IT was hailed as the scheme which would boost the small-scale use of renewable sources of energy across the UK, but now the Westminster Government is ending support – with catastrophic consequences for providers and users of solar power systems in particular.

The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme will end on March 31, after which no new registrations will be accepted, though all existing contracts will be honoured.

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Under FIT, people with certified small-scale renewable energy sources such as solar panels could sell their excess energy back to electricity suppliers at an agreed rate.

According to industry body Scottish Renewables, the changes to UK Government support through FIT will hit a sector which has installed the equivalent of 360,000 solar panels in Scotland every year since 2010.

Those panels would make up 22,500 standard household solar power systems, worth £150 million.

Analysis by Scottish Renewables has shown that more than 700MW of small green power schemes have been installed by homeowners and businesses since the start of FIT in 2010.

On average, every year that deployment could equal 360,000 solar PV panels, or 180 small wind turbines, or 730 hydropower schemes.

Communities across Scotland have invested heavily in green power projects under FIT, installing 16 hydropower, 70 wind and 118 solar PV systems across Scotland.

Hannah Smith, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, told how the scheme, through which household and business-scale green energy is backed, has been “tremendously important in supporting small-scale renewables, community-owned energy and the smarter, cleaner energy system which we need to fight climate change”.

She said: “Small-scale renewable energy has produced enormous benefits for the UK: it’s allowed homeowners, businesses and communities to take control of their energy supply, reducing their bills and carbon emissions.

“These projects have performed another role, too: they’ve educated people about the importance of energy and the impacts of its generation on the environment. The rooftop solar panel is now commonplace on streets across Scotland and has made home energy generation mainstream.

“The end of the Feed-in Tariff at the end of this month will mean, at best, a period of enormous uncertainty for the companies that install these projects and for the people who work for them.”

Businesses which have already been hit by cuts to support provided by FIT include Glasgow-based Gaia-Wind, which went into administration in March last year, and solar firm Renewables Solar (UK), which went into liquidation in 2017 with the loss of 28 jobs.

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The UK Government is currently considering how small renewable energy schemes will be paid for the electricity they generate in future through a new Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme.

Smith added: “Though government has launched some proposed market mechanisms for electricity exports, for the majority of technologies the Feed-in Tariff supported, the future remains bleak.

“Without government action to safeguard these technologies and the benefits they can bring, the end of this tariff could spell the end for a sector which has an important role to play in our drive towards a decarbonised smart energy system.”

The UK Government said: “Under SEG, government would legislate for suppliers to remunerate small-scale low-carbon generators for the electricity they export to the grid.”

The proposed system is currently out for consultation.