Yorkshire and Humber solar jobs threat over subsidy cuts

Solar panels on a house roof in England Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Panels installed before the reduction in subsidies are not affected by the new rate

More than half the jobs in the solar panel industry in Yorkshire and the Humber are at risk through a government cut in subsidies for householders.

The amount of money paid to home owners and businesses producing electricity from roof-top panels is to fall from 12.92p per kilowatt hour to 4.39p.

Based on government estimates, 1,870 out of 3,230 jobs are at risk.

Sheffield council voted on Wednesday to stop fitting panels on homes because it was no longer affordable.

The region has been one of the largest adopters of the renewable energy source, with 62,149 solar homes and 1,744 big solar rooftops on schools, warehouses and other commercial buildings.

In 2011, roof-top panels were fitted to Bradford Cathedral, at a cost of £50,000, making it the first in the UK to generate power in such a way.

What if a company stops trading?

If a company has gone bust, householders with solar panels should check whether the equipment has insurance-backed warranty, which may cover repairs.

If this is not the case, the Solar Trade Association can put people in touch with a member who is part of its repair agreement service.

The average cost for a 4kWp system, which comprises 16 panels, is about £5,600.

The feed-in-tariff system was designed to give financial incentive for home owners and businesses to install the equipment.

It pays producers a subsidy for the electricity they generate, plus a bonus for any electricity exported back to the national grid.

Homeowner Dan Andrews had the solar panels fitted at Christmas and said he would not have paid almost £8,000 for them under the new tariff.

"We wouldn't have done it with the changes being brought in," he said.

"It's a big investment over a long period of time and it's not worth the risk when the payback could be in 15 or 20 years time."

Image caption Forty two panels were fitted to Bradford Cathedral in 2011

The industry said the cut, which comes into effect from midnight, had already cost 6,500 jobs nationally and estimated up to a total of 18,700 jobs could be under threat across the UK.

Thomas Newby, managing director of The Phoenix Works, a renewable energy installation company in Farsley, said solar panels represented 60% of his turnover and the reduction put the firm in "a lot of difficulty".

"A lot of people buy them in part for ideological reasons but there's obviously a financial element and it's got to make financial sense."

The government said it continued to support low carbon sector but for it be sustainable it needed to be driven by competition and innovation, not subsidies.

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