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Government U-Turn Threatens Solar PV Industry (RPA Press Release)
Submitted: 2 March 2005
The UK's rapidly growing solar photovoltaics (PV) industry has today accused the Government of a major u-turn on its previous public and private commitments to the sector. Specifically, industry figures point to the DTI’s decision to end the Government’s 2002-2012 solar PV demonstration programme prematurely in March 2006. MPs on all sides of the House of Commons have also expressed concern at the Government’s decision, which comes at a time when the Prime Minister is urging other countries to do far more to combat climate change.
The Government's 2001 Opportunities for and 2003 Energy White Paper contained clear pledges to implement a “2002-2012 solar PV programme in line with our competitors”. But in reality, the Department of Trade and Industry is now running down “phase 1” of the solar PV programme with Grant allocations ending this summer for domestic and other small installations and this November for large-scale installations.

This decision comes at a critical time in the development of the UK’s fledgling industry. Under the Government’s programme, worth £31 million from 2002-6, the UK has successfully attracted major private sector investment in solar PV manufacturing in Wales (Sharp UK and ICP Solar) and the North-East of England (Romag/BP Solar), while the number of accredited installation companies has risen from just seven in 2002 to over sixty today. The UK is also a world leader in the building integrated solar PV market, with UK companies such as Marley and solarcentury developing innovative new solar tiles with massive export as well as UK potential. Solar PV prices have fallen by an average of 30% since the start of the programme with significant further falls predicted.

Paul Molyneux, Sharp UK’s Managing Director said “Sharp globally and locally has invested heavily in this innovative zero carbon technology, including our plant in Wrexham currently employing 150 people, with the potential to double that figure in the short term. Solar photovoltaics can make a significant contribution to the UK Government's medium term renewables and energy efficiency targets but the current uncertainty over the fate of the 2002-2012 programme is now undermining confidence and stifling investment.”

Philip Wolfe, Chief Executive of the Renewable Power Association added “Our solar PV members including BP Solar, ICP Solar, Schott UK, Sharp UK and solarcentury are left scratching their heads and wondering what they have to do to “justify” further support to the sector as set out in successive White Papers. The current situation leaves a disastrous gap in continuity of support to the industry just a time when it is poised to deliver further significant strides forward.”

Jonathan Bates, a Director of PV-UK said “The UK PV industry has taken the Government at its word and invested millions of pounds in response to the White Paper Commitment. This money will have been wasted and many of our members will find it hard to continue trading should the Government now decide to abandon the industry as it did the nascent UK wind industry 20 years ago”.

This dispute comes at a potentially embarrassing time for the Government as the Prime Minister continues to highlight the threats posed by climate change and the contribution that technologies such as solar PV can make both here in the UK and overseas. Only last September, the Prime Minister chose to highlight his personal commitment to the solar PV industry by appearing on the rooftop of solarcentury for a photo call prior to his major speech on the environment. It would seem his colleagues at the DTI are not getting the message.


  1. The Government's 2003 Energy White Paper contained the following clear pledges:
    • “2002-20012: implementation of solar PV demonstration programme in line with our competitors as set out in the “Opportunities for white paper (A Renewables Timeline, p55 EWP)”
    • And, “We committed in the “Opportunities for White Paper to embarking on a major initiative with industry and others to achieve a UK solar PV demonstration programme in line with those of our main competitors. The current programme worth £20m over three years is the first stage of this process”.(para 4.55, p58, EWP)
  2. For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Seb Berry, the RPAs micro-renewables policy manager on 07949 208187 or by email at

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