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Posts tagged with: green investment

The Chinese National Energy Administration has announced via the state run newspaper China Daily that they will be seeking to produce around 15 per cent of all the country’s energy by renewable means within the next 10 years.

China, despite being criticised for its heavily industrialised, polluting economy and images of Beijing obscured by dense smog during the 2008 Olympic Games, the government is taking proactive steps towards reducing carbon emissions with measures that would shame certain other attendees of the Copenhagen climate summit.

With the growing realisation of the fallibility on basing the huge Chinese economy on fossil fuel imports which could become untenable within the next 25 years, the Beijing government is planning to spend billions of dollars in investing in solar and wind farm sites in addition to research projects which could keep China at the cutting edge of green energy generation.

Renewable energy generation grew by 1 per cent in China in the last 12 months with the government hopeful that figures will grow from the present 9.9 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020. The Chinese government is keen to diversify its economy as well as its means of energy generation with the dual purpose of slowing the effects of climate change and making the economy more robust in the face of any potential fuel crises which could arise in the near future.

In spite of passing legislation designed to have an immediate impact on renewable energy uptake such as the feed-in tariff, a mechanism to incentivise investment in green technologies, government spokesman Zhang Guobao is realistic about the timescales involved in such projects. Speaking to China Daily, Zhang commented that,

“Power projects take a long time to be up and running, and we are basically allowing five years to complete them although it is a 10-year program, otherwise, the facilities cannot be put into use by 2020.”

Zhang added, “It appears that some local governments approved energy-guzzling projects during economic crisis so only by fully implementing our energy saving regulations can we realize economic growth with less energy consumption.”

After the long wait we finally know for sure the amount to be paid to producers of solar electricity under the clean energy cash back scheme. The result of a consultation process lasting 6 months, the initial outlook for solar energy in the UK is positive.

In comparison with the provisional figures released last year, there has been an across the board increase in the generation tariff paid per kWh for all sizes of installations. The table below shows the feed in tariff as they stand now;

Installation Size

Price paid for energy generated (p/kWh)

Lifetime

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

4kW (new build)

36.1

36.1

33

25

4KW (retrofit)

41.3

41.3

37.8

25

4-10kW

36.1

36.1

33

25

10-100kW

31.4

31.4

28.7

25

100kW-5MW

29.3

29.3

26.8

25

Stand alone systems

29.3

29.3

26.8

25

There some important new features of the arrangement;

-         The export tariff (the amount paid when energy is fed into the grid) is reduced to 3p/kWh. This will increase the motivation for generators to use the energy for themselves since retail electricity prices are normally significantly more than 3p/kWh.

-         The lifetime of the FIT is 25 years. This is in line with other feed in tariffs around Europe and increases the attractiveness of solar (compared with 20 years) as it increases the security of the investment.

-         The feed in tariffs are linked to inflation. This means payments will increase over time in absolute terms. This is something that we had been campaigning for as ‘inflation risk’ is a significant worry that we have encountered in prospective solar producers.

-         The feed in tariffs can be legally assigned to any party. This allows room for innovative leasing models that are popular in Europe and the US where the either a third party leases roof space or a home owner leases the solar panels system.

Our initial calculations show that this level of tariff should result in 7-8% annual returns for homeowners retrofitting PV systems under 4kW. This means solar will compete with the best investment funds out there for investors pounds.

For Solarfeedintariff.co.uk this announcement represents a positive move by the government. It shows that during the consultation process it has listened to voices in the solar industry (hopefully including ours) and taken note of what is happening in the rest of Europe. Germany has shown that microgeneration, in particular solar PV generation can contribute very significant amounts of the nation’s energy and that a feed-in-tariff is the best way to encourage this growth.

Claims that have recently been made in the press that solar panels are merely ‘eco-bling,’ exhibit complete ignorance of what is happening in the rest of the world. Unfortunately this is a common attitude in the UK, the last major European economy to implement a feed-in-tariff. Hopefully, now with the tariff announced, this will change. We fully expect strong growth in the UK solar industry. This is a good day for Britain and our hopes of achieving our emissions targets.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Many people have been asking us when the government will finally announce the size of the UK feed-in-tariff which is a fair question since it’s supposed to come into force next April after all. Unfortunately we’re not able to give a definitive answer, and nor are any of the people we’ve spoken to about it.

The ‘We Support Solar’ campaign has done well to generate publicity around the feed-in-tariff. Now the government has mentioned 36.5 pence per kilowatt hour as a provisional figure, asking for an increase on that of just 10p is a strong argument. Whether the government sees it that way is yet to be known however. Alan Simpson, one of the most active and vocal MPs on the subject believes that the delay in feed-in-tariff decision may be a tactical decision by Labour. For example, an announcement on the feed-in-tariff could be used to boost popularity at a key moment – perhaps even during next week’s summit in Copenhagen.

Alternatively, if both the Tories and Labour believe the feed-in-tariff to be a votes winner, there could well be a bidding war taking place behind closed doors between the two parties right now. Neither party would want to be seen as stingier than the other when it comes to creating green electricity and green jobs. This is pure speculation of course, but if it were true it would be great thing for the UK renewables industry.

The opposite could also be true however. With many households already stretched by their energy bills, the government could be looking to reduce the cost of implementing a feed-in-tariff. It is hard to see them going below the already announced 36.5 pence (it would be better to scrap the whole feed-in-tariff together), but they could be waiting for a moment when the newspapers are distracted by another issue to announce the feed-in-tariff plans.

Hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to write a reaction to a government announcement. Until then though, if you haven’t already written to your local MP asking what they personally have done to support the UK feed-in-tariff then go do it, now!

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.