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Feed-in tariff scheme is shortsighted

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 February 2010 at 12:46 pm

A last, we've got our foot firmly on the road to making renewable energy part of the UK's energy mix.

Yes, the Feed-in Tariff rates could be higher. The government's goals for microgeneration could have been more ambitious. But the rates are probably attractive enough, especially in the current economic climate with such low rates of interest, to stimulate demand in the domestic market.

There is, however, one constituency that has been badly served by the final Clean Energy Cashback scheme.

My inbox has been filled with messages from disappointed, and often angry, early adopters of solar panels and wind turbines. These are the people who led the way, struggling with planners and with the Renewables Obligation - a system designed for energy companies not microgenerators.

They are the people whose persistence and enthusiasm can inspire others and help them tread an easier path. They are the ambassadors whose stories can help encourage more people to invest in what is still a new and expensive technology. They can debunk some of the misinformation that litters many internet forums.


Yet many of them are so angry at the cut in income the Feed-in Tariff deals them that they are talking of decommissioning their systems. One correspondent has calculated that payback on his 2.4kWp solar installation, which would have been 17.6 years under ROCs (with Scottish and Southern), has extended to 23 years.

New installations would pay back in 10 years or less. While I understand DECC's argument that these people have already invested, so don't need incentivising, I think it's short-sighted - and downright immoral to leave them worse off.

But this is what they've done. All existing microgenerators that were signed up with Scottish and Southern, Good Energy and Npower will be worse off as a result of the government's financial incentive.

I see that Good Energy is continuing with its 15p generation rate for its customers for a year and wait with interest to see whether any other energy companies try to attract the early adopters with premium export or generation rates. But, even if they do, giving a 9p rate to the pioneer microgenerators, when new installations are getting up to 41.3p, still seems like short term penny-pinching.

My other concern about the take up of the Clean Energy Cashback at domestic level is the lack of good loan or pay as you save schemes. While the government's pilot PAYS scheme is welcome, it is too little, too slow.

With just 500 households trialling it by April 2011, we'll be through the first two years of FiTs before the lessons have been learned and schemes are generally available. I wait with interest to see if the market really will provide.

This article was originally published in New Energy Focus


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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6 comments - read them below or add one

Silverford Renewables

Silverford RenewablesComment left on: 2 May 2010 at 8:30 pm

In Northern Ireland, we are still on ROC's....from the 1st of April you get 4 rocs per Mw generated (£165), still a long way behind FIT (£267) per Mw, for turbines under 15kw....hoping things may change!


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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 1 April 2010 at 8:15 am

Hi John

It's not possible to decommission and recommission your PV system, as the feed-in tariff is only available on new installations, not on refurbished or second-hand systems, which yours would be categorised as.

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John Smith

John SmithComment left on: 31 March 2010 at 11:47 am

Being an early adopter of pv I am due to have my return cut by 23%. What needs to be done to decommission and then recommission my installation so as to attract the better rate? The present system sets an appalling example for future initiatives. You'd think that election time would not be a good time to ditch the public.

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Jenny Vaughan

Jenny VaughanComment left on: 12 February 2010 at 8:43 pm

Thanks Cathy, my solar supplier thought it meant we might get the new rate but I see what you are saying. Can you let us all know what the DECC say? This remains very unfair!

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 11 February 2010 at 11:41 am

My understanding of this is that people who installed their system before 15 July 2009 and didn't register under the Renewable Obligation aren't eligible for any rate of feed in tariff at all, unless they register before the end of March 2010. 

If they register by that date, then they will be eligible to receive FiTs at the 'existing generator' rate of 9p per kW. So if you're already receiving ROC income from your system (usually that's through your electricity supplier), then you will automatically be transferred, albeit only onto the 9p rate. If you're not receiving ROC income, then you want to get your skates on and register now. I'll check with DECC to confirm this is right, but I've read the document several times and don't hold out much hope for a change of heart!

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Jenny Vaughan

Jenny VaughanComment left on: 11 February 2010 at 11:19 am

I have been sent this link by my solar suppier. I had an installation done way before July 2009 so did not think the new FITS applied. Cathy am I to understant they might have chnaged their mind given this (see below) and now we are all eleigible as long as we are ROC registered?

Clarification FIT eligibility for microgeneration installations

The REA sought clarification from DECC concerning the eligibility of microgeneration installations completed before 15 July 2009 that had not applied for accreditation under the RO. The executive summary stated these installations would not be eligible for FITS, however this contradicted paragraph 107 that stated that a microgenerator will be eligible for the FITs if they apply for accreditation under the RO on or before 31 March 2010.

Following our inquiry DECC have now corrected the document and their website, clarifying that microgeneration installations completed before the 15th July 2009 will be eligible for FITS if they apply for accreditation under the RO on or by the  31 March 2010.


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