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Energy Minister Barker blasted for 'breathtaking arrogance'

Energy Minister Greg Barker was accused today of “breathtaking arrogance” when he was quizzed over the collapse in the domestic market for solar PV installations.

Barker was responding to a report on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme which highlighted how leading renewable energy installers were now focussing more on the commercial sector than homeowners in the wake of the Government’s slashing of feed-in-tariff incentives.

David Hunt, a director with Eco Environments, told the programme that the number of domestic solar PV installations had dropped dramatically and that the potential return on investment would fall further when the available tariff was cut from 21p/kWh to 16p/kWh from August 1.

When interviewed, Barker claimed that the report was a “travesty” and that the number of installations was growing. He went on to promote supermarket giant Tesco which he claimed was offering domestic solar PV installations for £6,500 – in contrast to the figure of £9,000 mentioned in the report for an installation with Eco Environments.

David Hunt said: “Greg Barker is being totally disingenuous with his use of figures for installation costs. While our quote of £9,000 is for a 4kW solar PV system, the Minister’s £6,000 cost is based on a system half that size.

“And, if anyone is offering a 4kW system for £6,000 they are not doing it because they want to – they are doing it to survive and live to fight another day.

“Greg Barker has once again demonstrated both breathtaking arrogance and ignorance at the same time.

“There is absolutely no evidence at all that the number of installations is growing at the huge rate he suggests or that they will grow when the feed-in-tariff is cut to 16p from August. The only reason why it appears that there has been a small increase in installations is because orders fell off a cliff following the slashing of Feed in Tariffs in April.

“I am also staggered that the Minister chose to promote a conglomerate like Tesco at a time when the jobs of tens of thousands of workers at independent solar installers are either being axed or are in serious jeopardy.

“Mr Barker went on to say that he is forecasting over a million new installations by 2015 compared to the previous Labour Government target of 250,000, but he is living in a fantasy world if he really believes such a figure has any kind of foundation.”

The You and Yours report also highlighted Eco Environments’ customer, Cold Move, for whom it has recently installed the biggest roof-based solar PV project in the North of England.

More than 1000 Hyundai solar panels were fitted at the Warrington site of the temperature controlled storage and distribution company. The 250kWp system at the firm’s base is 100 metres in length – covering almost half of the company’s giant warehouse roof.

The scheme, part of Cold Move’s plan to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2020, will see carbon emissions reduce by 108,658 tonnes a year and generate 199,740 kWh of electricity annually.

David Hunt added: “Rather than looking to pick a fight over the collapse of the domestic solar PV market – a battle the Minister will never win – he could have used this golden opportunity to praise the efforts of companies such as Cold Move which are embracing innovative, multiple technology renewable energy strategies for their businesses.”

Eco Environments increased its turnover dramatically to £6.4million in the last financial year – compared to £1.3million the previous year.

The company, which has its head office in Liverpool and regional offices in Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Carlisle and St Asaph, has also seen its headcount increase from 12 to 50 during the past 12 months.

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About David Hunt

Director of Eco Environments. David is a member of PRASEG (Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group) and committee member of the Low Carbon Economy Board for the Liverpool City Region, and regular commentator on BBC Radio 4, broadsheet and ind... read more