“Dear Mr Cameron”: An Open Letter to Save the Feed-In Tariff
The FIT faces a battle for survival. Our founder & MD, Tony Sampson, argues the case for the defence directly to the Prime Minister – & we want you to hear it, too.
Dear Mr Cameron,
My name is Tony Sampson, and I’m the owner of a solar installation company, Cornwall Solar Panels. I’m writing to you in the hope that you will reconsider the proposed plans to cut the government’s Feed-in Tariff rates, in January 2016.
The justification for slashing the FIT is cutting costs. To give this argument context, the Treasury is currently offering £92.50 per MWh to EDF, for power generated by Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, guaranteed for 35 years. That’s not to mention the £2.09 billion it grants annually to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority – costing each UK home an average of £79 per year. For comparison, it offers £54.80 per MWh produced by households with Solar PV – including the FIT subsidy – guaranteed for 20 years, and costing the average home £9. We’re not even asking for a level playing field – just a chance to finish what we’ve started, and make the case for what else we can achieve.
Over the last five years, my employees and I have installed over 500 Solar PV systems in Cornish homes and businesses. And no wonder: Solar PV is one of the most underrated and as yet underutilised technologies known to man. In the words of our greatest living inventor, Elon Musk, solar energy allows us to harness “that handy fusion reactor in the sky… that shows up every day, and produces ridiculous amounts of power”. Unlike nearly every other alternative, renewable or traditional, rooftop-mounted Solar PV allows us to harness that power without impacting the rest of our environment. And it’s already helping to achieve the “land of opportunity” you once dreamt of:
“A dynamic economy, where thriving businesses create jobs, wealth and opportunity.
A strong society, where our families, our communities and our nation create secure foundations on which people can build their lives.
A sustainable environment, where we enhance the beauty of our surroundings and protect the future of the planet.”
Conservative Party Aims & Values, David Cameron, 2006
I agree wholeheartedly with those aims – but they cannot be realised, if they do not work together. You’ve also said you believe in putting “economic stability and fiscal responsibility first”. As a businessman, I know this makes good sense. But as a human being, my number one priority is survival: of our species, our planet, and the ever-dwindling number of other lifeforms we share it with. Renewable energy is the only way we can achieve both these things – and in the long term, either one.
Speaking of endangered species, there is an elephant in the room. Yes, I have a vested interest in your government reversing this decision: if you do, I and my family will profit from it. But as you say, profit is not a dirty word. Especially when there are no losers. The beauty of Solar PV is that you can act in self interest, make money and have a positive impact on your surroundings. Everyone wins – the businesses promoting it, the individuals adopting it, the government who champions it, and most importantly, the environment.
Currently, we’re on course to reach the targets defined by the Kyoto Protocol, cutting carbon emissions and slowing climate change. Renewable energy sources are indispensable in achieving that. In doing so, we prolong the survival of thousands of species, millions of people, and countless billions of creatures who are affected worldwide. Your decision is critical: the situation is dire but the solution is within our grasp; it is far too late to ignore this problem, but far too early to give up and make the best of what we have left. The problem rests on how urgently we can deliver that solution. The Feed-in Tariff has sparked mass adoption rapidly. Slashing it would set us back years.
With the FIT, we won’t just be supporting a healthier planet; “We will put economic stability and fiscal responsibility first”. Economic stability is precisely what FIT was designed to create, and fiscal responsibility is what demands you finish the job. According to RegenSW, “In the South West alone over £13 billion has been invested in the renewable energy sector, creating nearly 13,000 jobs and generating 14% of the region’s electricity.” The industry has gone from strength to strength and entry-level prices have continued to fall. We need your support now to make every penny of that investment worthwhile, to guarantee the safety of those jobs, and to keep our momentum going until we reach the point where Solar PV needs no extra incentive. With Elon Musk’s announcement that his company, Tesla, will start manufacturing PowerWall batteries next year, we are on the verge of a renewable energy revolution. The PowerWall finally allows us to store solar energy efficiently, for when it’s needed most. To cut losses now would be madness, when the bridge FIT has built is all but complete.
So yes, I will make a profit, if the FIT is continued. But if anyone should be willing to hear the case for profit, Mr Cameron, it’s you. The Conservative party claims to encourage the pursuit of personal wealth, and reward the hard work and initiative of those who seek it, because it believes that financial success is the surest way to self-betterment. In supporting the Feed-in Tariff, you hand power to the individual, and reward the ethic of self-reliance. I am sure Margaret Thatcher would have agreed. That’s the difference between a responsible free-market economy, encouraging aspiring individuals, and an economy dictated by the state, run only for the rich. The latter is an accusation I know you are continually angered by, and one you have sought to be rid of. Here is your chance.
This is the final step towards offering UK citizens energy independence and improved financial security – not just the wealthy, but ordinary people investing their hard-earned cash in hope of a better future. The Feed-in Tariff is crucial to making that independence affordable to as many as possible, showing that you can invest wisely, reap the benefits and create a better society for all. We just need the government to lead by example.
I know we share an opinion that profit can be made responsibly, Mr Cameron. I hope we share the belief that it must be.