Fit For Purpose

14th May 2010

In all the hot air generated in advance of the recent election, the potential benefits to be derived from more natural sources of hot air – sunlight, wind etc – have been overlooked.

Earlier this year, though, former Energy Secretary Ed Miliband announced the details of the Feed-In Tariff (FIT), also known as the Clean Energy Cashback scheme, designed to encourage more widespread installation of low carbon electricity generating equipment, such as wind turbines or solar photovoltaic panels. Essentially it means that you get paid both for generating the electricity that you use (up to 41.3p per kilowatt hour) and for exporting the surplus to the National Grid (at 3p per kWh).

Most households probably won’t be able to generate enough power to cover all their needs (there simply isn’t space to install enough solar PV panels on most domestic roofs, for example) so there will be a certain amount of give/take involved. It’s a major investment, but the tariffs are guaranteed for a minimum of 20 years, with solar PV tariffs set for 25 years, and payments will rise in line with inflation. Most customers will earn enough income from the panels to be able to recoup their initial expenditure on equipment within seven to ten years.

The goal is to produce 2% of the country’s energy needs from microgeneration schemes by 2020. It’s not, actually, a very ambitious target. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat’s environment spokesperson, was particularly critical. A 6% target, he argued, would have saved us the equivalent of two nuclear power stations of the capacity of Sizewell B, at minimal extra cost to the consumer. It’s going to be interesting to see, now that the LibDems have a voice at the top table, whether the scheme and its targets will be extended.

Either way, if the wind’s in the right direction, your next electricity bill could be a cheque from your supplier to you…

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