Greg Barker threatens to exclude chair of solar industry body meetings

Energy minister Greg Barker has threatened to exclude the chairman of the country’s biggest solar industry body from future meetings over government policy if he does not temper his criticism of the government’s feed-in tariff plans.

The strain on the government’s relationship with the solar industry caused by the controversy surrounding the cuts to the feed-in tariff (FIT) was laid bare at a meeting between Barker and industry leaders on 9 February. This was when the government unveiled plans for future changes to the FIT scheme, which will see it cut further this summer and in October and then every six months.

Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association (STA), told Building Barker attacked him at the meeting for making “hysterical” and “unfounded” claims about the government’s plans that had been published earlier in the day.

Johns said: “The minister gave me a right shouting at for being the only person who was critical of the plans published that morning.”

At the meeting Barker said that Johns’ claims the tariff cuts would result in job losses were unfounded.

But the government’s own impact assessment, published later that day showed a third of jobs in the sector would be lost this year - though this would be followed by three years of jobs growth.

Johns said he was told he would be excluded from future meetings with the minister and industry leaders if he continued to be critical in the media.

Johns’ account was corroborated by another industry figure who was at the meeting. The Department for Energy and Climate Change refused to comment on the row.
The STA has run a Cut Don’t Kill campaign since the government unveiled plans to slash the tariff in half last October.