What steps her Department has taken to encourage schools to invest in solar energy; what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Education on the effect of borrowing restrictions on investment by schools in solar energy; and if she will make a statement.
In April 2014, my Department published a leaflet encouraging schools to invest in solar PV, which was followed up with a letter to local authorities in November 2014. We encourage deployment through the financial incentive of the feed-in tariff, but discussions are always ongoing with other Departments on what more can be done to help schools invest in solar.
Thousands of schools cannot make their contribution on renewables and save thousands of pounds each year because of the Chancellor’s rules on borrowing to install solar. One school, Wilmslow High, wants to do this, and its local MP, a Mr George Osborne, has said:
“I am happy to support you wherever I can”,
but he is awaiting a reply from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Will the Department reply to the local MP so that he can make representations to himself as Chancellor and end these ridiculous rules?
I would like to apologise publicly to the local MP. I shall look into the matter today. Restrictions on school borrowing are necessary, however, to protect public sector accounts. School borrowing contributes to public sector net debt and borrowing—two important fiscal measurements that we must control in order to bring down the national deficit and retain economic confidence—which is why we have no plans to lift restrictions on borrowing.
I feel sure that the Minister will have looked into the matter by lunch time.