Solar energy saw a huge increase in popularity in the last months of 2011, with homeowners across the UK installing PV panels to generate their own domestic electricity. The Government’s Feed-in-Tariffs (FITs) were a big draw for many consumers, as they could earn money for any additional energy created by feeding it back into the national grid. Unfortunately, this surge in popularity placed a large strain on the scheme’s budget, as the Government predicted a 45% reduction in the price of solar PV panel installation after 2009.
In response to this growing demand, Edward Davey, the newly appointed Secretary of State, has now announced a series of improvements to the FITs scheme. In a written statement that promised a government commitment to the “decentralised energy and the take-up of small-scale low-carbon technologies by the public and communities”.
Mr Davey further explained that: “The Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme is an important instrument in meeting that commitment, but it needs to be reformed as we want as many people as possible to be able to benefit from the scheme. For too long it has been limited to the lucky few.”
From April this year the tariff for domestic solar panels will be set at 21p/kWh, with other tariff reductions to become available for larger installations. The Government is also taking steps to ensure that all electricity generated by domestic solar panels will be put to good use.
After 1 April 2012 any homeowner applying for a FIT scheme will need to produce an Energy Performance Certificate rating of ‘D’ or above for this property. The Government estimates that around half of all applicants are already eligible for the ‘D’ rating, while any properties failing to reach this standard of energy performance will benefit from other energy-saving measures such as loft installation.
Communities will also benefit from improvements to the FITs scheme, which will now offer a 20% discount for new ‘multi-installation’ tariffs. The tariffs will also be increased for micro-CHP installations in recognition of the benefits of this new technology for the future of green electricity generation.
Climate Change minister, Greg Barker, believes that the improved FITs scheme is good news for both consumers and the energy industry:
He said: “I want to see a bright and vibrant future for small scale renewables in the UK and allow each of the technologies to reach their potential where they can get to a point where they can stand on their own two feet without the need for subsidy, sooner rather than later.”