Posts tagged with: government

With the UK government’s announcement of the introduction of the Clean Energy Cash Back system, essentially a feed-in tariff designed to attract investment in the British renewable industry, controversy has raged with solar industry insiders believing tariff rates to be too low.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has also announced that they believe the tariff rate which has been set (5p/unit with a subsidy of 36.5p for units of energy generated by small scale solar and wind installations) will be too low to make the UK market competitive and have suggested a rate increase of 10p.

Speaking under the banner of the widely publicised ‘We support solar’ campaign the FMB’s announcement comes in the light of a number of criticisms aimed recently at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) legislation to be introduced in the April of next year. The FMB is being given the full backing of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), and Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) with around 16,000 building firms adding their weight to the ‘We support solar’ demands.

Feed-in tariffs are designed to offer premium, guaranteed rates to small scale producers for renewable energy which is fed in to the national grid and bought by the utility companies. In markets where they have been introduced elsewhere they have proved successful at attracting investment in new solar markets. In Germany and Spain, solar sectors have experienced booms thanks to the attractiveness of solar stocks in those countries with high returns on investment made possible by the feed-in tariff mechanism.

It is certainly considered that while the UK does not enjoy Iberian sunshine levels a strong tariff would enable the sector in the UK to take off and of course attempt to catch up with other mature markets. Some critics have argued that a strong anti-solar lobby in Westminster led by the utility companies has influenced the government’s decision to go forward with legislation which is generally accepted to be insufficient. With this in mind Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes stated,

“The proposed “cash back” payments are designed to dampen solar PV demand over the next three years rather than to encourage it. This mindset needs to change. Solar power can play a significant role in the “greening” of our towns and cities, while providing tens of thousands of new construction sector jobs.”

Indeed, with support among certain power brokers and pro-solar lobbies acting to add 10p to the current tariff it may well be possible to tweak the legislation, making it workable in the long term. If not, the ‘We support solar’ campaign may fail to see the fledgling UK PV sector take off.

Labour MP and advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Alan Simpson has warned of the presence of an cartel acting against the interests of renewable energy in the UK. At an event organised by Solar Century to promote the government’s proposal of a feed-in tariff system, Simpson announced that there is currently a lobby opposing the renewable campaign headed by the big utility companies keen to protect their own commercial interests at the expense of the development of green energy in the UK.

With the government’s announcement regarding the introduction of the Clean Energy Cash Back system (essentially a feed-in tariff system) in April 2010 much debate has raged regarding the tariff rate which will be required in order to optimise investment in the fledgling UK renewable energy industry.

The feed-in tariff works on the principle that small, renewable energy producers are guaranteed a fixed, premium rate for all units of energy they feed back into the national grid. The renewable energy units are purchased by the utility companies, something which they are obliged to do by the tariff legislation. In actual fact, the government has set a rate of 5p/unit with a subsidy of 36.5p for units of energy generated by small scale solar and wind installations, something which Simpson has controversially asserted will not be sufficient to spark the must needed investment in the industry.

Simpson claims that with the current rate set at 5p, the ROI for solar investors will only be around 5-7 per cent, yields which would possibly not be generous enough to turn the heads of investors who would potentially be attracted by more generous tariff rates elsewhere in the world. With a tariff rate of 10p, Simpson believes that returns could be a more healthy 10 per cent, rendering the UK as a highly competitive market in the world for attracting renewable investment in the long term.

For the UK to finally become one of the major players in the world of solar drastic changes will need to occur within the coming years to catch up with established markets such as Spain and Germany who are currently generating 2,511 MW and 1,500 MW of renewable energy annually respectively compared to the UK’s peak 6MW. Simpson certainly believes that this shortfall can only be remedied with the introduction of comprehensive tariff systems. Speaking at the Solar Century event, Simpson announced,

“Current energy policy in the UK is dominated by the vested interests of “Big Power”. The national grid is monumentally inefficient as an energy system. It was a half-decent idea for the middle of the last century, but 70%-80% of energy put into the grid disappears before you or I even switch the light on. We need not an energy, but a power revolution that takes control from the centre and literally puts power back into the hands of the people”.

Those within the industry back the words of Alan Simpson and are well aware that the future of the UK renewable energy industry is completely reliant on a strong tariff rate. Come April, it will be there to be seen if the government’s rhetoric on tackling climate change can be matched by a determination to take on the big utility companies and drive through a system which will see the UK become a leading light in the green energy revolution.

2009 has been heralded as a crucial year in tackling climate change and helping the UK meet its green objectives. In a statement released in a New Year message celebrating the creation of the new Department of Energy and Climate Change, Mr Milliband said that 2008 had been ‘historic’, referring to legislation passed in late November.

The secretary of state of Energy and Climate change also paid particular attention to the upcoming Copenhagen International Summit which will seek to look beyond the goals set out in the Kyoto Agreement whose objectives only go onto 2012.

Milliband said, “We have seen significant progress during 2008 in our goals of developing secure, affordable and clean energy, and tackling the threat of global warming. In 2009, the world will meet again to agree a new international deal on climate change, while in the UK we will be laying out the groundwork for long-term energy efficiency improvements and carbon reduction measures.

“However 2009 will be a crucial year when it comes to negotiating a meaningful, binding climate change deal in Copenhagen. There is still much to be done, but I’m confident we can achieve a global deal” added the Minister.

The decision to introduce feed-in tariffs and mandatory smart meters have been the most important innovations of the newly established department. Feed-in tariffs are seen as essential to the implementation of a cost effective renewable energy industry in the UK and will indeed play a fundamental role in the adherence to both the Kyoto standards and any targets set out in Copenhagen’s climate summit.

In the Department’s New Year message, it also highlighted achievements made in the field of carbon emissions trading, where the UK saw the world’s first auction of carbon emissions allowances in November under Phase II of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This year should see preparations for more organisations to join emissions trading activities.