THE Government is in danger of damaging its green energy credentials and its business credibility by effectively pulling the plug on large scale projects to harvest solar energy - according to landowners in the Midlands.

The comments follow the Government's emergency review of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) for solar photovoltaics - the mechanism which guarantees a premium for green energy - and Energy Minister, Greg Barker’s proposed reduction in the financial support for installations of more than 50 kilowatts.

CLA West Midlands director Caroline Bedell says landowners and businesses across the region have committed hundreds of thousands of pounds to projects aimed at delivering renewable energy from the sun on the back of Government promises that the FiTs would remain in place and unchanged until April, 2012.

The CLA says the U-turn on solar energy will undermine confidence and make the job of attracting investment into future renewable initiatives far more difficult.

Mrs Bedell said that people had invested time and expertise - as well as hard cash - on the back of Government promises to maintain Feed in Tariffs until April next year.

“This reversal will deliver a severe blow to the Government’s green energy integrity,” she claimed, “A more workable solution would have been to continue to pay the existing rates for solar PV at all scales to those who connect and register for the Feed-in Tariff by April, 2012.”

There were options available to the Government after April to use money from the under-spent budget for the Renewables Obligation for new installations above one megawatt.

“That could have been achieved without causing the imbalance in the support available under the FIT which the minister appears so concerned about," said Mrs Bedell.

The emergency review had also “failed” to raise the bar high enough to offer a realistic prospect of attracting significant numbers of people into developing farm-scale anaerobic digestion units.

“The CLA has been lobbying for an increase in the level of funding for the last year,” said Mrs Bedell, “Farm-based anaerobic digestion units offer the option of driving down agriculture’s carbon emissions, delivering cheap, sustainable energy and other wider benefits to the rural economy.

“However, the additional penny per kilowatt the Government has proposed is simply not enough to make a significant difference to the numbers of farm-scale plants coming forward."

The only positive news in the renewable energy sector was, said Mrs Bedell, the recently announced details of the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive.

The CLA had, she said, been arguing the case for renewable resources for a decade, seeking to convince the Government that woodlands could play a significant role in securing sustainable, renewable and reliable energy.

"The Renewable Heat Incentive is very close to the scheme we have advised Government to put into operation which is a real victory for the CLA's long-term thinking and lobbying,” said Mrs Bedell.

“Renewable heat displaces carbon intensive fuels such as oil and coal. It helps drive sustainable woodland management, delivering wood as fuel in a process that enriches biodiversity and contributes to rural employment and income.”