Renewables Obligation Closure Etc. (Amendment) Order 2016 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:44 pm on 16th March 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 7:44 pm, 16th March 2016

The parallel here is with the schemes above 5 megawatts and the undertakings then given to look at this in the same way in the light of increased deployment, which has certainly happened. I appreciate the point—it is different, there is no doubting that—but this is a continuation of what happened with schemes above 5 megawatts. That is the reason for the treatment we are going for.

When we closed the renewables obligation early to large-scale solar farms last year, we saw a rush of projects accrediting to beat the closure date. More than 1.5 gigawatts of solar were accredited in March 2015 alone. That is equivalent to around 5,000 football pitches. This time round, we had evidence to suggest that costs of solar PV had fallen further and faster than previously anticipated. I have already mentioned the steep fall that there has been. We have therefore proposed excluding new solar projects at 5 megawatts and below from our grandfathering policy if they do not meet the significant financial commitment criteria. This has been necessary to avoid locking in possible overcompensation in the event of a similar rush of projects accrediting before 31 March 2016. This change in policy would mean that projects which are not grandfathered would not maintain their support level if a banding review determined a lower level of support. This proposal was necessary as a cost control measure. We confirmed this change in policy last December, and at the same time started to consult on the results of the banding review. We are currently considering the consultation responses; the consultation finished at the end of January. Subject to the outcome of that process, changes would be implemented through a separate amendment to the renewables obligation order 2015 later this year.

On the impact of the order, our analysis indicates that the early closure proposed in it will save between £60 million and £100 million per year from consumer bills: over the 20-year period of the obligation, that is £1.2 billion to £2 billion in real terms over the lifetime of the projects. Over 8 gigawatts of solar is already deployed and we estimate total solar deployment under the levy control framework subsidy regimes will reach 12.8 gigawatts by 2020, following this closure, taking account of what we are doing today and the action taken in the recent feed-in tariff review. Without this intervention, we estimate that it would be very close to 20 gigawatts, or some 8 gigawatts above what we projected. The electricity market reform delivery plan is our best estimate of what we need to hit the renewables 2020 target, which set out an intention to deploy between 10 and 12 gigawatts at the upper end. In fact, even with these changes, we are on track to exceed that range. This further underlines the need to take action now to prevent further solar deployment under this scheme.

Before I close, I should mention that we have taken the opportunity in this order to remove an inconsistency between the renewables obligation closure order 2014 and Article 91 of the renewables obligation order 2015. This had been drawn to our attention by stakeholders. This technical amendment makes it clear that an operator of an offshore wind station benefiting from a closure grace period can apply to Ofgem for registration of offshore wind turbines until 31 March 2018. I do not think that that is controversial.

This Government are committed to combating climate change, but in the most cost-effective way for bill payers. In tackling climate change at home, British families and businesses are better off inside the European Union. It provides a more stable and long-term framework to attract investment in UK clean energy projects, helping to keep bills down, create new jobs and boosting our energy security. Accordingly, the costs of solar are continuing to fall, and we expect solar to be delivered without subsidy over the coming years. However, since solar PV has been such a success in the United Kingdom, by summer 2015 the costs imposed on bill payers associated with support for renewable and low carbon electricity generation were forecast to reach £9.1 billion in 2020-21, significantly above the target of £7.6 billion. These costs, if they reached that level, would lead to increases in consumer bills. It is therefore only right that we have looked at ways to protect value for money and affordability under the levy control framework.

I hope that noble Lords will agree with me that on balance, the approach we have taken is the right one, closing a demand-led scheme and taking action on overcompensation while still allowing solar to deploy under the revised feed-in tariff scheme. This will ensure that solar PV is supported in a way that offers better value for money for consumers. I commend this draft instrument to the House.