Solar panels still on hold as row heats up

A DECISION on installing solar panels on Mansfield council houses has been delayed for a second time amid a row over the scheme’s expected benefits.

Mansfield District Council met last week to again discuss spending £750,000 on the green technology for around 90 homes.

The authority had already voted in September to submit the idea to further scrutiny before making a final decision.

But last Monday the Government dashed a key element of the plan by announcing it was planning a December cut in ‘feed in tariffs’ for domestic solar electricity production - four months earlier than expected.

The development sparked a row between Independent members who had pushed for a decision in September and Labour members who had asked for the original delay.

Said Independent member Steve Garner: “It was mentioned in September that delays would be costly. The world and his dog knew this was a good deal.”

But Labour councillors said members who pushed for a delay could not be blamed for the Government ‘moving the goal posts’.

Said Labour’s Coun Sonia Ward: “The urgency is now gone and realistically we are not going to get anything done before the Feed in Tariff changes (in December).

“We now need to look at whether or not this is a realistic spending of money.”

If approved the council would arrange for the technology to be fitted to the roofs of about 90 suitable council homes at no cost to tenants.

It would cut tenants’ energy bills as well as generating money for the council and cutting carbon emissions.

The current ‘Feed in Tariff’, meaning energy firms pay a set amount to councils who create their own power through renewable means, is now expected to fall from 43.3p per kilowatt to 21p in December.

The planned change would mean the annual amount the council could be expected to make from the plan would go from £100,000 to £54,000.

Any cash received by the authority under the scheme would be re-invested in similar plans.

Council homes in some other areas including Nottingham have already had panels installed .

Last Tuesday members voted 23 in favour, 13 against a proposal to send the Mansfield idea back to a select commission for a second time.

Independent councillor Christine Smith, who had pushed for a quick decision, said: “It won’t be people in this chamber affected, it will be the tenants and they will be the judges of whether or not this was the right decision.”