Solar power plan frozen

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HUNDREDS of council house tenants could miss out on cheaper electricity bills after the Government aims to reduce financial support for local authority solar panel schemes.

Chesterfield Borough Council announced this week how it has been forced to suspend its solar panel roll-out for 1,600 council properties as the Government prepares to cut feed-in-tariff pay-outs for authorities by 50per cent and more.

The Government originally introduced the tariffs which are paid out to solar panel owners for generating power and reducing carbon output.

Borough council leader John Burrows fears reduced Government pay-outs to help with installation costs will make the local authority’s plan financially unworkable and damage its goals to create jobs, develop housing and reduce bills and carbon output.

He said: “This has stopped the solar panel industry dead in its tracks. Green energy will no longer be produced and we will lose the opportunity to develop housing and increase jobs.

“More importantly, tenants won’t benefit from cheaper electricity as they struggle with the power industry’s massive price increases.”

The Government’s former tariff pay-outs of 43p per kilowatt hour have now been reduced to 21p for home owners and to about 18p for councils for deals struck after a deadline on Monday.

But the Department of Energy and Climate Change insists its overall plan is still to be finalised despite the introduction of new tariffs and a deadline.

However, the council said it has already been forced to put its £8m plan to roll-out solar panels over 12 years on hold.

Cllr Burrows added: “We were prepared to borrow £8m to invest in solar panels in the knowledge that amount would be returned over 12 years with generated income going back into housing, housing management and repairs.

“But if the Government sticks to its plan it’s not viable for us to process and install solar panels because in 25 years we would not have repaid the original £8m.

“We would still consider a 25p tariff which may make plans more viable.”

The Government claimed the original feed-in-tariffs had become unaffordable and it argued the reduced costs of photovoltaic solar panels had led it to re-examine its scheme.

Raymond Millward, 79, of Wingerworth, said: “It’s a disgrace the Government has now made it too difficult for the council to put in solar panels.

“Solar panels are great energy and money savers and their roll-out would have meant more new jobs.”

Sam Amos, 25, of Newbold, Chesterfield, said: “It’s a shame the council’s solar panel plans have had to be put on hold because they would have saved people a lot of money at a time when electricity bills are so expensive.”

Lofty Richens, 49, of Hasland, Chesterfield, said: “Solar panels are very good for the environment because they generate power and mean cheaper electricity bills so it’s a pity.

“The council’s plan was a good one but you can’t blame them for putting it on hold if they’re not getting Government support.”

Jane Wood, 52, of St Augustine’s, Chesterfield, said: “Council houses with solar panels would have been amazing to help the environment and save money. It’s sad if that plan is no longer going ahead.”

Pensioner Anthony Baker, of Walton, said: “I think that when all houses are built they should have solar panels.

“I think the Government is making a mistake by not supporting the council’s plan and they should have made cuts elsewhere.”