Tue, 23 Aug 2011 09:52:03 GMT
It has been over a year since companies have been offering free solar in the UK and we have seen the number of companies go from one to nearly 40 companies across the UK. Over the same period we have seen the market for commercial systems fall due to the government reducing the tariffs for anything larger than a domestic system.
The feed-in tariff scheme has been pushed by the government as a means to introduce solar PV into the domestic market. The benefits of homeowners generating their own power are many fold. It means that homeowners are less dependant on the whims of the big six power companies and their random price hikes. Power produced locally means less efficiency losses through power lines, even your surplus solar power will only travel as far as your neighbour.
Then there is of course the main reason people are installing both paid and free solar. With a paid solar system the homeowner is potentially benefiting from £1,400 a year in tariff payments. Free solar customers are getting free electricity without any cost. Both options mean that over the next 25 years the value of the free electricity and the tariff payments are going to increase making the homeowners financially better off compared to their neighbours who have not installed solar.
Since the introduction of the feed-in tariff scheme we have since seen the Green Deal and the Renewable heat incentive (RHI) introduced that are designed to encourage the take up of renewable technologies and improve home energy efficiency. We can only hope that the RHI does for home heating that FIT's did for solar. Incidentally the FIT scheme also encompasses other renewable electrical power generation technologies such as wind which didn't seem to take off under the scheme. The reason is undoubtedly because there would be very few people able or willing to site a wind turbine in their back garden.
As solar photovoltaics is new in the UK (as usual we trail far behind the rest of the world) there is going to be a steep learning curve as we get used to the way solar works compared to how we are used to getting our electricity. I had the pleasure of meeting the people at A Shade Greener recently who commented on how their customer's behaviour had changed once they had solar installed. They had noticed that customers changed their behaviour in order to get the most out of the free solar power so they didn't have to use paid electricity from their energy supplier.
It also seems that it is not only consumers that are changing their behaviour because of solar but also the big energy suppliers. We have seen the introduction of British Gas free solar panels and Eon solar panels onto the market.
I don't think this is the end of innovation in the UK when it comes to home power generation and energy saving. With customers wanting to get more out of their solar panels due to the high price hikes from electricity suppliers. The issue of how to store electricity and use it later is going to be a major topic of interest over the next year. Innovative ways of storing the energy from solar will be developed to provide cost effective solutions allowing solar fitted households to get even more out of their solar panels.
There is a pending review that is going to take place soon where the solar panels grants that are currently available are expected to be cut. By how much we don't know and have yet to find out how this will affect the market for solar in the UK. For those who already have paid solar or plan to have it installed soon you will not be affected by the review as the high introductory level of tariffs is guaranteed for you. So the message is if you are thinking about getting solar PV then do it soon to lock in the higher rate. For the free solar market it will depend on how the free solar companies react to the change in tariff levels. It may or may not discourage some providers from leaving the market making it harder for consumers to secure a free solar panel deal.
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