Suppliers set for late 2019 smart solar export deadline
Image: Nottingham City Council.

The government is eyeing a late-2019 deadline for qualifying energy suppliers to have solar export tariffs up and running.

A consultation launched earlier this week, which seeks views on amendments to licensing conditions necessary to make way for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), revealed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), envisages that a “final deadline” for suppliers to offer tariffs to solar households and businesses could be set by the end of this year.

The consultation’s publication was followed by the subject being discussed within a BEIS oral questions session in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with the UK’s domestic solar industry having expressed frustration at the policy vacuum it currently finds itself in.

The small-scale feed-in tariff closed to new applicants on 31 March 2019 and, since then, there has been a lack of policy support for domestic renewables.

While the government first consulted on the SEG in January this year, there had been a lack of news on when the mechanism was to be implemented, essentially rendering all new installations open to exporting their surplus power without guarantee of payment.

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy questioned BEIS officials on when the consultation response would be published, to which universities minister Chris Skidmore, standing in for energy minister Claire Perry, insisted the government wished to start the legislative process before the summer recess, expected in July.

However McCarthy responded to Skidmore with the frank assertion that many in the solar industry would consider that timeframe as unacceptable, before calling for a fair, minimum floor price to prevent suppliers “taking advantage” of solar households.

Skidmore confirmed that this would be consulted on, but suggested that the “right signals are already emerging”, pointing to the fact that some suppliers were voluntarily bringing forward tariffs already.

E.On was the first to publicly announce its equivalent of the SEG, albeit on a limited basis, by confirming that it would honour the previous export tariff for a period of one year for the first 500 households that installed domestic PV under the company’s offering.

That was followed by Octopus Energy launching two separate ‘Outgoing’ tariffs, including a tracker tariff that followed day-ahead pricing.

Leonie Greene, director of advocacy and external affairs at the Solar Trade Association, said action was needed “as soon as possible”.

“We urge ministers to confirm now that households and communities can have full confidence that they will receive payment at a fair market rate for the clean power they provide for others to use as we decarbonise the UK electricity grid. With the CCC today underlining how vital public engagement will be to meet net zero, it is important that households & communities who make the effort can at least have confidence they will be treated fairly.

“This seems to us the minimum government should do, in line with EU law. Much more is required to ramp up investment if government is to meet the recommendations of the CCC on net zero,” she said.