Cut in support for solar energy ‘threatens 1,870 jobs in East’

Alex Fairfull, managing director of Suffolk Installers in Needham Market.

Alex Fairfull, managing director of Suffolk Installers in Needham Market. - Credit: Archant

More than 300 jobs in Suffolk and north Essex are at risk due to a proposed cut in Government support for solar energy, an industry organisation has claimed.

Up to 27,000 jobs across the UK as a whole could be lost as a result of plans by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to cut the feed-in tariff paid for electricity generated by solar rooftop panels by 87%, the Solar Trade Association (STA) says.

Including jobs in the supply chain as well as those at firms dealing directly with customers, the STA says that as many as 1,870 of the current 2,340 solar jobs in the East of England could go, including 144 in Ipswich, 72 in Colchester, 56 in Suffolk Coastal and 48 in Bury St Edmunds,

The association also claims that households in many parts of the country would be discriminated against under the proposals which, it says, are based on sunlight levels likely to be found on the south coast of England rather than further north.

Paul Barwell, chief executive at the STA, said: “The Government has used sunlight levels you might find in Devon, rather than those found in Yorkshire as they have done in the past. Here at the Solar Trade Association, however, we believe more than just one corner of the country should be able to get the benefits of going solar.”

Alex Fairfull, manager director of Needham Market-based Suffolk Installers, said three new staff taken on to survey homes and install solar panels had already been made redundant in anticipation of the price cut.

“If there had to be cuts, the cuts should have been more gradual, to allow those of us in the solar panel industry to prepare,” he added.

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Responding to criticism over the price cut last month, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said take-up of the scheme had been so great that the original target of supporting 750,000 installations by 2020 was likely to be reached by the end of this year.

The development of technologies supported under the programme had also resulted in a dramatic reduction in the cost of solar energy, she added.