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Posts tagged with: renewable energy

The comprehensive spending review of October 20th could have spelt a disaster for the UK solar industry if they had instantaneously cut the feed-in tariff.  Thankfully no such cut was made and the industry can continue on as before, at least for now.  All feed-in tariffs are designed be decreased on a regular basis.  This is so that the return on investment from a given renewable energy technology stays the same over time.  The great thing about feed-in tariffs is that they decrease and decrease until they reach the same value as retail electricity prices, at which point you’re at grid parity and you don’t need the feed-in tariff anymore.  Its hard to predict exactly when this will happen but in the case of UK solar PV, costs decrease very rapidly and I think that in 5 years time grid parity will be very close.

Currently the UK feed-in tariff is not set to be reviewed until April 2012, with changes possibly not coming in until 2013.  In most feed-in tariff markets, the tariff decreases annually, so not changing our feed-in tariff for two whole years is too long in my opinion.  The feed-in tariff at today’s PV prices provides a fantastic return on investment. 9-12% annual return for 25 years beats nearly everything you could get in an ISA or other savings product.  In two years time, with another two years of cost reduction, the investment return could be significantly higher than it is now.  Frankly, as someone who works in the solar industry, I say that this would be a bad thing.  What the industry needs to see is steady year on year growth, not a boom and bust.  The tariff is fine where it is for now, but soon it needs to be decreased to ensure the returns don’t get too high.  The returns are high enough to trigger major growth in the industry, if they are too high then we will see more and more people pile into the market in a way that is unsustainable.  The tariff would then have to be cut very significantly to control the market, which would lead to a massive drop-off.

It is very important that the industry has visibility on what will happen to feed-in tariffs so businesses can plan ahead.  To solve this Germany have announced what will happen to the feed-in tariff based on the results of the previous year. That means that if the market reaches a certain size, the egression the following year will be larger and vice-versa. The details of this are published so that everyone can see what the degression rates could be – we need this level of visibility in the UK.

Another big problem with feed-in tariffs is that they cause a surge of installations in the run-up to a feed-in tariff degression – which is not particularly healthy.  What would be best is to decrease the feed-in tariff little and often, so there are no sudden jolts to the industry.  Italy has just introduced quarterly feed-in tariff degression i.e. decreasing the feed-in tariff every 3 months instead of once a year.  I think this is a great idea.  As long as the degression each quarter is small and planned ahead, the industry will be able to continue to grow steadily without the need for big every year or every two years.  France on the other hand are considering an annual cap to the PV market.  This is absolutely terrible for the industry as it limits everybody’s growth and will cause redundancies across the industry in France if it goes ahead.

So now we are back on our feet in the UK, lets think about how to create a stable solar industry going forward by decreasing the FiT in a sensible way.  It could be that we follow the Italians lead on this one.

News of spending cutbacks have made depressing reading over the last six months as the government is seeking to rein in spending as a way of controlling spiraling national debt. Health, education, policing and defence have of course been at the forefront of controversy regarding spending reviews and the inevitable consequences which arise as a side effect. Now it is unfortunately renewable energy’s turn to feel the squeeze as some call for cut backs in green energy incentives.

At a time when all members of the coalition government are bemoaning cupboards barer than those of Old mother Hubbard it is perhaps not particularly surprising that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has been urged to safeguard investments in British renewable energy.

The feed-in tariff which was introduced back in April works by offering guaranteed, premium rates for energy produced by small scale renewable generators. While Huhne has come out and said that, “There is no money left”, he has at least until now talked a good game about supporting green energy in this country. Feed-in tariffs have been absolutely crucial in solar pv taking off in the UK and the future success of UK solar undoubtedly relies on the existence of a strong tariff scheme.

Fearing cutbacks which would cause irreversible harm to burgeoning UK renewable energy businesses, Friends of the Earth (FOE) have carried out their own report designed to show that maintaining and encouraging a strong renewable energy industry has distinct advantages for the struggling e News of spending cutbacks have made depressing reading over the last six months as the government is seeking to rein in spending as a way of controlling spiraling national debt. Health, education, policing and defence have of course been at the forefront of controversy regarding spending reviews and the inevitable consequences which arise as a side effect. Now it is unfortunately renewable energy’s turn to feel the squeeze as some call for cut backs in green energy incentives.

At a time when all members of the coalition government are bemoaning cupboards barer than those of Old mother Hubbard it is perhaps not particularly surprising that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has been urged to safeguard investments in British renewable energy.

The feed-in tariff which was introduced back in April works by offering guaranteed, premium rates for energy produced by small scale renewable generators. While Huhne has come out and said that, “There is no money left”, he has at least until now talked a good game about supporting green energy in this country. Feed-in tariffs have been absolutely crucial in solar pv taking off in the UK and the future success of UK solar undoubtedly relies on the existence of a strong tariff scheme.

Fearing cutbacks which would cause irreversible harm to burgeoning UK renewable energy businesses, Friends of the Earth (FOE) have carried out their own report designed to show that maintaining and encouraging a strong renewable energy industry has distinct advantages for the struggling economy.

Campaign director for FOE, Craig Bennett said,

“It’s absurd that the Treasury is even reviewing FIT payments because the scheme isn’t financed by taxpayers, and there is already a planned review in two years time. Huhne must stand firm and allow councils, communities and businesses to benefit from green energy revolution.”

The real benefits of feed-in tariffs will be put into perspective in a couple of years when we are able to retrospectively assess the growth of UK renewable investment and uptake compared with our European counterparts. While there are some who may argue that a cash strapped government could better spend its money elsewhere, it is hard to deny that a strong green energy industry would be a vital both for revitalising the economy and helping homeowners make savings on utility bills.

Following their announcement that they would be giving away free solar installations to households across the UK, it is perhaps unsurprising that energy firm, Homesun have received an unprecedented level of inquiries.

The offer will include both a technical survey to ensure that the property is suitable for solar panel installation and of course the actual installation, taking away the initial start up costs which often act as a deterrent to potential renewable installers.

100,000 systems will be given away to homeowners with south-facing roofs meeting the requirements of the survey, allowing them to enjoy all of the benefits of a solar panel system without having to outlay all of the initial costs associated with solar technology.

Solar panels could save homeowners up to 40 per cent on their electricity bills with estimates that a typical 3 bedroom semi could save up to £250 a year, with the added benefit that homes with solar panels installed fetch a higher price on the market than comparative properties without. A spokeswoman for Homesun commented,

“There’s real excitement about what we are doing. This just goes to show the latent demand for solar amongst the British public, they just needed to find a way to access it. Solar now makes perfect sense. I am proud HomeSun is leading the charge to take solar mainstream.”

Homesun have already announced that since the release of their offer, they have received 7,000 calls and have had 10,000 people log onto the Homesun website. Talking about the unprecedented level of interest, Chief Executive of Homesun David Green said,

“The phones have been absolutely mental and it’s put huge pressure on our website. We were not anticipating such enormous demand. It’s clear that for the first time, we have allowed renewable energy for residents to break through.”

Homesun’s offer has been made possible by the introduction of feed-in tariffs, government legislation introduced in April 2010 devised to increase the take up of renewable energy generation. The tariff works by offering premium, guaranteed rates for both the energy used and the units of energy fed-into the national grid from the renewable systems.

Homesun will therefore be able to recoup their initial investment and subsequently make a healthy profit on each installation. Homeowners will be given the opportunity to buy the tariff contracts from Homesun in the future but it is more likely that most will simply opt to make savings on their bills.

With offers such as Homesun’s making an impact in the media and the building of consciousness about the feed-in tariff, it is very likely that before long the market will be jam packed by suppliers offering very similar solutions

Greece has recently gone through the greatest financial crisis to affect a member of the Eurozone since the introduction of the single currency ten years ago. With raging unemployment exacerbated by huge cut-backs in public sector spending, the Athens government spent the first quarter of 2010 faced by riots in the streets, a result of the financial crisis which is hitting the Greeks harder than anybody.

However, plans are afoot to revitalise the stricken Greek economy with the announcement yesterday that 12 billion euros will be invested in green projects in an attempt to create jobs in new renewable industries. In a press release issued by the Greek government, Tina Birbili the Environment Minister said,

“The ministry hopes the programme will decisively contribute to face recession and lead to dynamic economic growth”

Birbili believes that renewable projects could attract around 32 billion euros of investment from around the world creating up to 192,000 jobs. This will at least come as a glimpse of light in a country where unemployment is steadily on the rise and national debt is at an all time high. The EU bailout, funded largely by Germany expires in 2 years, by which point Greece will be hoping that the economy is back on track.

Both Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have been keen exponents of renewable energy as a means of kick-starting the struggling economies of the UK and US respectively. Sound bites such as ‘Green New Deal’ have regularly appeared in the press both sides of the Atlantic in a reference to the government projects of the 1930’s designed to boost recovery after the Great depression. It seems that Greece is going to follow this lead with a number of projects now in the pipeline.

Certainly, with Greece already falling behind other southern European countries with regards to its renewable energy uptake, the investment could provide the vital impetus needed to get the renewable energy industry in Greece on its feet. With targets of generating 40 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, they have their work cut out.