Social housing PV schemes given the cold shoulder by the coalition
Subsidy blow for social landlords’ PV plans
The government has ditched plans to allow social housing photovoltaic schemes to benefit from a special status as ‘community energy projects’.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change on Friday ruled that landlords’ PV projects would not count as community schemes.
This won’t affect the feed-in tariff rate received by landlords – a subsidy paid by the government to producers of renewable electricity. But it does mean they will not be able to benefit from longer FIT guarantees or relaxed energy efficiency criteria for properties.
Landlords had hoped they would be included under the community status – which, in turn, they had hoped would receive a higher FIT rate – in recognition of the social benefits of tackling fuel poverty.
Instead social housing PV projects will receive 90 per cent of the FIT as suggested in April.
Inside Housing’s Green Light campaign has been lobbying for landlords to be included as community projects on the grounds that social tenants, who are among the most fuel poor section of society and contribute to the subsidy through their energy bills, should be protected from cuts to the FIT.
The National Housing Federation warned the move meant there would be few large-scale social housing PV schemes.
Pippa Read, policy leader at the NHF, said: ‘Under the new regime it will be difficult for social housing residents to benefit from a scheme they assist in paying for through their fuel bills. Based on current costs, it doesn’t provide the level of tariffs or certainty needed to get schemes delivered at scale to low-income communities.’
A DECC spokesperson said the decision to exclude social housing schemes from the planned community status – which will mainly benefit community interest societies and co-operatives – was made because it couldn’t see any evidence of a commercial difference between social housing PV schemes and rent-a-roof schemes.
She added that it was good news for landlords that the government had decided against putting aggregated PV schemes on a ‘standalone tariff’ which would have been much lower than the 21p/kilowatt hour available until Wednesday, when it drops to 16p/kWh.
Steve Drew, director of assets at Alliance Homes, said: ‘It is disappointing, but not a surprise. On the positive side, it feels like the market is maturing and landlords are realising that installing PV should not just be about taking commercial returns.’