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Solar powers ahead

February 9, 2010
photovoltaic panels on a roof

A bright outlook: solar photovoltaic panels on a roof in Sussex

It could be because the Government has come to realise that it needs to support renewable energy technologies if it’s to meet its carbon emissions target (and its obligation for renewable sources to provide 20% of the UK’s energy by 2020). 

It could be because homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their contribution to climate change, and can also see that energy from fossil fuels is becoming ever pricier and that energy efficiency measures will add value to their homes.

Whatever the prime driver, it’s all beginning to come together for solar photovoltaics and solar hot water in 2010.

Exhibit one: at the end of 2009 the Government introduced its Boiler Scrappage Scheme.   The boiler and central heating system in an average home account for about 60% of the building’s carbon emissions, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that householders with inefficient G-rated boilers are being encouraged to upgrade to a new appliance.  They can register with the Energy Saving Trust (EST), use an approved installer to fit a modern A-rated boiler, and receive a voucher for £400 towards the costs.  The money can also be spent on a renewable heating system – such as solar thermal.

Exhibit two: on 1st February the Government revealed the finalised details of its new Feed-in Tariff.  This provides a great incentive for homeowners to invest in microgeneration. 

The rates for photovoltaics had been criticised as being too low, but the revised rates bring across-the-board increases for all sizes of PV installations.  The rate for ‘retrofit’ installations of less than 4 kW will be 41.3p/kWh compared with the 36.5p/kWh originally proposed.

At the same time the Government announced the start of its consultation period on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which could do for solar thermal what the Feed-in Tariff will do for solar photovoltaics.  Due to start in April 2011, it will guarantee long-term payments for installers of solar thermal and certain other renewable technologies.

One blot remains on this particular landscape in that the rate of return for solar thermal is not going to be as much as that planned for the other renewable heat energy sources.  Yet solar thermal is considered the most cost-effective renewable technology currently available, and a proven one too (as over 100,000 system owners in the UK can confirm).   

Exhibit three: on a smaller scale, around 500 homes across England taking part in a DECC-funded pilot project to try out ways of funding whole house makeovers.  Householders taking part in this ‘Pay As You Save’ initiative will be given the chance to invest in energy efficiency and microgeneration without having to pay upfront.  The repayments will be made over a long period of time and will be lower than their predicted energy bill savings.

All this indicates Government commitment, which of course doesn’t automatically translate itself into actual growth (it was apparently a supporter of wind power, but look what happened to the Vestas turbine factory on the Isle of Wight last year).  But the vibes on the ground are looking good.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 3, 2010 2:48 pm

    Great info!

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