Renewable energy pioneer forced to close solar firm after subsidy cuts

by Search Gate staff. Published Thu 15 Oct 2015 15:01, Last updated: 2015-10-15
Howard Johns forced to call in the administrators
Howard Johns forced to call in the administrators

One of the UK’s most trusted and pioneering solar installers has been forced to call in the administrators.

Caerphilly-based Southern Solar, a thirteen year-old business founded by solar ambassador Howard Johns, has become the fourth top company in the sector to close since the start of October following the Government's recent changes to the feed-in Tariff regime.

Making the announcement, CEO Howard Johns, former chair of the Solar Trade Association, said blame for the company’s demise lies with Energy Ministers “incapable” of independent thought and action.

He said: "It is with great sadness that the directors of Southern Solar have no choice other than to appointment administrators. This is a direct result of the Government’s recent announcements that kill off support for solar energy via the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

"The demise of Southern Solar is the latest example of human misery generated by the misguided policy of the current Government – which is on the wrong side of history, and is acting counter to public opinion. Many hard-working families are being hit hard by the policies of a party that professes to support for them. The latest cuts are also disastrous for all investment in the UK - not just solar and renewable energy.

“Solar is one of the most exciting new industries in the world so it is madness that the UK Government should sabotage UK jobs and businesses in this growing sector, just as it has started to get going. Worse, when it comes to the energy sector, the party of business seems to want only to support very large energy businesses.

"With less than two months before crucial global climate talks open in Paris the UK Government has unleashed some profoundly short-sighted and damaging policy changes on the UK renewables sector. This makes a mockery of any claim the UK might have to be offering global leadership on climate change.”

"Despite the popularity of solar with UK homeowners, Energy Ministers appear wantonly incapable of being anything more than a glove puppet for misguided policy being imposed by the Chancellor George Osborne.”

Following the announcement, Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “In the words of the former Conservative Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, these proposed cuts are ‘catastrophic’, and threaten more than 20,000 jobs.

“The Government must urgently rethink its short-sighted proposals to effectively end support for solar power - and develop a real plan to build a clean 21st century energy system.”

Southern solar was established by Howard Johns in 2002. It had specialised in the design, installation and maintenance of Solar Thermal and Solar Electrical systems, building a strong reputation by delivering high quality, competitively priced projects for commercial, public sector and domestic clients across the UK.

Southern Solar doubled in size every year for the first ten years of its existence – growing to a highly successful business employing nearly 100 staff in 8 different locations across the UK by 2017. The company’s activities were supported by the Feed in Tariff for only two years over that period.

After the first round of cuts to the Feed-in Tariff system in 2011, Southern Solar scaled back its business. After the second round of cuts the market contracted dramatically and the company had to lay off most of its staff. This week, in the face of Government plans to cut solar power subsidies by 87% from January 2017 Southern Solar has entered administration and made its last remaining 10 staff redundant.

The company appointed Jon Beard and John Walters, of business rescue and recovery specialist Begbies Traynor’s Brighton office, as joint administrators.

Jon Beard also cited recent cuts to the Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme as the main reason for the business’s failure.

He added: “It is without doubt that the removal of the Feed-in Tariff subsidy has had a significant impact on the business of the company.

"Prior to the administration we had been seeking a buyer for the business in the hope that its future could be secured. However, this proved unsuccessful and we have been left with no option but to wind the company down.”

As a result of the business closure a total of 21 employees have been made redundant.

Mr Beard added that his team was now assisting employees in order to expedite their claims following the closure of the business and are examining opportunities to transfer a number of outstanding contracts.

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