Posts tagged with: Clean energy cash back

With the Queen granting Gordon Brown permission to dissolve parliament, the speculation can now stop and the hype begin; the general election will be on May 6. With this announcement the debate has already started, generally focusing on the key issue of the day, namely the world financial crisis and how the party leaders plan to reverse the trend in job cuts in the UK.

Afghanistan, the NHS, education and crime will almost certainly be hot topics for discussion. Even the issue of reducing the tax on cider distracts readers of certain tabloids from the more relevant problems of the day.

These issues aside, the three main party leaders, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have asserted that they are the ‘greenest’ party (perhaps excluding the Green party) and that they will each strive to set in motion the carbon neutral revolution of the economy in the next five years. During the next four weeks we are certain to read much boasting from the respective parties regarding their green manifestos but what are we to expect?


Energy: David Cameron has stated on numerous occasions that he doesn’t see nuclear power as a long term energy solution for the UK, insisting that he would prefer to see greater investment in renewable energy as a means of transitioning from fossil fuel energy sources.

With the EU setting a target of generating 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 the Conservatives have supported the development of green energy sites from an executive level. David Cameron has long been an advocate of green energy and a supporter of the feed-in tariff mechanism as a way of driving investment in new technologies. 

Emissions: Ambitious targets have been set with the Conservatives announcing that they will set carbon reduction targets of 60 per cent by 2050 which would be monitored on a year to year basis by an independent climate change commission.

If elected into government the Conservative leadership has plans to replace the climate change levy with a system based on how many units of carbon a company emits rather than how much energy it uses. This, they believe would incentivise businesses to go greener, sooner.

Vehicles: Conservative plans to reduce emissions from UK roads include taxing drivers on how much they use their vehicles. They have also announced that they will employ measures such as reducing the average emission of new cars to 20g/km by 2022 and set an average for all cars by 2030.

The Conservative Party has also opposed the congestion charge in London and all road pricing across the country, however it remains unclear whether they would actually abolish the charge once in power.


Energy: Having already established the department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which has overseen the recent introduction of the Clean Energy Cash Back scheme, Labour plan to move further towards green energy generation and intend to make all homes carbon neutral by 2016. The feed-in tariff which came into affect on April 1 is a mechanism which will seek to boost investment in renewable micro-generation, offering small scale generators guaranteed, premium rates for energy fed back into the national grid. The scheme introduced by the DECC will be carried on beyond the May election with hopes within the party that micro-generation will become a typical feature of the British energy industry.

Emissions: The Labour party has already set a target of reducing CO2 emissions 60 per cent by 2050 with a more short-term target of 26-32 per cent by 2020. Unlike the Conservative plan for annual emission assessments, Labour instead wants emission targets to be set and reviewed every five years as ‘carbon budgets’. In the past Labour has supported EU proposals of reducing carbon emissions 20 per cent by 2020.

Vehicles: Famously introducing the London congestion charge, Labour wish to extend the zone around the capital and want to implement the same scheme in other British cities as a means of combating congestion and pollution. Road pricing will become a Labour mantra with plans to charge motorists for the amount of time they spend on the roads.

Liberal Democrats

Energy: Going along with the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have set the target of producing 20 per cent of all energy from renewable means by 2020 with further targets of 50 per cent by 2050. The Liberal Democrats do not however believe in the use of nuclear power and have set out that they think that the money building new nuclear facilities would be better spent on renewable energy plants.

Emissions: The Lib Dems have set out emission reduction targets of 60 per cent by 2050. Nick Clegg’s party have announced that in government they would levy a carbon tax which would be payable by all consumers not involved in the emission trading scheme, something which they believe would make a real difference from a grass roots level.

Vehicles: The Liberal Democrats have proposed a dramatic rise in tax paid by motorists in the UK with plans to raise top payments from £215 p/a to £2000 p/a in a bid designed to encourage people away from their cars and into public transport. The Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) would be scrapped for less polluting cars and duties would be halved for vehicles owned by those in rural households.

Part of the plan to entice the British public away from their cars is being reflected in proposals to invest in public transport. Public transport funding would come from road pricing and congestion charges in and around the UK’s busiest cities.

Solar thermal heating systems could be something of a common sight on south-facing roofs in the UK with the introduction of a feed-in tariff. Previously, the high cost of solar thermal kits has put off householders wishing to invest in renewable energy generation but with the announcement of the introduction of feed-in tariffs for solar thermal in the UK in April 2011, solar thermal installation is set to become much more attractive.

The government’s feed-in tariff scheme to be called the Renewable Heat Incentive, will work by offering small-scale producers of renewable energy premium rates over a period of around 25 years for units of energy fed back into the national grid. Feed-in tariffs have been successful in countries such as Germany where they have proved to be an extremely effective way of off-setting the high costs of investing in solar power equipment.

Germany saw a massive uptake in all types of solar energy generation with tariff schemes rendering investments viable in the face of competition from traditional fossil fuel sources. For more information on how the tariff legislation is broken down year by year all of the information is available on

In the UK, the essential figures are that homeowners wishing to invest in a typical £5000 solar thermal kit for their properties can hope to expect healthy returns on investment of around £500 p/a over a period of around 25 years not including the average £100 saving on utility bills per year. Such returns and savings are the basis of the tariff scheme and is hopeful that these incentives will be sufficient to help the UK solar industry take off.

Through the installation of roof mounted solar panels, the sun’s energy is absorbed by the panel’s in-built technology which in turn is used to heat the water. The hot water is pumped through storage cylinders where it is heated further, providing households with south-facing roofs a good supply of hot water through the summer months and a contribution to water heating energy through the gloomier seasons.

Households aside, the government is also hopeful that the tariff legislation will bring about a grassroot change in attitude towards green energy as a whole and see technologies such as solar thermal become commonplace rather than an exceptional sight in the UK. is already hopeful that with the obvious environmental benefits of utilising renewable energy sources along with the financial incentives built in to green energy schemes, the UK is set to follow in the footsteps of what are generally regarded to be the ‘greener’ nations such as Germany and Sweden. Households and community projects will all be set to capitalise on the feed-in tariff in the coming years with cash savings, investment yields and carbon emission reduction providing ample rewards for investors and communities.

With the UK government announcing the imminent introduction of a feed-in tariff for renewable energy generation, the UK solar industry is already seeing the development of a grass roots approach to solar energy.

Feed-in tariffs which have been established in other developed countries with the basic motive of attracting investment in fledgling renewable industries will be replicated in Britain with solar installers being offered premium rates (typically 25p/kWh over a project’s lifetime) for the units of energy fed back in to the national grid.

Such incentives are of course absolutely necessary in order to make investment in expensive technologies viable by offering attractive returns on investment to investors.

One of the first projects to take advantage of the feed-in tariff or ‘Clean Energy Cash Back’ scheme is a social housing scheme in Manchester which plans to generate around £900 per household a year by selling renewable energy back in to the national grid.

The Manchester based co-operative called Horizon Energy Corporative is working with landlords in the Manchester area to maximise the potential of solar energy in the Manchester region.

The scheme, put together by EIC has received the full support of the department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which hopes that such schemes will help the UK to catch up with other countries where feed-in tariffs have been established now for some time while at the same time offering financial rewards for social housing projects.

Managing Director of EIC, Andrew Melchior stated that,

“Our energy will be used to drive down the costs of electricity and hot water for those in need of relief from fuel poverty, while supplying community-generated energy to householders in North West England.

With sufficient support there is no reason we shouldn’t end up producing energy output equivalent to one quarter of a conventional coal-fired power station.”

As the party season ends, more sober thoughts turn back to the great issues that dominated towards the end of 2009. With the Copenhagen conference highlighting massive short-comings in international efforts to fight climate change, it will be hoped that 2010 will see the UK move ahead in the use of renewable energy and herald greater cooperation between the powers in agreeing .

2009 was a year which saw the announcement of the introduction of the Clean Energy Cash Back system, essentially a feed-in tariff designed to attract investment in the UK solar industry. The announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was welcomed by those who have seen how successful similar tariff regimes have proved in other countries where they have been introduced.

However, following the consultancy process which followed the announcement, there have been a number of observers who have noted that the tariff rate will need to be sufficient in order the UK to compete with more mature markets in Germany, Spain, China and the US. While this month will see some clarification of the specific rates to be set for the UK tariff, it will be absolutely essential that the numbers are sufficient to boost investment in the new industry.

Critics of government policy have been headed by the flagship group ‘We Support Solar’ claiming that many within the government are acting against the general interests of solar energy, something which they believe will be reflected in a watery feed-in tariff.

However, not all predictions for the UK solar industry in 2010 are so pessimistic. David Kidney, Under Secretary of the DECC stated that any criticism of UK solar policy is nonsense and that the UK are set fair to strive to compete with the big international players this year. Speaking at a low carbon conference last month, Kidney fielded questions from an audience which pulled no punches, claiming that the UK was a leading light in the use and development of renewable energy.

Speaking mostly of the UK’s big offshore wind projects, matters also turned to solar where Kidney was adamant that the UK solar energy is looking healthy. Talking with regards to the introduction of the feed-in tariff system in April, he claimed that,

“April FiTs [feed-in tariffs] arrive in the UK and the solar industry is gearing itself up for what it thinks will be a major increase in demand for its products.”

Everybody within the industry will be hoping that the government under secretary’s optimism is well founded. As we approach the tariff date we will be able to greater gauge the level of investor interest in solar PV products. Certainly, with solar markets still going strong in Germany with investors looking to diversify portfolios with green stocks, the UK industry will be hoping to attract similar capital.

With Ernst & Young offering their annual solar attractiveness indices at the end of 2009, it again highlighted the clear correlation between strong feed-in tariffs and attractive markets for investors. Until the UK can produce a robust tariff (hopefully this will happen in the first quarter of this year), investors will be put off solar investment by the traditional worries that returns to not justify investment.

However, with the government under massive media pressure to fight climate change, 2010 may just be the year which is looked back on as the watershed in solar installation. With growing public awareness of solar combined with viable solar investment products, the UK could be set to become a world player…we hope.