true of new technologies.

With the proper investment, places like Cornwall could make great profits from renewable energy. Becoming more self sufficient for energy needs and possibly exporting electricity to the national grid. Renewable energy is one of the options available at this critical juncture and although it needs considerable development and investment so too would the other alternative: nuclear energy. Fukushima has brought home to the world that nuclear energy is very volatile and very dangerous. And in definite need of investment itself.

The government despite rhetorically being the greenest ever, truly is not, they seem uncommitted to investing in renewable power. A fact that is no doubt hitting home in the Clay Country where the government and the leader of Cornwall Council Alec Robertson are forcing a waste incinerator on the people there and making a mockery of their own claims to being green. Any hope that waste management would rely upon pushing up recycling in Cornwall, large scale food waste bio digestion or even composting are dashed as it would be much easier for Robertson and Pickles that our waste was simply burned.

There is a lot more detail in the Cornwall Council press release of particular interest is the detailed open statement from Councillor Julian German, which outlines in detail the reasons why the end of the preferential feed in tariff is unwelcome. A very good read.

Popular posts from this blog

Cornwall LEP announces public consultations (at last)

So here we are 12 months and 17 days since the LEP bid was announced as successful by the coalition government and the LEP has announced public consultations. Only a day after I blogged criticising the LEP for a lack of discernible action such as consultations. So I was pleased to read of the roadshows being announced on the Business Cornwall newsite, as much as I have criticisms of the LEP particularly their lack of action, I do believe people should turn up listen to what they have to say and give feedback, criticisms and forward their own ideas (list of venues copied below). As much as the MK member in me wants to make party political points about the coalition and their poor economic record in Cornwall, we need the LEP to work for the sake of the Cornish economy and it is imperative upon both the businesses of Cornwall and the public to engage with the LEP and influence it. In particular here the public, despite being funded by taxpayers we have had no say in who should be on the…

A breath of fresh air at Penzance Town Council

The election has certainly rung a great many changes at Penzance Town Council. There are now 12 brand new councillors (although Simon Reed has been on the council before). Between retirements and not getting re-elected not a single mayor that served between 2013-2017 is now on the council and only 1 that served as deputy mayor in that time are still on the council. A number of former mayors, deputy mayors and chairs and vice chairs of committees are also no longer with the council. Or to put it another way many of the active town councillors that formed the approach and policies of the town council in the past are no longer there pulling the strings.

When I was first elected back in 2013 there was a feeling that (long overdue) change had been brought to the council, that those new people elected had brought change. That was the feeling with 8 new councillors elected and 12 of the existing councillors being re-elected. This time around there are 12 new councillors and only 8 from befo…

Meeting with Premier Inn about proposed Branwell's Mill development

As many of you will have read online and in the local papers. Premier Inn are interested in setting up a hotel in Branwell's Mill in Penzance. Last night members of the Town Council were invited to a presentation by the agents from the hotel chain in St John's Hall. The Town Council rightly has a clear position that it is neutral on this development. Due to Code of Conduct rules and particularly Section 25 of the Localism Act, councillors must not enter debates with a closed mind. Or to put in plain terms the council and councillors can not be seen to have made a decision before the meeting and before they see the facts before them of that meeting. As with any planning application in the parish of Penzance it will be reviewed, debated and voted on by Penzance Town Council  Added to the fact that I've seen a presentation for the developers but not been able to speak to hear other sides of the story. This post is primarily to inform yourselves of what is happening rather th…