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Solar thermal wins Gordon Brown’s vote

May 4, 2010

Just days before the Solar Trade Association (STA) published its response to the Government’s consultation on the Renewable Heat Incentive – the tariff scheme set to drive forward uptake of solar thermal systems in the UK – Gordon Brown came out as a fan of the solar thermal panel.

During the second live TV leaders’ debate, the Labour leader revealed that he has had solar hot water panels installed at his North Queensferry home.  He suggested that even in cold and windy Scotland, where a wind turbine might seem the most obvious choice of renewable technology, solar panels have proved the low-carbon answer to the Brown family hot water requirements – and he would recommend that we, the watching electorate, have them too if we can.

Of course, here at SolarUK we are not endorsing any particular party ahead of Thursday’s collective trip to the polling booth, but are merely pleased that the country’s most senior public figure has endorsed the logic of having solar thermal  panels.  As a former Chancellor with an acknowledged head for figures, he would not, one imagines, have panels on his own residence if the economic arguments, or sums,  didn’t make sense to him.

If he had his panels installed after 15th July 2009 he should profit from the Renewable Heat Incentive, which kicks off in April 2011.  He will be paid for the heat he produces, with a 6% rate of return.

On both these points the STA has cause for concern (on the general principles, naturally – not Gordon Brown’s specific case), stating in its consultation response that those who helped to establish the market for solar thermal, installing their systems prior to 15th July, should have a share of the benefits of RHI.  As for the rate of return, it is seen as low compared to that set to be received by households with other renewable heat technologies such as biomass. 

The STA recognises that the RHI is still in a relatively early phase of its development, and pledges to work closely with the Government to push the scheme forward over the next twelve months.   Gordon Brown may or may not be leading that Government: we’ll leave speculation to the politics blogs.

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