Posts tagged with: Department of Energy and Climate Change has received hundreds of enquiries asking how the coalition government’s Spending Review will impact on feed-in tariffs. Feed-in tariffs, in the UK known as the Clean Energy Cash Back scheme were introduced as a way of incentivising investment in green energy through the payment of fixed, premium rates for energy generated from small scale renewable projects. Most of the enquiries coming through this website have focused specifically on how the Spending Review will affect UK solar projects so we will seek to answer some of the most popular queries.

How will the Spending Review affect Feed-in Tariffs?

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has stated that the tariffs will now be focused on the most cost-effective technologies and fortunately, this includes solar pv. The DECC has said,

“Feed-in tariffs will be refocused on the most cost-effective technologies saving £40m in 2014-15. The changes will be implemented at the first scheduled review of tariffs [in 2012, to kick in 2013] unless higher than expected deployment requires an early review.”

While rates for solar projects will remain unchanged, the government has announced that changes could be made in the 2012 review which could see the tariff cut by 10 per cent in 2014 and 2015. Rates paid by the tariff could be effected by what the DECC have termed a ‘Trigger Point’ where a figure for solar installation is met, reducing the tariff payments.

When will the Trigger Point take affect?

No announcement has been made as yet on the Trigger Point criteria but is likely to revolve around something like installed capacity or applications to install. We will not hear anything until 2012 at which point the government will have to revisit the legislation because currently there is no mention of trigger points in the tariff scheme.

When is the best time to install?

Perhaps one of the most common questions coming to us through our website is the question of the best time to install solar pv panels in order to start taking advantage of the feed-in tariffs. Our answer is always, right away! As it currently stands, you will be able to take advantage of rates of 41.3p until 2012 for units of energy generated from your solar panels. If, however there is a massive take up in solar installation within the next 2 years, the government may decide to reduce the tariff for future installations.

How will any changes affect people who have already installed?

It won’t. Contracts are fixed meaning that anyone who signs up for a tariff rate of 41.3p for units of energy generated can expect those payments for the next 25 years. along with a number of environmental groups are happy with the way solar pv projects are safeguarded amongst the government’s drastic spending review. Now is certainly the time to take advantage of high tariff rates and generate revenue for your household for the next quarter of a century.

Seemingly slow to catch on to the potential of renewable energy, it seemed that the UK had finally cottoned on to the advantages of green investments with the passing of the Energy Act, the creation of the Department of Clean Energy and Climate Change and the recent introduction of feed-in tariffs.

However, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has delivered a warning suggesting that cut-backs in government spending on low carbon initiatives could see the UK fall behind competitors in the green energy industry.

The CCC, which advises the government on meeting carbon emission reduction targets both in the short and long term has stated that the government should re-think cutting £34 million from renewable energy projects including wind, biofuel and geothermal energy. Indeed the CCC believes strongly that more investment should be made in green projects to ensure the long term viability of the British renewable industry.

With Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announcements confirming that certain grants for green projects will be cut, it certainly gives a slightly worrying indication that more cloth cutting could be taking place over the next 12 months. With this in mind, the CCC has highlighted the keys areas in critical need of continued government support:

·          Offshore wind

·          Tidal & wave power

·          Carbon dioxide capture and storage

·          Cleaner aviation

·          Electric vehicles

·          Smart power grids

Understanding how to design a PV system is not rocket science, but it is more complex than many people consider. Here’s a very quick overview of the important points.

Solar panels produce direct current (DC). This means you need an inverter to turn that electricity into mains frequency alternating current (AC).  Inverters come in a range of power ratings. The more solar panels you have, the more power the inverter has to deal with, so the size and cost increases. It’s very important to match the size of the inverter to the number of solar panels.

If the inverter is too small, you will lose out on some of the energy that your system produces. If it is too large, the inverter may not perform at its optimum efficiency, and you will have paid for more than is necessary. In the UK, the optimum situation is to have an inverter that is rated at 80% of the power rating of your PV system, since it is rare you will be producing at 100% power.

More critically than getting the power right, you need to ensure the voltage and current of your solar panel system remains within the input range of the chosen inverter. To re-cap, solar panels on your roof are generally connected together in series, in a ‘string’. This increases the system voltage, but does not increase the current. Once a certain number of solar panels have been connected in series, the voltage will become too high and the system needs to be arranged in two strings, each of the same number of panels, connected in parallel. This generally occurs after a string exceeds 8 – 11 solar panels. When strings are connected in parallel, the currents add-up, but the voltage remains constant.

By adding more and more strings in parallel, the current and voltage can be controlled to remain in the inverter limits. For large solar installations, inverters can used that that have a very high power capacity, or alternatively it is possible to use many small inverters connected in parallel.

It is important to remember certain constraints. Inverters come in several sizes, but there may be some numbers of solar panels for which no inverter is ideal. For instance, because it is necessary for all stings to be equal in size, you can only use an even number of solar panels when using multiple strings. In addition, all solar panels must receive the same amount of sunlight when connected to the same inverter. It is no good to have some solar panels facing different directions on different parts of the roof. New technologies, soon to become widely avaialable that will make this process much easier. Namely micro-inverters, which convert DC to AC at every solar panel, will mean that solar panels can face different directions, however these are not yet widely available.

If you have a sales visit from a solar company, make sure the salesman understands these points as he’s designing your system.

With the general election just weeks away, the Conservative party under David Cameron has reiterated its support for green energy and has produced a paper outlining its proposals for a shake up of energy production in the UK. The green paper titled ‘Rebuilding Security’ announces a number of measures designed to help capitalise new and expensive green technologies.

In a budget statement undoubtedly designed to garner support from renewable industry insiders and environmental groups alike, the Conservative party leader is leading a project which will see the creation of a green investment bank with around £2 billion to invest in new, green technologies and help to grow the fledgling industry in the face of tightened lending from the traditional banking sector.

With investment essential to help the UK carbon neutral economy take off, the Conservative’s announcement has been met with encouraging assent from those it is meant to appeal to.

Director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Tom Foulkes welcomed the news as being key to the success of the UK green sector,

“Clearly, transforming the energy sector will require massive investment in new and upgraded infrastructure. A Green Investment Bank will go a long way towards funding the development of new technologies, but there remains a need for a secure method of funding for the long-term investment in energy infrastructure.”

Certainly, with the election expected in May green issues are expected to feature heavily with issues such as the the Clean Energy Cash Back scheme and the Copenhagen summit making headlines in recent months. Some of the key lobbies to appease ahead of the May ballot will of course be the environmental groups who this time are behind the green paper’s plans for the green energy overhaul.

Andy Atkins, Director of Friends of the Earth commented that,

“A Green Investment Bank is desperately needed to fund the replacement of the UK’s outdated fossil-fuel energy infrastructure with the clean energy technologies of the 21st century, and to create new green industries and jobs.”

With the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) bringing in the feed-in tariff on April 1, the ante has certainly been ‘upped’ with regards to real policy designed at tackling climate change and achieving targets on carbon emission reduction. With the Gordon Brown Labour government making positive moves towards a sustainable energy economy, the opposition will have their work cut out in order to show that they are also capable (and indeed willing) to see the development of a strong green technology industry in the UK. will regularly update all news regarding the feed-in tariff before the election so please visit us again to stay up to date with all green issues.