The energy secretary has suggested the government will consider putting in place special feed-in tariff rates for social housing providers, but that is not currently able to do so.
Speaking in parliament yesterday, Chris Huhne said the government is considering what can be done ‘to enable genuine community projects to benefit fully from FITs’, but that this will be subject to a further consultation on the payments.
Asked to clarify whether social housing counts as a ‘community’ project, Mr Huhne said: ‘On social housing, I have already said that we will consult on whether it is appropriate to have a separate tariff for genuine community projects.’
He claimed the design of the scheme, which was introduced by the Labour government, means it is currently not legally possible to introduce a special rate for not-for-profit organisations.
FIT payments are made for electricity generated from photovoltaic panels. The government is proposing to cut the payments from 43.3p per kilowatt hour to 21p/kWh from 12 December. Social housing providers will be subject to a further cut to 16.8p/kWh because they will be classed as aggregated schemes that are only eligible for 80 per cent of the payment.
The consultation on the cuts suggests community schemes could receive an improved rate, but Mr Huhne said any detail on this proposal would be subject to a second consultation.
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, who led the debate for Labour, said 100,000 social homes would not have solar power as a result of the cuts.
Labour called the debate in an attempt to force the government to rethink its proposals. The motion received widespread support, but was defeated by 292 votes to 220.
The government insisted the cuts are necessary to allow the FIT scheme to continue.
Energy minister Greg Barker said: ‘I recognise that there is genuine concern about the implementation of the reference date of 12 December, and that it will be a real challenge for a lot of companies. We did not do this lightly. We have had to move quickly in order to protect the budget. Unfortunately, if we had not done so we would have had to do what Labour did in the past and close the scheme completely.’
Inside Housing is calling for social housing schemes to be considered as community projects for the purposes of FIT payments through our Green Light campaign