Microgeneration Certificatation Scheme see the positives for smaller installers

“think positive”

The MCS scheme community responded more positively than others in the solar industry, to the weeks earlier news of the feed-in tariff cuts.

In particular, the MCS community see’s the cuts as an opportunity for smaller solar installers to gain business as larger ‘free-installation’ companies cut back on investment and installations.

They also reckon falling installation costs – one of the reasons cited by the Government for feeling able to reduce the tariffs without damaging the number of installations to greatly – will open up the technology to more homeowners on a paid installation basis as opposed to those who were only able, previously, to consider a free installation contract.

The Green Deal will also stimulate solar installations when it starts next year and the Renewable Heat Incentives have also just been given the go-ahead, having cleared a European hurdle earlier this week.

Sounds like plenty of work for everyone doesn’t it?

photo credit: sh4rp_i

*To find your nearest MCS accredited solar installer, use Solar Panel Quoter.co.uk.

Unavoidable tariff cuts will affect poorest claim renewables industry

The newspapers have been full of little else yesterday – the shockwaves of Monday’s Government announcement on the Feed-in Tariff cuts of around 50%, which will come into force from 12th December this year.

Whilst the Government have already explained that the cuts were unavoidable, in order to safeguard the future of some form of tariff system for micro-generators of renewable energy, the solar industry have responded with shock and dire warnings of the cuts affecting the poorest most.

I particular, community projects look the most likely to be scrapped. Such schemes were originally designed to help the most vulnerable escape fuel poverty. What now for those most at risk?

The solar industry is also concerned, and rightly so, that the latest cuts don’t send a very confident message to the wider business community on Britain’s renewables intentions.

They’re also concerned for the business future of those solar installation companies that may loose work and the thousands employed in this fledgeling industry.

In a separate row, there’s speculation that the target date of 12th December for the new tariffs to come into force, could be moved as the date is actually 11 days prior to the tariff consultations end.

It’s remarkable that in all the reports I’ve read so far, very little seems to have been made of the fact that the new tariff rate, due to come into force on the 12th December 2011, could very well be reduced again when the proper tariff review date of April 2012 comes around.

The Minister for Energy in his statement on Monday stated that customers on the new tariff are only guaranteed that rate until the revisal of all tariffs in April 2012. December’s reduction is in effect a temporary reduction to protect the tariff ‘pot’ from premature depletion, ahead of April 2012’s review.

photo credit: rev stan

Government’s feed-in tariff cuts – SPECIAL REPORT

Over the weekend, stories regarding a Government’s decision to amend the feed-in tariff payments circulated.
Figures were suggesting the current tariffs, for new installers, would be reduced to 20p from the current 43p per kilowatt hour. What really caught the headlines was the fact that the Government were going to reduce the tariff’s as early as this December, rather than the previously thought revisal date of next April.
The 20p rate (if it’s true) is still 50% better than the 9p rate some solar industry insiders were suggesting may happen.
The reductions stem from the fact that the Government has been over-whelmed by the take up of the tariff scheme by homeowners and commercial enterprises since April 2010 when they were launched.
The resulting over-subscription (against original forecasts) has left the Government with the problem of funding the tariffs at their present rates for new installers and it was already warning that it might have to dip into next years set aside funds to continue funding this years installers.
Now (Monday 31st Oct), we have the official figures from the Department of Energy & Climate Change:
From December 12th 2011, the tariff payment will reduce to 21p/kWh for solar photovoltaic systems of up to 4kW (currently 43.3p per kWh). Tariff reductions for systems between 4kW and 250kW have also been proposed, having already been reduced earlier in the year.
The Government believes that the continued falling costs in solar installation, quoting a fall from £13,000 to £9,000 for an average system since the tariffs began, mean that homeowners should still see a decent rate of return on their investment, quoting figures of around 5% return.
In a statement by Energy Minister Greg Barker, it cited that to be able to sustain the feed-in tariff payments, the reductions are necessary. During September alone, there were 16,000 new qualifying FiT solar installations – double the number of June and three times the anticipated number of installations.
The 12th December date tariff change will apply to all new solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or after 12th December 2011. These installations will move to whatever the new tariff is when announced in the scheduled FiT review in April 2012.
Installations already earning the present tariff will remain unaffected by the reductions.
The Government has also hinted that after April 2012, there might be extra qualifying criteria for home’s wishing to claim the FiT’s. These are likely to be centred around the energy efficiency of individual properties.
The return on investment might take a little longer, but solar PV installations should still be given careful consideration if  you’re thinking about reducing your current energy bills. No one doubts that energy bills are going to continue to rise and with the Government’s predicted return rates of around 5%, that’s still pretty good compared to what savers are getting at the moment.
And don’t forget, installations for comparable sized systems are falling – some by as much as 30% since the tariffs inception and the likelihood of extra qualifying criteria could mean more initial expense on projects like loft and wall insulation, to qualify after April 2012. We’ll have to wait and see of course exactly what the criteria changes will be.
The biggest losers may well be community projects that were involved in free installations, since the firms investing won’t get such a quick return.
Solar Panel Quoter can find you the best 3 companies in your area, based on quality, price and homeowner feedback, and with the pressure now on installers to reduce their prices, can help you make an informed decision about installing solar panels on you home.
If you are thinking of going ahead with solar – then any delay could be costly.
You can read the full Government announcement here.
photo credit: lollyknit

Rent-a-roof schemes frustration at banks

‘just browsing’

Browsing around for any word on what the feed-in tariff’s for new applicants might be reduced by, when the Government announces its report later this month, I came across this story of rent-a-roof schemes struggling to get ‘signed off’ by the banks, despite massive interest by housing associations and landlords.

Inside Housing reports that although deals have been agreed, many have not yet gone ahead due to possible banks being over cautious.

Understandably, those organisations and businesses are now eager to get their agreements underway before tariff cuts (due next April) for new installers, take effect.

The fear is if the April deadline is not met, then many schemes may not go ahead.

Read more here.

photo credit: jason

Australia – Solar electricity as cheap as grid electricity

ABC News in Australia reports that the Photovoltaic Association reckons solar electricity is now as cheap as ‘grid’ electricity, produced by fossil fuel means.

And it gets even better as Association spokesperson Muriel Watt reveals that the figures don’t include the cost of transmitting/transporting the grid energy to where it’s needed. Solar energy is usually used at source.

The achievement of equal price comparison is referred to as grid parity.

And it can only get better value as the costs of fossil fuel derived energy is expected to continue growing, much like the recent energy price rises in the UK.

It’s another excellent argument for installing solar panels now, whilst the UK Government’s tariff’s are at their highest.

Lower production costs coupled with greater generating capacity, could see a larger reduction in the tariff’s than was originally planned, so the time to act is definitely now.

photo credit: maxwell hamilton

FiT reductions clobber community solar projects

Governments seem very good at keeping promises where reductions are concerned and so, as we’d been promised, the review of large scale renewables tariff payments was announced last week.

It should be stressed that homeowners, installing a typical solar array on their home will be unaffected by the latest changes.

So what’s been affected? Basically, any photovoltaic solar installation of over 50kw will be on a new reduced tariff from the beginning of August:

Photovoltaic solar installations between 50kw and 150kw of capacity will get 19p per kilowatt produced – that’s down from 32.9p per kilowatt.

Larger installations (up to 250kw) will get just 15p per kilowatt produced and installations of between 250kw and 5mw capacity will get just 8.5p per kw. That’s down from 30.7p paid previously.

Whilst Ministers have said they’re acting to preserve the ‘pot of money’ used to make tariff payments to homeowners and so encourage the domestic take up of renewable energy, their opponents reckon that reducing tariffs on large scale projects including many community projects, will affect more people in the long run, reducing the number of people making us of renewable energy.

Opponents to the cuts, coming only a year after the tariffs were introduced, claim that more damage will be done to the fledgling economy of renewables – production and installation, whilst sending out a confusing message to homeowners – the very people the cuts have been designed to protect – about the potential for future cuts to ‘domestic’ tariff rates.

The last year has seen over 30,000 solar installations, compared with just a few hundred in the previous year.

photo credit: angus fraser

Could Government re-think on commercial tariffs really jeopardise Cornwall’s £1 Billion investment?

Business Cornwall reported last week on how the Cornish Council has officially expressed its concern over proposed cuts by the Government to solar feed-in tariffs for large scale schemes.

The Council took the opportunity to highlight the many positive effects on the local economy, not to mention the reductions in carbon, that such large scale plants could bring.

In total, Cornwall Council reckons it could loose out by over £1 billion in technology investment as a result of the tariff reductions for schemes over 50Kw.

Read the full report on Business Cornwall by clicking here.

photo credit: benjamin v steen

Solar power production triples as more homeowners install solar panels

The Guardian reported some very encouraging figures earlier this week.

Apparently, over 11,000 people, made up of mostly homeowners, installed solar panels during the first 3 months of 2011.

Experts believe the lure of feed-in tariffs has driven the demand, coupled with the fact that more and more people are able to share their experience of solar energy with envious friends and neighbours.

The total amount of installed solar power in the UK has risen by over 50MW since the tariff scheme started. The number of installations currently enjoying the tariff’s is 28,505.

Experts predict that eventually, feed-in tariffs will reduce for new subscribers, however, they claim that cheaper manufacture and installation costs should offset any loss on investment to homeowners.

Why not get in now while the tariffs are at their original high levels? Click here to get your free, no obligation instant online solar panel installation quote.

photo credit: sarah

Cornish Farmers are not happy bunnies

A report in the Guardian last week claims that the Government is about to make a major u-turn on solar feed-in tariffs for anything larger than a typical domestic installation.

Farmers, community groups and investors as well as the solar industry itself have reacted strongly to the news with some claiming they’ve been ‘stuffed’.

The problem seems to have come from so called ‘Brown sites’ springing up, particularly in the South-West with investors moving in, developing large scale solar farms and getting an excellent return on their investment due to the feed-in tariffs paid.

The Government, worried that large scale installations would cause the allocated ‘money pot’ for tariff payments to run down to quickly have acted by announcing a review of tariffs paid to installations over a certain size.

Ministers maintain that the tariffs were only ever to encourage homeowners to make their homes more carbon neutral, and encourage installations by giving homeowners the opportunity to recoup their savings or pay back loans on monies invested in fitting the panels.

The UK’s housing stock, at present, is a major concern for the Government in reaching it’s carbon reduction targets, given the general age and condition of much of the current housing.

The Guardian believes the cap will be on installations over 50kW capacity – enough to cover more than 15 domestic roofs, which means even barn roof installations could be in jeopardy.

photo credit: gareth rogers

Should I wait for the Government review before installing solar panels?

There’s been a lot of headlines, and we’ve posted our own articles, on the Government’s decision to review feed-in tariffs with regards larger scale installations.

This has come in the wake of fears that investors are cashing in on the lucrative tariff payments by backing large scale installations on brown field sites, particularly in the South of England.

Understandably, homeowners get nervous at the thought of tariffs being reduced – will they continue and is it still worth installing photovoltaic solar energy?

As we understand it, the present tariff’s (for homeowners) will still be reviewed in 2012. Any reduction to the feed-in tariff being paid to installations already created and claiming, cannot legally be reduced.

So if you’ve already got your solar panel installation in place and are claiming the feed in tariff, then it will take a lot of bureaucracy to reduce the amount you get paid.

The same is true for those considering a solar panel installation – getting in now before any review of rates or tariffs is probably the best course of action.

This March will see a Government review on larger scale installations – it’s not expected to affect homeowners.

Homeowners still worried about a potential for reducing tariff rates would do well to look at other countries which have all had to reduce their tariffs due to over-subscription. Countries like Germany, Italy and Spain.

Whilst the rates for new subscribers were reduced, existing installations (to our knowledge) were un-affected.

photo credit: chris connelly