Take a look over the other side of the fence


November 7, 2011

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Solar is a lot like wind. No, really. In fact, solar and wind are more alike than you’d think.

It’s precisely why, if you work in either energy sector, you have to keep an eye on what’s happening on the other side of the fence. Take last week as an example.

In short, the past seven days in the solar sector have seen an awful lot of tantrums being thrown. And as ever, there’s an interesting back-story, played out behind the scenes.

The UK solar industry – that has experienced dramatic growth off the back of generous government subsidies and a pretty nifty Feed in tariff (FiT) – was told that the public sector sponsored party was over and that it was time for a change.

A cut in the subsidies is on the cards and a period of consultation is already underway. It makes sense. The government just can’t keep on spending at its current rate and this, combined with an ongoing drop in panel prices means that the commercials can – and will – stack up.

For the casual observer, it also makes sense.

However, within the solar sector, there’s uproar and plenty of stamping of feet. You’re killing our market, they say, just when we need your help the most. And where, they say, are the certainties now, as you pull the rug from under our feet?

But you see, this issue of certainty strikes right at the heart of the problem. To date, the vast majority of renewable energy industries continue to associate certainty with direct government support. And yes, to a certain extent I’m sure government can and will help. But as an emerging energy market, we simply can’t rely on them.

Rather, we need to be looking to create some certainty on our own. This means having the confidence to commit to bigger orders, to hire new recruits, to invest in our businesses and expand. It also means having the confidence to speak clearly and articulately about everything that we do.

Creating certainty isn’t a something that should be governed exclusively by Whitehall – it’s simply too important for that. It’s time to create some certainty of our own.

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