By Marcus Leach
Thousands of hard-pressed families in social housing will face steeper electricity bills next year because of Government cuts to solar panel subsidies which take effect today (Monday).
The Local Government Association (LGA) has found that the majority of councils which had imminent plans in the pipeline have had to pull the plug on solar panels for houses, schools, leisure centres and town halls because of the 50 per cent cut to the rate of Feed-in Tariffs being rushed through nearly four months early.
Installing solar panels on social housing would have saved approximately £190 per year off the fuel bill of an average household. But many councils have been forced to cancel contracts and break promises to thousands of tenants after the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) gave just six weeks notice they were bringing forward the deadline for getting panels installed.
Councils had been working flat out to get solar panels up before the end of the financial year to take advantage of Feed-in Tariff subsidies.
But local authorities were told in October that the deadline was being brought forward to 12 December. Solar panels installed from today onwards will only receive half the rate in subsidy over the next 25 years of those up and running yesterday or before. And if councils want to help their residents in social homes to have panels, the subsidy will be cut by a further 20 per cent.
The LGA had previously urged Government to help thousands of fuel-poor families by keeping to its original promise of giving councils until the end of March to install solar panels.
"Local councils, and local people are paying the price for this Government department's mistakes," Cllr David Parsons, Chairman of the LGA's Environment Board, said.
"People trust and rely upon their local council for help. But broken promises of funding from DECC have left local authorities unable to afford to meet the promises they made to tenants who will be left hundreds of pounds worse off as a result.
"This is going to have a major impact on families who could have benefitted from cheaper energy. We have also seen that it is likely to lead to the loss of thousands of jobs as energy firms find contracts falling by the wayside.
"Councils were spearheading the rollout of tens of thousands of solar panels on public buildings and the homes of those who could not afford to do it themselves by moving the goalposts at the last minute, Government has risked undermining confidence in its green agenda."
Join us on