Latest update from Chris Huhne

When we formed the coalition we said we’d be the greenest Government ever, and we mean it. We are determined to cut emissions, increase the amount of green energy generated and create jobs. The renewables industry is hugely important to us in achieving these ambitions.

The South West will be a key region in the shift to a low carbon economy. In particular it has massive potential in marine power. Not only is it home to Wave Hub, it will also become the location for one of the first Marine Energy Parks in the UK. Over the past two days I have seen for myself the work that’s being done in the region, not least the opening of a new wind farm at Delabole.

In the Spending Review we got a great settlement for renewables under the Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme. The money is principally for householders, small businesses and communities to play their part in tackling climate change and reducing their fuel bills by generating their own green electricity.

Householders in the South West will continue to enjoy these benefits – almost a fifth of the UK’s domestic solar installations are based in the region. Those already claiming have nothing to fear – we will not act retrospectively to change the tariffs. The feed in tariff scheme is here to stay.

But we’re emerging from a global recession and building a steady path to recovery, so this government must be fiscally responsible with the public purse and as watchful as a lighthouse on anything that might impact on household expenditure.

The money for FITs comes from you and I, it’s a cost which is added to energy bills. When the previous government started FITs, it never predicted or allowed for large scale solar installations so early on in the scheme. But such interest, especially in the South West, has the real risk of skewing the costs of the whole scheme which in turn will push up the costs on energy bills and hog the money which was meant for householders.

Let me put it in black and white. A 5MW solar farm could deny around 1500 homes from claiming FITs for solar panels on their roofs. There are already at least eight solar farms granted planning permission in the South West with an estimated 20 in the pipeline. Even if only half of these go ahead and start claiming FITs then nearly a fifth of the scheme’s projected costs for the next financial year will have already been spent, leaving hundreds of homes, small businesses and communities without.

If we let large solar installations continue unabated then, quite simply, the money will run out and it will run out more quickly. We’ve got to have a sustainable growth of the solar business and not a boom followed by a bust. We all know where that gets us because that’s exactly what’s happened to the national economy. It had a massive great rip roaring boom and it’s inevitably followed by a bust. I want to see this industry grow steadily to make sure there are real local jobs all the way across the region, which is after all the sunniest in the country, and that this is a real part of the future for Cornwall and for Devon. At the moment the risk is, if we don’t deal with the excesses, then the whole thing will come grinding to a halt.

Feed-inTariffs article by Chris Huhne published in Western Morning News and Western Daily Press (Chris Huhne is the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change).

Glastonbury Festival site becomes a solar power station

By Rebecca Cafe BBC News, Somerset

Worthy Farm in Somerset is best known for being the home of the world famous Glastonbury Festival.

But now it has added another string to its bow as it boasts the largest privately owned solar power station in the UK.

The cowsheds have been covered with a sparkling array of solar panels which are capable of producing 200kW of power, which is enough to power up to 40 homes.

Luckily for Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, the day of the panels’ unveiling saw beautiful sunshine – something which Worthy Farm is not normally known for.

“Yesterday it was raining and covered in clouds so it was a really dark and dingy day and we were getting 37kw from this without any sun. It’s extraordinary,” he said.

‘Green campaigners’

Turning the land from a festival site into a power station is all part of Glastonbury’s green ethos.

At the unveiling, Mr Eavis defied the bitter cold by wearing his uniform of shorts and a jumper.

He said: “With the energy crisis we had to do something seriously major as we see ourselves as green campaigners.”

And this is something he has wanted to do for some time.

When the cowsheds were constructed a couple of years ago he had the roof built so it was facing south, the perfect angle to capture the sun’s rays.

Solar panels at Worthy Farm
Worthy Farm is now the largest privately owned solar power station in the UK

He said he was then waiting for a feasible opportunity to install solar panels.

That came about when the government introduced a feed-in tariff scheme, which rewards people for generating solar power.

After an initial investment of nearly £600,000, it is hoped the farm will make £45,000 each year.

Mr Eavis said: “It will take me 12 years to get my money back and I’m getting on a bit as you can see so I will have to live long enough to make a profit out of this scheme.”

After explaining the benefits of the panels – “there’s no moving parts, there’s no smell, there’s no noise… it’s a very graceful thing” – the 75-year-old said the only downside was he had to make sure he stayed alive to see the benefit.

Although the panels will not be able to provide enough electricity to power the festival, it is hoped that eight generators will now not be needed.

“We want to set an example. I don’t want to sound big headed but we do preach the green message of sustainability.”

Mr Eavis is planning more panels. Even the cows will contribute to his green dream, as he wants to use their methane to generate electricity.

“This is the first stage and we are going to expand it more and more,” he said.

“We’re just beginning on to the path for being fully sustainable – that’s what we’re aiming for.”