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Green party promises best finance scheme for microgeneration

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 November 2009 at 11:59 am

Proper insulation for every home and interest-free loans for domestic renewable energy are just some of the policies promised by the Green party if they win the next election. While it would be expensive, says Paula Black, Totnes councillor, and prospective Green Party parliamentary candidate for Exeter, it won't be nearly as costly as not doing anything.

This was just one of the responses politicians gave to a question I asked at last week's Environment Question Time event organised by the the Devon Association of Renewable Energy. Given that the Feed-in Tariff still requires considerable upfront capital cost, which will be too much for most people, I asked the panel what forms of financial support their parties would offer. The answers demonstrated a significant difference between them.

The higher returns that people are going to get through the feed-in tariff will be enough to stimulate demand, according to Labour candidate Mark Cann. He added that "income is already subsidised in the sense that there is no tax on that income, so there is an opportunity there for people who want to invest in this technology. I think there is sufficient return from the rate that's been guaranteed for people to take advantage of this technology."

Like Labour, the Tories will also rely on the market to provide. "The issue is at what level the feed-in tariffs are set," said Matthew Groves, the parliamentary candidate for Plymouth. "We would be looking for the private sector to finance those loans, and hope the FiT rate will be set at a level which it will be attractive for private sector loans."

UKIP is "extremely in favour of encouraging microgeneration technologies" and "could consider something along the lines of the student loan scheme with long term loans" according to Stephen Crowther.

Nick Harvey's train was delayed, so the Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon arrived too late to answer the question on the night. But he emailed me his answer after the event: "The solutions we propose are an accessible source of funds to help households make a capital investment, allowing households to benefit from the feed-in tariff's introduction. The 25-year payback period would be made more effective by itemising funding costs and linking them to the energy bill, passed on with the sale of the property between one owner and the next. ... Further reviews of planning regulations and a more effective grant system for micro-generation installations would help to increase the take-up of renewable energy, which would eventually bring the cost down."

Planning is obviously a bugbear for the MP, as asked later in the evening about joined-up thinking in government Nick Harvey had a wonderful rant which will resonate with everyone living in a conservation area. "People in north Devon who live in conservation areas are typically told by our planning authority that they cannot have double glazing. This is completely dotty. Incomes are not high in our area. People who have spent what little they can muster on double glazing, find that along come the planners and tell them to take it out again and install single glazing. It really is extraordinary that they can think like this. I know architectural heritage is important, but some of the designs are much improved."

Well said, that man!

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