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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Cuts in Feed In Tariff's

There is considerable irritation within the UK renewables sector at the moment concerning cuts in government support for the Feed-in Tariff's Scheme (FiTS) following a review by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The cuts will entail a large reduction in the FiTS rates for systems over 50 kilowatts (kW) with those over 250 kW receiving a mere 8.5 pence per kilowatt hour (kWH). These cuts constitute a 70 percent reduction in the rates of return from FiTS and have been received as representing a significant threat to the industry with much of the medium to large scale solar industry facing an uncertain future.

Ben Warren, head of renewable energy at Ernst & Young, has been quoted as saying that: "Revisiting the feed-in tariff at such an early stage of its existence has undermined investor confidence not only in the UK solar industry, but potentially in the wider UK renewables market."

However, the Solar Trade Association in association with Ernst & Young have recently released a report claiming that a slight increase in the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) rate for installations larger than 50kW could bring about a return on investment sufficient to attract financial support and that therefore these cuts could have been avoided. The UK Solar PV Industry Outlook Report also calculates that if silicon prices continue to decline to around 17 percent, it is possible that the UK solar sector could see grid-parity with fossil fuels by 2017.

The STA is calling for informed decision making based on a thorough and accurate analysis of the potential and role for solar in the UK. The STA argues that Government policy must be based on up-to-date cost inputs, full assessment of benefits, and full consideration of strategic and practical arguments.


Low Carbon Economy

Solar Power Portal

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bristol's Green Capital Plans

Last week I went to a Green Leadership conference organised, in part, by my good friend David Saunders who is right in the drivers seat with regards to green issues and renewable energy in the city. It was certainly an inspiring event I can tell you.

But of course, David wasn't the only inspiring personage to appear at this event. The beauty of these things is that such events draw lots of people together, each with a whole set of very good ideas and eager to join in and help build a green future.

For those who don't live in Bristol, I can tell you that this city is vibrant and exciting, particularly with regard to the renewable energy and sustainability sectors which are rapidly becoming major growth industries in the region. Furthermore, in 2008 Bristol was the only UK city to be shortlisted for the European Green Capital Award, a scheme which recognises and rewards those cities making efforts to improve their local environment, economy and quality of life for urban populations. We narrowly missed winning the award for Green Capital City 2013, but we're having another go this year, hoping to win the 2014 prize. And that means there's lots of exciting things going on in the city, as usual.

The Green Leadership conference is essentially a successor to last year's Zero Carbon Bristol event and I personally found the conference to be very productive and truly inspirational in terms of the commitment and breadth of ideas and imagination displayed by those who attended.

In the forefront of this, as to be expected, is Bristol City Council. The first speaker therefore was council leader Barbara Janke who explained to the audience what the council is doing for sustainainability in the city. Her talk included lots of interesting references to smart meters, smart grids, wind turbines, a neighbourhood governance scheme intended to try and motivate Bristol's populace into making their lives greener and so on. It seems that the council is involved in some £23 million worth of sustainability projects, so that's not too bad really is it?.

Furthermore, David revealed later on in the day that the council is also planning 30 percent tree cover in the city and a level of 40 percent of Bristol's energy to be drawn from renewable energy sources. Another speaker from Bristol City Council, Marika, told the audience that two more wind turbines are planned and that the council are about to modernise the city's entire street lighting. I've read about this elsewhere and it appears that this particular project involves reverting back to white, as opposed to orange, lighting, as its more sustainable.

Bristol University are getting in on the act too. At least two departments are working towards a 50 percent sourcing of energy supplies from solar PV.

The Bristol Power Co-operative are working towards a solar allotment idea based on shared roofs. This would be great for those who are least available to afford solar power and would be a real solution to those who routinely suffer from energy poverty, particularly the elderly. The co-operative wants to run this programme through community centres so that entire streets can be switched over to solar PV at a stretch. Furthermore, it seems that some local companies are already interested, including AS Solar and Triodos Bank.

Clean Slate is an organisation that works with low-skilled people including ex-offenders, one idea being that they could be re-trained to become solar power installers. I certainly think there is going to be a demand for this as the green revolution speeds up and its also a great way of helping the local economy and assisting those who, for various reasons, haven't been able to help themselves.

There are many more organisations in Bristol actively helping the city to become a greener city. Low Carbon South West for example are actively involved and Transition Bristol are looking at ways in which Bristol's food supplies can become more localised, thereby helping to guard against climate change and the effects of oil depletion on transportation.

But there are many more smaller and less obvious groups within and around the city too. So when it comes to environmental matters, Bristol is certainly helping to lead the way.

Solar Power for Social Housing

I've recently had the good fortune to start working with a company called ePV helping to write their marketing materials.

ePV is a company that operates as a funder, developer and EPC. That stands for 'Engineering, Procurement and Construction' by the way. They work within the solar PV sector specifically in partnership with UK social housing, funding and delivering large scale solar PV programmes across housing association and local authority social housing stocks. This works by way of the government's Feed-in Tariff scheme (FiTS) which was launched by the government in 2010 as a means of encouraging investment in domestic renewable energy, primarily solar power.

As many will know by now, FiTS operates on the 'rent-a-roof' principle. The householder essentially gets paid for supplying energy to the national grid. The solar PV panels generate electricity, some or most of which provides energy for lights, appliances etc, but excess electricity is then exported to the national grid.

Recently some large installers have started to take advantage of this by using the scheme as a means of providing solar PV to those who are least able to afford it. This means that the panels are provided and installed at low cost or free of charge. The householder enjoys reduced electricity bills but the FiTS payment is paid to the installer as a payment for the installation of the panels. The model is ideally suited to PV provision in social housing, which is where companies such as PV comes in.

I'll be putting a link to the ePV website when it's up and running, which should be very shortly as I've just submitted some of the content for it.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Solar energy articles

I've just completed a series of three articles for, a really good website which has masses of information on solar energy and solar panels, to which I've just contributed I might add. The first article (links above) explores the subject of whether you should accept the various offers of free and low-cost solar panels offered by some solar panel installers or whether you should buy your own. The more favourable option seems to be that of buying your own as there is much more money to be made through the government's Feed-In Tariff's scheme.

The second article is more general, looking at the pro's and con's of installing solar panels. It's a very good idea, especially considering the savings to be made in the long term, but there are some things to be aware of.

Finally, a much more useful general article covering the do's and don't's of installing panels, as well as a short guide to how solar panels work and some useful links.

Energy & Environment Dates 2012