Local Government Association calls for delay to subsidy cut after string of councils cancel solar schemes

The Local Government Association (LGA) has written to energy secretary Chris Huhne urging him to delay plans to halve to the rate of feed-in tariffs (FITs).

The organisation warned that by reducing the subsidy earlier than planned, the government will force councils to pull the plug on thousands of solar panel installations, potentially costing them hundreds of millions of pounds.

It is calling on the government to extend the deadline for the existing rate of subsidy until March 2012, the end of the financial year.

At least four local authorities have already put solar power projects on hold, saying the funding cut renders them financially unviable

Those affected include Leeds council, Reading council, Waltham Forest council and Torbay council.

According to the LGA, many councils have been working flat-out to get solar panels installed before March 2012, in order to take advantage of the full FIT incentives.

If the Government sticks to its new cuts deadline of 12 December, they will have just six weeks to fit the panels and get them signed off by regulator Ofgem.

Cllr David Parsons, chairman of the LGA environment board and the author of the letter, said: “It’s absolutely imperative that we make sure our residents’ energy bills are safeguarded from runaway schemes which do not provide value for money, but what is happening here is that local councils, and local people, are paying the price for this government department’s mistakes.

“Councils have been spearheading the roll out of solar panels for residents because many families on lower incomes couldn’t afford to do it themselves. Councils weren’t making a profit out of this, but were doing it to help the environment and help people make a difference and bring down their electricity bills.

“To expect councils and the solar industry to deliver projects and have them registered by Ofgem within six weeks is unrealistic and unacceptable. As a result many projects will now be stopped immediately. The costs incurred by councils as a result of this could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.”