FITs. Helping us generate energy or just a money making scam?

When the FITs were introduced I thought the rate was overly generous and unsustainable. A 10% return on investment would mean that anybody with a shed load of cash would get on the bandwagon, who cares if it generated any renewable energy, lets make some money!

My credentials, well read my other blogs, but yes, I bought 2.6 kilowatts worth, I paid £11,000 and had I delayed a year would have got the same for about £9,000 . Yes, I would have been financially better off by delaying my installation.

Which is why I welcomed the sharp drop in FIT rates, When the Feed in Tariffs started the standard 2kW system would cost about £12,000 or approaching £20,000 if you got scammed.  Prices have come down to as low as just over £6,000 almost half !  So, if £12K  was a great deal when FITs were 41p and index linked, why is £6K  not the same great deal with FITs at 21p !!  Actually its a slightly better deal!

To my mind the solar companies have really shot themselves in the foot. Rather than saying that low installation prices would make the drop in FITs match the return that early installers got, they said that solar panels were now unaffordable  But they are the cheapest they have ever been!  The idiots have told the public not to buy their product!

21p means the FIT scheme can be retained for far longer, it means the cost of installation can comedown and the industry retained.  At 43.3 it means the scheme must close overnight when the set amount of money has run out!

Church and charity warn on solar :http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16304817

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Electricity isn’t the only form of energy

The planned RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme is almost with us, but seems to be seriously watered down when it comes to solar water heating on domestic properties.

Where is most of domestic energy consumed? In heating!

How is most of that heat generated? By using gas or oil or coal, rarely electricity!

What do the government want us to cut down on?  Our consumption of gas and oil and coal.

Looking at hot water alone and lets say I have a choice of heating it using solar hot water or electricity. Throughout the summer I can have all my hot water heated by a solar water heater which comprises a contraption made up of glass, copper and insulating material, all relatively low tech but varying in efficiency depending on the way it is formed, perhaps solar flat plate or vacuum tube.

This solar water heater will cover between 4 and 6 square metres of my roof and provide all my hot water from , late spring to early autumn. The whole system will cost in the region of  £4,000, is reliable and relatively maintenance free.  Very little electricity is involved.

 Conversely, I could do the same job with £10,000 to £20,000 worth of solar PV, which while I might have to pay a great deal to  install, I will get paid Feed in Tariffs which will pay back the full costs in 10 years and give me a profit for another 15.  These solar PV panels are very costly to make, invariably imported from China, consume vast amounts of rare metals and are very costly in energy to manufacture.  

If the Government really wants to cut down on the use of energy, they should proactively support the installation of solar water heating, in my opinion to a greater extent than solar PV as there is a far greater carbon saving return per £ invested whether through grants or when considering the cost of the installation. 

More information on the  Renewable Heat Incentive and how it relates to Solar Water Heating can be seen here within a press release from the Solar Trades Association placed on the solaruk website. http://www.solaruk.net/news/solarenergy.asp?item=2170

The Government seem to have got hung up on electricity rather than energy.

Feed In Tariffs – More Government Hot Air

A Feed in Tariff is considered to be a special rate that is applied to electricity that is generated and or exported to the grid. ie If I generate 1unit, I am paid at a certain rate by somebody, usually my electricity supplier.

It was expected to be included in the April 2008 Budget, but Alistair Darling simply promised to investigate over the summer.  In October Milliband anounced he would be bringing in a Feed in Tariff, in November the new energy bill confirmed this, but no date, no detail, just a promise.

In Germany (Guardian: Germany sets shining example in providing a harvest for the world) there are Feed in Tariffs set by the state which is set at 4 times the market rate for electricity. This is not just for the amount exported to the grid, but for all energy generated!

By setting this beneficial rate, the amount of solar energy generated in Germany is  200 times greater than the UK. A decent payment totally transforms the economics of domestically generated renewable energy, the payback time then becomes realistic and it takes the installation and generation on from ‘trailblazers’ like me to the mainstream.

Would it make that much of a difference? Yes! With a return on investment of maybe 8% – 9%, it immediately makes sense to extend a mortgage or invest in renewables rather than saving! As to the impact to Britain’s commitment to 20% renewables by 2020, look at the rate of change of consumer goods, the spread of digital TV, or earlier the take up of satellite dishes.

Implementing Feed in Tariffs will make it practical to invest in the development and sale of more innovative microgeneration. Perhaps sterling engined heaters (Microgen).  Or cheap VAWTs (Vertical Axis Wind Turbines) for the domestic market.  These are the far more attracitive turbines that spin on a vertical axis. They are far more suited to chimney or wall mounting as the gyroscopic effect of their spinning will act to stabilise, while the traditional wind turbine places stress on the mountings, the more wind the more stress.

With Feed in Tariff’s the UK has a chance of developing a renewable energy economy.  Without? well all the statements from Govt etc are just hot air!

The Govt has now anounced (Nov 2008) that it intends to introduce Feed in Tariffs, but no timetable! I intend to do more excercise, eat better… a meaningless statement until it happens. What we have had from this Government is been nothing but promises and words. Also see:  Government urged to improve ‘feed in tariff’ scheme for renewable energy again from the Guardian, but sums it up well.

But do read the Guardian article mentioned above: it was written a year ago and still nothing has changed. Also see the FOE statement.

A suggestion. If it is so difficult to implement these Feed in Tariffs, why not simply start by stating that Microgenerated Electricity will be purchased at a rate the same as the highest tariff charged to the consumer! My exported electricity is paid for at about 8p by e.on but I pay about 30p each for the 1st 900 units! Then it dips to just over 9p.

Also please sign my petition http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Feed-in-Tariffs/