Octopus beats UK tariff deadline with solar grab

The venture capital firm got in ahead of today’s closure of the UK’s feed-in tariff incentive for large-scale solar plants. At the end of last week, it announced it had accumulated a portfolio of 11 such sites.

Octopus Investments, a UK investment firm, last week announced it had funded the installation of 11 large-scale solar power sites throughout England. In doing so, it beat today’s deadline for the UK government’s provision of a feed-in tariff (FIT) incentive. All 11 sites have qualified for the tariff. 

Octopus has partnered with Lightsource Renewable Energy, which will develop each of the sites. The investment will fund the development of 118,000 solar panels with a total rated capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). 

The sites are based in: Howbery, Oxfordshire; Wheal Jane, Benbole and Howton Farm, Cornwall; Sandhill, Somerset; Hawton, Nottinghamshire; Long Sutton (Moor Farm 1 & 2) and Marston, Lincolnshire; Wilburton, Cambridgeshire; and Promens and Beccles, Suffolk. 

“We have been able to deliver these sites with finance from VCT (Venture Capital Trust) and EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) funds which have attracted many small scale investors,” says Paul Latham of Octopus Investments in a statement. “When the deadline for FITs qualification was brought forward, it posed some significant challenges and there was a lot of gloom amongst funders and developers. Whilst some investment companies withdrew, we held our nerve.”

The withdrawal of the current FIT regime for large-scale UK solar projects was announced in June this year after a review that had begun in February. The speed with which the change was announced drew criticism given that the regime had only been introduced in April last year. The government said the system needed changing because it was in danger of being overwhelmed by demand. 

London-based Octopus Investments has around £2.5 billion in assets under management, offering the likes of VCTs, EIS schemes and IHT (inheritance tax) funds.