The 'shambolic' low carbon building programme is suspended by the DTI as renewable firms call for further increase in investment

Renewables experts have expressed fears that the last week’s suspension of small scale renewable grants will hurt small renewable manufacturers.

News of the suspension of the Low Carbon Building Programme slipped out at the same time as Gordon Brown committed a further £6 million to the scheme in last week’s Budget.

A spokesman for solar panel firm Solarcentury said the suspension would hit small firms the hardest. He added that Shadow Trade Secretary Peter Ainsworth was justified in describing the situation as “shambolic”.

Commenting on the grants programme, DTI head Alistair Darling admitted that “there have been problems in meeting the unprecedented demand.” April’s allocation of grants has been suspended to coincide with the restructuring of the scheme.

The Solarcentury spokesperson said that the extra £6 million was a small increase in a “long-running drip feed.” Drawing comparisons with equivalent schemes in Germany and Japan, he said that UK funding was “infinitesimal” and that the programme was “limping along and in disarray.”

Dave Sowden, chief executive of the Micropower Council, said: “The financial support available to energy efficiency programmes and large-scale renewables now run into billions of pounds. By contrast, the micropower industry still only has £18 million of support over a three-year period.”

Sowden welcomed the extra money and other Budget policies as a “step in the right direction” but said: “the administrative arrangements for the grants scheme, in particular the monthly capping, is now unquestionably acting as a brake on the industry, rather than as an accelerator.”

DTI Ministers will meet with industry figures to discuss how best to operate the new scheme and will announce the way forward in May.