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back to article Greens threaten to sue over solar 'leccy cash slash

While there's been growing discussion of a "Robin Hood Tax" recently, its very antithesis was quietly introduced last year: a Reverse Robin Hood Tax. This entails a wealth transfer from the poor to the middle classes – and the means is a market-rigging mechanism that ensures that the energy we use is much more expensive than it …

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If it's an sound proposition...

...why is there a need to bribe people to take it up?

Someone in government seems to have grown some balls and brains. Now they need to drop the subsidy all together.

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Is energy from the sun ridiculous?

You'd be surprised how many things are initially expensive but then get cheaper through proliferation & development.

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I missed...

...the removed post. I'm guessing it was an ad hominem attack on me or Andrew.

The last resort of those who have no good arguments to put forward.

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Nepolion Bonaparte called

Asking how it's a sound proposition that a ship can be made to sail against the wind by lighting a bonfire in its hull....

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Re: initially expensive

That's true, but usually the job of subsidizing that proliferation and development is left to "early adopters" rather than screwing it out of pensioners and families on the breadline.

The feed-in-tariff is immoral.

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The removed poster was myself

Hardly ad hominem. I was objecting to Andrew's "renewables kills kittens" tone. His manipulation of the reader puts the article in the class of propaganda, i.e. so one-sided as to leave the reader no choice but to agree with the author's position.

In particular, his position that the poor are harmed by FiT. Never does Andrew mention the wealthy nor the non-PV owning middle class are also "harmed". Yes, this is a societal investment in renewables, as are subsidies for fossil fuels (never mentioned by Andrew. Ever.).

My post sneered at his use (and abuse) of the poor to support his one-sided argument. If you object to my calling his reportage "argument", then yes, perhaps it was ad hominem.

History will absolve me! (Where is the Fidel Castro icon?)

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> Yes, this is a societal investment in renewables, as are subsidies

> for fossil fuels (never mentioned by Andrew. Ever.).

Andrew never mentions the subsidies for nuclear energy either. In fact the only subsidies he complains about are the ones for renewable energy sources. Biased? Yep.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re:

Fossil fuels aren't subsidised. They're heavily taxed.

The rest of your post is just as inaccurate.

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Not subsidized?

Two words: depletion allowance.

More than two words: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2114302/iea-demands-usd409bn-fossil-fuel-subsidies

The rest of YOUR post is just as inaccurate.

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HMB
Bronze badge

If I was a moderator I wouldn't have let your comment through.

Not only have you baselessly attacked the author painting him as some sort of rich snob, you also say he loves fossil fuels, but don't make any sense in doing so. In my experience of Andrew Orlowski's articles he's been for things like shale gas because they don't require public subsidy. I think that people like yourself forget that money has to come from somewhere and that public subsidy means that public all chip in together.

It's very childish to claim that someone being in favour of an economically sound decision means that they have some sort of burning desire for a particular fuel. I buy petrol for my car but I don't take a cup to bed with me and smear it over myself.

Presumably me pointing out your unpleasant juvenile behaviour toward the author will make me his gay bum chum in your eyes.

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WTF

So, calling the impartiality of Andrew "if it's green, it's wrong" Orlowski into question is v wrong, but homophobia on these fora is fine? What planet are you on?

I'm not childish and have been a reg supporter for many years, but I don't think that Andrew is doing it any favours with his childish rants...

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gay bum chum?

Interesting. Are you? Do you wish to be?

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: WTF

That two child-dishess...

You can call it a rant, or anything you want really Simon - but the energy policy of reducing CO2 by rigging the market to aid inefficient renewables is not succeeding, and the cost to the poor of the UK is enormous, with 1 in 4 in fuel poverty.

These is the facts. You now have to deal with them.

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Megaphone

It was never aimed at the poor

If it was aimed at the poor, it would have been subsidy upfront for installation - not a guaranteed ROI.

It was always aimed at the middle classes - particularly those with an acre of roof space on their place in the country.

Funnily enough the same demographic who tend to be guardian readers and greenpeace subscribers.

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It's an odd definition of "middle class" that includes a place in the country and an acre of roof-space. Maybe it's just because I'm a dirty sooty northerner but, I've always assumed myself to be (just about) middle class and yet I live in a flat. My parents definitely are, and it's true that their house is quite large, but it also has eight people split across two families living in it.

The definition of middle class I see bandied about in the media seems very southern-centric. Up here, if you're so rich you can afford a country pile, you're a toff and possibly a banker, whereas it seems the home counties would consider you working class if your yacht is shorter than 110 feet and you only have one land rover.

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They did the upfront subsidy...

You used to get (I think) a £6000 grant for PV installations. All that happened is that the certified installers were £5000 more expensive than the uncertified ones.

The FiT was introduced to stimulate the industry, which it has very nicely. Problem is, who have you seen with solar panels? Mine work great - I'm very pleased with them, and would be happy if the FiT was run for 15 years rather than 25. They'd have paid for themselves by then. But by encouraging individual homeowners to install these systems they become a much more commonplace sight. People will stop thinking they're "strange", and will stop thinking you have to make your shoes out of hemp to invest in them.

My kids will grow up thinking it's perfectly reasonable to make your own electricity. That's a huge shift in mind-set from myself - this is a real novelty to me! By increasing awareness (and driving down the costs, which has happened - though how much of that is due to the slump in Germany I don't know) more people can be encouraged to go down the same route even at a lower FiT.

The FiT has been too high for a while now - it should have been cut by 5p in April, and another 5p in October I reckon. The price of installations is coming down, and the payback time should be kept reasonably constant. This halving of the rate will have a significant knock-on effect on the PV industry. And no, I'm not part of it - I'm just a customer.

As for the poor people who're getting fleeced for their electricity to subsidise my panels, I'm pretty sure that the FiT has put very little extra cost onto the average bill. The people who concern me more are the poor sods getting reamed on the pre-pay meters. :(

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It does mainly benefit (some of) the middle and upper classes and those groups also contain most of the Guardian readers but it was not done in order to benefit Guardian readers (I'm not quite sure what a Greenpeace subscriber is but almost certainly not them either).

The roof thing is right - that's where they are of any use and it tends to be the upper and middle classes that have them. You then need an incentive to offset the ugly work required.

It won't have done any harm that the people making the decisions were in the group likely to benefit but even that simple motive isn't the driving force behind this.

There were carbon emissions reductions targets to be met, this was seen as a way of helping achieve them and was calculated as the required incentive to drive uptake. It has clearly been a bit too successful in that regard so they are rightly looking at reducing the kickback.

Right or wrong this is not some great conspiracy.

If we want to look at class and newspapers it is interesting that the Daily Mail, a paper of the middle classes if ever there was one, rails against this scheme citing "handouts to mansion-owners" and "council tenants ... renting their roofs".

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Go

Just to expand on that:

It was introduced by the Labour government to give the money harvested from the poor working classes to the more affluent middle classes.

The amount the being paid to the middle classes has been cut by the Conservative government, which should in theory save the working classes some money.

Friends of the Earth needs to get its focus right - it should be focused on SUSTAINABLE energy. Paying substantially over the odds for a particular type of energy does not help the environment. Investment in emerging sustainable energy has actually been damaged by FITs as some of the emerging schemes are not elligible. No point in saving the planet if we all die of hunger paying to stay warm.

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Anonymous Coward

FIT distorts prices unfortunatly.

"You used to get (I think) a £6000 grant for PV installations. All that happened is that the certified installers were £5000 more expensive than the uncertified ones."

The panels themselves can now be bought for less than £1/watt but you have to have them officially installed. I calculate that the installers were earning £750 per day on one persons installation. We need a FIT but 41p is ridiculous and obviously unsustainable and its simply lining the pockets of over-charging installers.

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WTF?

15 years rather than 25

Wow, you would be happy if we were forced to buy your electricity when we don't want it at more than 4 times the price of anyone else's electricity for only 15 years so you don't have to pay for your folly.

How generous of you.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re:

As Monbiot pointed out, it's a simple wealth redistribution

Poor --> Rich

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Anonymous Coward

Poor --> Rich

But isn't that how it's always done? O, but I forgot that all those other energy generators are so poor and only charge their well-off customers high tariffs, whereas poor people on pre-pay meters only pay a pittance.

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Monbiot gets something right.

Generally I have an aversion to statements from Monbiot, but in this particular case he (and you) are completely right.

I'm also getting fed up with people talking about a solar industry. It's NOT an industry, it's *installers*, which means electricians and builders. It's not high tech, it's not difficult to install and we import the panels, and probably, pretty much everything else associated with them.

The whole scheme is daft, it will make little or no difference to *our* CO2 emissions let alone have any measurable effect on the climate. But it will make some people poorer, and very possibly result in the deaths this winter because they're too worried about their fuel bills to heat their homes properly. Where is the justice in that?

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Anonymous Coward

@Ian Stephenson

Fact check

Middle classes - perhaps, although plenty of people buy cars not to mention mortgages on finance.

Acre of roof space - No. My 3 bed Semi can squeeze in a 4KWp system and smaller houses can put a smaller system in

In the country - No. Live in a town thanks.

Guardian reader - Nope.

Green peace subscriber - Nope.

Grade 1/5 at best. FAILED

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Coffee/keyboard

@Graham Dawson

In theory you owe me a new keyboard for your post, but it made me laugh so much I'll let you off, thank you.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC: 4KW system on a 3 bed semi?

Panels currently top out around 250W, so that's at least 16 panels at 1.65sqm (1.665x0.991). Typical panels are 200w which requires 20. Given the panel dimensions and the need for a south facing roof to be of any use (i.e. single face) I'd say your 3 bed semi would be larger than the average I've encountered in my lifetime to fit that much panel on it especially considering required gaps in the installation and roof shape.

Don't ever doubt that it's a middle class thing.

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Ok I'll retract middle class for a more accurate term

Champagne Socialist.

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@FIT distorts prices

Yes, you're right - installers often charge huge amounts for installation. Mine was quoted at £1000 for labour. I made a counter-offer which was accepted. I saved a good deal on my installation and certainly wasn't reamed to that extent. I don't know if I got what you might call a "fair" deal, but it was a deal that I was happy with and the installer was prepared to accept.

Yet, the 41.3p FiT was ridiculous. The 43.3p one even moreso. I wasn't clear in my point about the tariff dropping - I meant drop by 5p in April 2011 to 36.3p, and then October 2011 to 31.3p. I suspect the industry could take another 5p cut to 26.3p in April 2012, and by staggering it like that you could take the sting out of the current changes. Many people have built business models on the high tariffs. You might not agree with them (I don't agree with the rent-a-roof brigade, for example), but a managed regression of the tariff would have been better.

As I said, though, if the FiT causes the install charge to be £1000 over-the-odds, that's still £4000 less than they used to scam from the grant scheme.

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@JP19

Yep, I would. You're welcome.

I hope you see that you're arguing the same side as me, yes?

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Unhappy

And it's nice you an Monbiot can agree on something.

Irrespective the realities of Climate Change and Peak Oil, the Solar Panel and FiT idea does make those who don't install PV contribute towards the income of those who do. This is inequitable.

But when I offered to install PV on the rooves of my two brothers and sister, I wasn't thinking "Ha ha! Now I get to screw the poor!". I saw it as a way for them to attain some independence from the unregulated predatory pricing behaviour of the UK energy suppliers.

What is also inequitable is the poor are more likely to have a card-operated meter at home for which they pay a higher price per unit than someone who does not. It is also inequitable that one pays progressively less for energy the more one consumes.

It is in kind the same thing as tax payer's money going to special industrial interests and unelected "think tanks" and quangoes. This too is wrong.

Yet I'd rather individual citizens got a bite of government largesse than the usual case where subsidies are fed directly to unaccountable commercial interests whose executives often take a disproportionate slice of this "success".

The only difference is one of degree.

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Anonymous Coward

re Champagne Socialist.

How dare you, How very dare you.

Calling me a Socialist makes me feel dirty.

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FAIL

Why didn't they cut it to zero?

Its a shame the greenies can't actually provide any worthwhile evidence that putting up PV panels does anything other than line the pockets of those involved.

I plan to install solar thermal as it will mean I can use the energy when I get home from work rather than vanishing into the grid and doing nothing worthwhile.

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WTF?

The subsidy in its current form is broken - a large slice of the money people pay to get 4kW of PV panels goes to 'non-jobs' - essentially made up to help the building trade.

The cost of a rational rooftop system would be based on payback times of field-scale solar.

if you want to put a small panel on your roof - you can - but you only get the subsidy at the same rate it'd be paid to a more efficient scheme.

This would need the regulatory scheme to be largely scrapped.

If you want to install a 'solar shed' from B+Q, with a 1kW panel on the roof DIY, you can, and it will pay back after 20 years or so.

But getting subsidised so that spending 60% more than the cost of the raw panels upfront is a good investment was barking mad.

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Green Gestures

It could also be pointed out, that some of those people placed in 'fuel poverty' by these kinds of measures will not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter.

Some of those will die (the UK has 36,000 'excess deaths' in the winter each year).

The Green movement, sadly, understands neither technology nor economics, and couldn't care less about poor people.

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Anonymous Coward

The FIT subsidy 'pot' was created by charging £15 a year per energy payer. I'm sick and tired of people trying to point the finger for the massive hikes in energy prices on the solar FIT scheme. It's supposed to be 15 quid per house/flat/factory for goodness sake.

Because it has been too successful (or whoever devised it, got the figures wrong and choose a slightly too high figure to start with), the subsidy is being slashed so that it remains at £15 per bill payer. Changing the rules too quickly is wrong, should have done it at April when everyone was expecting a drop anyway, 5 weeks notice is a bit harsh, but then perhaps thats to protect the pot.

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Housing Associations / Councils fitting PV

Quite a number of Housing Associations / Councils are fitting them to their rental properties.

The HA/Council take the FiT, which helps their funding after the kit has been paid for, but the tenants (who are often in the "fuel poor" classification) get free electricity.

The problem the HA/Council have is how they are seen to be fair between those houses that have suitable roofs and those who don't....

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Anonymous Coward

I live in an area with quite a lot of HA/Council housing, and pretty much every other house has PV on the roof. Within five minutes walk in one direction from my house there were 12 houses with PV last week, 15 this week and scaffolding on a further four - and those are just the roofs you can see. You can barely drive down some roads because of the installation vans lined up.

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the green with their idiological blindless add more to the problem then they solve

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HMB
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It saddens me so much to see so many people thinking they have a right to government cash. That's the problem though isn't it? It's not our tax money it's "government cash", like the government has some of it's own.

I know I'm only a small representative of total tax, but if Greenpeace wants to take money off me I know where they can shove it.

It's a very sad situation considering Greenpeace's past achievements.

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fkp

...Friends of the Earth != Greenpeace.

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Same meat, different gravy.

And with "Friends" like those, the Earth really doesn't need enemies.

Last time I checked, the Earth didn't give a midge's todger for the creatures crawling about on its thin, crispy shell. It'd certainly get along just fine without any humans at all, so this notion that humans should be "friends" with it has always struck me as bizarre. It sure as hell doesn't want to be friends with *us*.

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Pie

the flip side of this is that 25,000 people are employed in installing these systems. These jobs were created on the basis that there would be an 8% anual rate reduction starting in April 2012, not a 50% cut with one months notice. This will stop the industry in it's tracks, costing jobs and any future scheme will be treated as not worth the paper it's written on.

Should the system have been launched with a 43p a unit payment, no, as it shouldn't of taken much to work out that the rate of return of 8%+ was far better than anyone could get from the bank, but it was and the powers that be should of acted sooner in a more measured way, so that perhaps some of the jobs could be proteced.

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WTF?

Social enterprises and council housing

Another thing to add: the first projects to fold out of this cut are the installation of panels on social housing by housing associations and non-profit social enterprises. How does that fit with your "tax the poor" perspective?

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Blatantly misleading use of figures

"Rich people benefit from feed-in tariff" or in other words "people who own land can make money selling the output of that land". Of course rich people are more likely to own a house with a roof which can be used for solar panels. Not so controversial I think. If we need to correct for the effects of this on income distribution it can be done via the income tax or tax credit system.

The high feed-in tariffs may indeed distort the market a bit - that is a fair criticism - but you undermine the integrity of your argument by seriously misrepresenting the UK's record of reducing emissions.

You mention the US carbon figures which have fallen by 2% over ten years, and imply that emissions have increased over the same period in the UK. In fact, 2010 was the only year since 1996 when emissions increased. UK emissions over the previous 10-12 years actually fell by nearly ten percent, and emissions per person by even more.

This chart shows the continuing decline in UK emissions per capita between 1996-2007:

http://bit.ly/ulOx9Q

This one shows a decline in total emissions (though with some population growth, the total amount has not fallen as fast as the per-capita total):

http://bit.ly/v0ePD9

There was also a big fall from 1979-84 which I suspect was due to a combination of switching from coal to gas power stations, the recession and a move away from heavy manufacturing industry. But the move to renewables and reduced consumption has been a major contributor to the progress since the mid-90s.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Blatantly misleading use of figures

Thanks for joining the Register!

Perhaps you could follow the example set by others and declare your industry interests - I've nothing against PV installers chipping in, it's great that they self-indentify.

"But the move to renewables and reduced consumption has been a major contributor to the progress since the mid-90s."

That's a weird definition of progress, as progress means some combination of ordinary people getting a) better off and b) more free. CO2 emissions are going up here quite sharply. Renewables aren't going to help.

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@Leigh

"But the move to renewables and reduced consumption has been a major contributor to the progress since the mid-90s."

No, the move to renewables has meant the CO2 is now produced in China (fabricating the panels) rather than in the UK where less grid electricity is used. Rumour has it that we share the same atmosphere with the Chinese though.

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Renewables impact? = minimal

It's true that emissions have fallen - but it's almost entirely driven by the ongoing switch from coal to gas.

the "dash for gas" took place through the 1990s - we went from a near-zero gas contribution to about 40-50% of production. It's only in the last year or two that there's been a small (1-2%) shift back to coal as gas has been expensive at times of peak demand. And even though the nuclear fleet has shrunk, it's tended to be run harder/longer.

The difference in CO2 output/Kwh for coal and gas is huge - compared to a 1960s-era coal fired plant, an modern CCGT unit will put out 40-50% of the emissions per unit output.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: @Leigh

I think some Greens are beginning to understand that CO2 emissions aren't cut, but are moved somewhere else instead.

A few are, anyway. Most are in spectacular denial.

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