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Forget the feed-in tariff; it's all about energy

Posted by David Hunt on 11 June 2012 at 9:04 am

In the last few years the UK went solar panel crazy, with fantastic return on investment opportunities businesses and home-owners alike fell in love with feed-in tariffs and their lovely shiny solar panels.

In the main that was a good thing. Businesses grew in the sector, lots of lovely green energy is now being produced, carbon emissions have been decreased and lots of people have made a good return on their money in these tough times.

The government though has put a stop to that with illegal tariff rate drops, unnecessary court cases, and now legal but lethal tariff rate drops; in the main a bad thing.

Why only ‘in the main’?  Well the solar boom was brilliant in many ways, but it also skewed the market and customers away from what is the real issue facing them as home-owners and businesses: energy. Energy cost and energy security.

When we created Eco Environments five years ago our intention was to address the energy needs of homes and businesses, and we have done that to an extent, despite the huge focus on solar (from which we and hundreds of companies benefited greatly I don’t deny).  But hopefully now the conversation can get back to the core issue: energy. How can you reduce your energy consumption, how can you generate your own energy? What is the best technology or mix of technologies to help you achieve your objectives?

If you are a home or business with a high hot water demand, then solar thermal makes more sense. If you have a large electricity demand, and open fields, maybe a wind turbine is best for you. If you are one of the thousands of homes or businesses using oil or LPG gas for your heating, a heat pump could be the best option, or better still combining a heat pump with solar PV.

Regardless of what type of business you are, retail, manufacturing, distribution, farming or services, if your lighting is older than 4-5 years old, just changing to an energy efficient scheme could save you up to 90% of your lighting costs. As a home owner, does your kitchen or bathroom glow with lovely sparkly spot lights? Replacing them with LED lights can reduce your lighting costs by 90% quite easily (beware buying LEDs though, cheap is seldom cheerful).

This is and always has been our ideal, like many in our industry. The companies in it for the long haul, the companies that take care to become specialists in their field. The companies that strive to provide the best solution, or combination of solutions based on each customer's needs, energy costs, property, energy usage patterns and of course budget. Companies that you will find on YouGen.

There is still a market for solar PV. It is still a great technology. But, hopefully now people and business owners will think more broadly about their energy use and costs, about how they can reduce use, and about how they can generate their own energy.  

Let's turn the conversation from a fixation on feed-in tariffs to one about energy. Making your home or business a more efficient environment with lower running costs and lower carbon emissions. If that is a conversation you want to have, look no further than the recommended companies here on YouGen.

About the author: David Hunt was Head of Commercial for Renewable Solutions UK Ltd. He no longer works in the renewable energy sector.

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

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5 comments - read them below or add one

Paul Hind (Secon)

Paul Hind (Secon)Comment left on: 29 June 2012 at 11:06 pm

The title of this article is the main focus here, we have been selling solar thermal components for 14 years...very successfully. Our success was based on homeowners wanting to do something to reduce their energy bills and help the environment...the 'help' from the government in the last few years has robbed us of this opportunity. Consumers now want something for nothing. The feed in tariff has distorted the consumers view of renewable technologies...yes it's made the news and made people more aware of renewables...but at a huge cost. Solar thermal and the pathetic handling of the RHI has harmed the long term take up...consumers are not asking about long term savings and eco credentials...they all want to know how much they can make! 

Good installers can now argue and make a good case for solar thermal based on savings and 'green-ness' but it's bloody hard work. Until DECC make a decision the future of solar thermal is in the hands of the few good installation companies out there, Eco2Solar, Sungift Solar to name but 2 of them...there are more...just make sure you find them. STA website is a good starting point.

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Fred1Comment left on: 13 June 2012 at 7:49 am

I guess there will be spare brain and manpower in the industry with the reduction in tariffs. There seems to be window of oportunity for the industry unpgrading the 250,000 sytems already installed. The window only lasts until smart meters are installed and while we are all being deemed at 50%. The system would capture all electricity not currently being used and store and use it. Current systems on offer to do this are too expensive. There is only a small amount of extra Kw hrs that can be captured, the system would only be viable until you get a smart meter. It would need to pay out quickly..

Over to the Pv industry........ 

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 12 June 2012 at 7:51 am

Hi Morrisok

We've got a case study of someone for whom energy security was so important that he has installed a battery storage system too. You can read about it here.

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David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 11 June 2012 at 4:32 pm

Morris OK, 

 You are quite right inverters cut out during a power cut, as all good, honest installers will tell you BEFORE you purchase your system. My point was that the more self generation there is in the UK, domestically and commercially, the less reliant we will be on imported electricity and gas. Thus more energy secure.  Energy security is an issue for the UK, far, far more so than Germany that are much more self sufficient.

 Having said that homes and businesses can store self generated energy, but usually at an unviable cost right now. Beware there are some companies out there promoting such 'Grid Buddy' type systems. But in the near future good systems will be available.

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morrisokComment left on: 11 June 2012 at 10:38 am

Its interesting that you mention energy security.  From a residential perspective its a myth, being the inverters will cut out if there is no power from the grid.

I wonder how many people who have installed solar realise this.

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