A SCHEME to fit free solar panels on bungalows in the Dearne could be at risk because of Government proposals to slash feed-in tariffs, a local MP has warned.

Ministers have announced plans to cut the rate of return for domestic solar energy production by more than half and local MP John Healey took up the gauntlet for Barnsley in the House of Commons.

He said: "Pensioners in nearly 200 council bungalows in the Dearne are set to benefit from new solar panels free of charge.

“That scheme, which was put together by Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes, is at risk from the Minister’s announcement

“He has told the House that without these changes, he is worried that solar panels will become available only to the lucky few. Is it not the truth that, with the changes, they will become available only to the wealthy few?”

The Dearne scheme would see tenants receive free use of electricity generated by the panels, saving them around £130 a year. Over 25 years, the residents would save a total of nearly £1 million.

Barnsley Council would receive the feed-in tariff, which would be used to invest in further sustainable energy projects - but now the government plans to slash the pay out from 43.3p per kWH to just 21p, a move which has sparked alarm in the solar panel industry.

Government statistics show that a recent surge in households installing solar PV has threatened to break the budget allocated to pay them out.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Greg Barker said: “The plummeting costs of solar mean we’ve got no option but to act so that we stay within budget and not threaten the whole viability of the FITs scheme.

“Although I fully realise that adjusting to the new lower tariffs will be a big challenge for many firms, it won’t come as a surprise to many in the solar industry who’ve themselves acknowledged the big fall in costs and the big increase in their rate of return over the past year."