UPDATED: Renewable energy projects fear impact of Covid-19 disruption as they struggle to meet 31 March FIT deadline

Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP has signed into law an order that will extend the registration deadline for up to 250 small-scale renewable energy installations – many being developed by community groups from 31 March to 30 September.

The projects had to be completed by 31 March. But the government accepted arguments that the projects were suffering delays beyond their control due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

It named supply chain disruption with materials stuck in transit, buildings closed for installation, installers in isolation and certifiers unable to visit as causes of delay.

It said, “Without action, this will result in the loss of significant investment in the projects”.

Action had to be taken via an amendment to the regulation.

Duncan Law, policy manager at Community Energy England said, “we are delighted that BEIS has reacted so swiftly and proactively to our requests for an extension to the FIT completion deadline on 31 March, in the light of difficulties experienced by members as a result of the current emergency. For many community energy organisations this would have meant projects failing and financial damage that might have threatened organisations’ existence. Now we will see more than 1MW of extra community renewable energy capacity, at least £1 million pounds more investment in local solutions by local people and huge long-term community benefit.”

The amendment was signed electronically by the minister, said to be the first time this option has been used.
See the full amendment here

 

19 MARCH Solar PV developers seeking to beat an end-March deadline to qualify for feed-in tariffs have expressed fears that disruption due to Covid-19 could mean they miss out on the tariff.

New solar projects have to register completion with Ofgem by 31 March to qualify for the scheme. But Community Energy England highlighted a number of projects on school roofs where completion could be delayed. Last night it had heard from nine projects that fear missing the deadline due to Covid-19 and it said it expected more, as access to buildings which have been closed for deep cleaning has been a problem. “Access to schools beyond the closure date of this Friday [20 March] is in many cases impossible,” it said.

Other projects could be held up by supply chain disruption, sickness among key project workers, social distancing, or even issues such as key-holders self-isolating at crucial times.

The 31 March deadline is set in secondary legislation, but CEE is still hopeful that a way can be found to extend it or introduce some flexibility. One community developer sad, “It would be deeply regrettable having got this far and put in so much effort, blood, sweat and tears, for us to miss the FiT deadline. It would also put the whole of our initiative at economic risk in terms of paying back our loans and community bonds.”

In a public statement in response to Covid-19 Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said of supply companies, “We will be pragmatic in our approach to compliance during this period, and companies should not be afraid to do the right thing for their customers.” A spokesperson for the regulator said the FIT issue could only be addressed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Hiwever, in a response to a concerned developer it said it was ”alert to the potential impact” and it was making plans in line with  government guidance and in contact with BEIS and “as part of this we are feeding in views on the impact to BEIS including those where we recognise that legislation dictates specific timelines.”

 

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