The Spring Budget referenced several green changes on the horizon but failed to offer relief for businesses that own solar panels, some of whom are facing significant tax hikes.
A number of green announcements are expected from the government over the coming months.
The government is due to draft a new action plan to tackle air pollution by the end of April and a separate emissions reduction plan is also due to be released in the near future, which will set out future measures on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The Spring Budget made no major new announcements on these issues, but did suggest that the Levy Control Framework – which controls the amount of public subsidy available for renewable energy technologies – will be scrapped in favour of a new approach later in the year.
The government also faced calls to amend business rates from 1 April 2017, which are set to negatively impact on many businesses that own solar panels.
Under proposed rateable values for commercial properties, owners of solar panels that use the majority of the power generated rather than exporting it to the grid could see a sizeable increase in business rates. Solar arrays with a capacity of less than 50kW have also previously been exempt from business rates, but this will no longer apply from 1 April 2017.
According to the Solar Trade Association (STA), around 44,000 companies currently exempt from business rates could be affected, with some companies facing up to an 800 per cent increase.
The government did not announce any specific relief for solar, but did set our measures to minimise the overall impact of business rates on businesses.
There will be a cap on increases for small businesses, to the greater of £600 or the real terms transitional relief cap for small businesses each year. Properties with a rateable value of £12,000 and below will receive 100 per cent relief. Properties with a rateable value between £12,000-15,000 will receive tapered relief.
There will also be a £1,000 discount for pubs and a £300 million fund for local authorities to provide discretionary relief for individual hard cases in their local area.
In transport-related announcements, vehicle excise duty (VED) rates will be frozen for HGVs from 1 April, while £690 million will also be made available to help local authorities tackle urban congestion.
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, first announced as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy green paper in January, will have an initial investment of £270 million to kick-start the development of new technologies, including the “development, design and manufacture of batteries for next-generation electric vehicles”.
New packaging recycling targets were also announced. By 2020, the government will increase economy-wide recycling targets for paper to 75 per cent, aluminium to 64 per cent, steel to 85 per cent and wood-based packaging to 48 per cent. Targets for overall packaging recycling will increase to 75.4 per cent (from 72.7 per cent).