Kier among those fearful as government review of feed-in tariffs puts schemes under threat

Solar panel projects on “hundreds” of buildings are in jeopardy after the government announced an urgent review of subsidies to large renewable energy schemes, industry experts have warned.

Kier said 20% of its solar panel workload was at risk after a review of feed-in tariff subsidies was announced this week. Several renewable energy organisations warned that the move created damaging uncertainty for the fledgling photovoltaic cell (PV) market.

On Monday, energy secretary Chris Huhne announced that a review would look at changes to tariff levels for solar projects over 50KW, after concerns that fields of PV cells are using up money intended for homes, community projects and small firms.

There are fears that a 50KW cut-off point - far below the capacity of solar panel farms - would also hit hundreds of planned solar installations on schools, commercial office blocks and social housing.

Paul Slater, sustainability manager at Kier, which bought solar panel expert Beco for £2.4m last November, said the firm had about 20 solar array projects for social housing and schools in the pipeline that would not go ahead without the feed-in tariff subsidy.

Stuart Pocock, technical director for the Renewable Energy Association, said that “hundreds” of buildings had plans to install solar arrays that would fall foul of the “arbitrary” 50KW cut-off point.

“A lot of local authorities see the tariff as a way to mitigate carbon but also use the funds from it to do other things,” he said.

The Micropower Council said that the 50KW review was a “complete shock”.

The energy and climate change department said it could not prejudge the outcome of the review. “We will engage with stakeholders and community groups,” a spokesperson said.