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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.”

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 solarfeedintariff.co.uk

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 solarfeedintariff.co.uk 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.

Solarfeedintariff.co.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.

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.

The Energy Savings Trust has released a report that the installation of solar panels on residential properties would significantly increase the price that house buyers would be willing to pay for those properties. With the government’s announcement that the clean energy cash back scheme will be introduced in April 2010, a great deal of interest has been stirred in the viability of solar power and will undoubtedly see an increase in the uptake of photovoltaic (PV) equipment .

The clean energy cash back scheme, essentially a feed-in tariff will offer homeowners with solar kits premium rates for surplus energy which they feed back in to the national grid. The legislation will oblige the energy companies to purchase the renewable energy units at inflated prices, the costs of which will be spread across the consumers.

The survey found that out of a total of 2,700 people who were questioned, over half answered that they would be interested in looking into whether solar panels would be suitable for their homes. Similarly, a third responded that they would be willing to pay more for a house with a solar installation. These findings would suggest that despite the initial costs of installing solar panels, the cash back scheme along with the fact that they will add value to your property will go to add financial viability to a renewable energy option which, in the past has been considered too expensive to consider.

Regarding the findings, Chief Executive of the Energy Savings Trust, Philip Sellwood stated,

“It seems Britons are willing to pay more for a home with a renewable energy source so investing in a solar panel or a wind turbine could add to the resale value of a property and be as attractive to house hunters as a new kitchen or solid wood floors”.

While high costs still remain a barrier to renewable installations, the government legislation which will be implemented in 6 months will enable homeowners to cash in on their investments in the long term.