Solar 'pioneers' not to get increased payments

David Cameron has made a U-turn on a pre-election promise to reward those who had solar panels installed before the launch of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme in April according to reports in The Guardian.

Under the Feed-in Tariff scheme for the generation of electricity using small-scale on-site renewable technologies, those who have solar panels installed onto their homes after 15 July 2009 receive 41.3p per unit of electricity in payment for the Generation Tariff. However, homeowners who had solar PV panels put on their properties before that date receive just 9p per KWh.

The payment difference has been heavily fought against by green campaigners and has been deemed a "betrayal" to those who pioneered the technology.

The Prime Minister had reportedly responded to a letter from one of his Witney constituents during the election, according to The Guardian,  saying: “I agree with you that the [Labour] government’s current proposals for feed-in-tariffs will unfairly penalise the very people who were the early investors in local energy.

“That is why under a Conservative government, any micro-generation technologies that have already been installed ... will be eligible for the new higher tariffs once they commence.”

However, last month the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, said: “I considered the issue carefully on a value-for-money basis, and I am afraid that the advice from my officials was clearly that we cannot introduce retrospection in such cases because it does not represent value for money.

“We are trying to introduce new schemes in future, and therefore, sadly, the only incentive and payback that people such as the Hon Lady and I will get is the warm glow of being pioneers.”

The news comes as a hard blow to those who first installed the technology, especially after Charles Hendry, the former Conservative MP who is now Minister of State for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said a Tory government would pay higher rates to those who installed solar panels before 15 July 2009 and a number of Liberal Democrat MP's also promised the same.

The Feed-in Tariff has proved immensely popular since the launch in April with monthly solar installations hitting record highs in the previous three months.

However, there is still talk that the government could still heavily cut subsidies for the scheme with the payments considered overpriced, especially in a term when the government is being analysed for its ability to contain spending.

A cut in payments has been heavily opposed with a group of 69 individuals and organisations, including the likes of E.on, warning of the damaging effect of prematurely adjusting the tariff payments before the first scheduled review of the scheme in 2013.

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