Image credit: Solarcentury
While some may be arguing that solar feed-in tariffs are a rip off for the general public, there is no doubt that they have made the prospect of installing solar panels a whole lot more feasible for many UK citizens. In fact, the introduction of a renewable energy feed-in tariff means that owners of solar installations are guaranteed an income for every unit of energy they produce, and that income is tax free, and comes on top of the savings that homeowners will enjoy on their energy bills. The result is said to be worth as much as £1,000 (US$1,600) a year to the average UK homeowner. But will it lead to an increase in demand? The early signs say that it will—and that increase could be huge.
In fact, Solarcentury, the leading solar installer in the UK, says that it has seen a massive 400% increase inquiries since the new scheme was announced. And while inquiries are by no means the same thing as a sale, with the Government payments starting today, the company is confident that there will be a massive rise in installations in the coming months. And it argues that the economics are compelling:
"Home energy generation with a typical solar system can generate more than half an average home's electricity consumption3, protecting against the unstable energy market. Unlike other long-term investments the income from solar electricity is also guaranteed and tax-free, which compares favorably to savings and pensions investments, where the economic crisis has resulted in low returns.4 There's also no need to fear the UK's inclement weather, as solar panels depend on daylight, not sunlight, to produce energy for your household."
The company has launched a new online solar calculator that will help homeowners get an instant estimate of how much a system will cost, and how much it is likely to earn, simply by entering their postcode.
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth are also arguing that the benefits of the scheme stretch way beyond your average homeowner. Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth says:
"The huge increase in inquiries to green energy firms demonstrates the enthusiasm that households have for generating their own renewable electricity. This scheme allows them to play their part in tackling climate change - and earn money too. Many councils and housing associations are also looking at how they can use feed-in tariffs to provide the benefits of solar power and other renewable energy technologies to low-income communities."
As I've said before, there will be plenty of folks who argue that if solar is a viable technology for our future then it should stand on its own too feet. But it's important to remember that many of the technologies our economies rely on today—from coal and nuclear power plants to cars to the inter—were heavily subsidised by governments in the early days. (Many continue to be so to the present day.)
I am delighted to see Solarcentury and others being kept busy by the new scheme. Long may the interest continue.