back to article 'Leccy price hike: Greens to blame as well as energy biz

UK consumers seem set to suffer a vicious round of electricity price rises in the near future: and for the first time the energy suppliers are not only blaming the gas market but openly pointing the finger at steadily escalating government green policies whose effect is to drive up utility bills. ScottishPower retail director …

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  1. Pypes
    Mushroom

    PV.

    PV is a f***ing joke at British latitudes. I'm doubting the people who approve these rooftop PV grant schemes that are currently swimming in cash ever sat down and ran a reasonable set of numbers on them. Even using the rather generous AM 1.5 standard the returns are so pitiful you'd have to be certifiably insane to ever think they were a feasible means of generating electricity in the UK.

  2. H'arj Imladd
    Thumb Up

    Unfortunately accurate

    Lewis you are IMHO spot on with this critisism of the riduculous energy / subsidy policy currently in place for the UK.

    I'll happily vote for whoever is most vocally against this CO2 nonsense - please stand up so I can see you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Unfortunately accurate

      "Lewis you are IMHO spot on with this critisism of the riduculous energy / subsidy policy currently in place for the UK."

      Well, I suppose you've given us another entertaining misspelling of "ridiculous" instead of following the usual moronic form seen all too often on these forums. As for the UK's energy policy, subsidies on renewables and Lewis's inability to anticipate improvements in solar technology (in particular) are the least of the nation's worries. Lewis could have at least quantified the role of gas price increases, but that would have taken the thunder out of his rant, highlighted the UK's stupid overdependency on gas, and taken the wind out of shill, erm, shale gas's sails.

      "I'll happily vote for whoever is most vocally against this CO2 nonsense - please stand up so I can see you."

      And then we can all point the finger and laugh. But not for long, because it's short-sighted fools like yourself that burden future generations with the clean-up from today's quick fixes and foot-stamping overindulgence.

      1. H'arj Imladd
        Flame

        title goes here

        I apologise for my slightly "ridiculous" dyslexia, or maybe I just typed too fast, or can't spell.

        I stand by my comments though, in fact I'll raise the bar:-

        CO2 is a non problem, solving a "non problem" by throwing fortunes of other peoples money at it is more than a little insane IMHO.

    2. mark 63 Silver badge
      Holmes

      source?

      that does sound suspicioulsly like the cold hard truth, unfortunately,

      however can you direct me at any actual figures to look at?

      1. Pypes

        Sauce

        AM (air mass) 1.5 is actually a particular spectrum of light, but for the purposes rating PV panels it also assumes an available insolation of 1000 W/m^2. This is at equatorial latitudes.

        For non heliostatic panels (i.e. fixed on your rooftop) then the available level of insolation will approximate Cos Latitude, so for London that is 1000 x Cos (51) = 630 W/m^2

        Then you multiply this by the conversion efficiency of your panels (on the order of 15-20%) so you get 630 x 0.2 = 126 W/m^2 of installed panel (That's assuming some rather efficient panels are being used)

        This is gives you the absolute best-case-scenario peak output, you then need to make quite a lot of assumptions about cloud cover, daylight hours, diffuse vs direct sunlight and there is a lot of room to fiddle the numbers. Assuming they can hit the equivalent of 2 hours peak output per day all year round then your getting 2x365x126 = 92 kWh / m^2 / year

        Sounds pretty good until you realise that per-capita electricity usage in the UK (for 2008 according to the world bank) was about 6000 kWh.

        1. Andrew 25

          @Pypes

          actually for me just north of london, it'll be 118 kWh / M^2 / year, for a roof on a 3 bed semi (28.6 m^2) that equals 3375 kWh which isn't as small as you were trying to make out with your per area figures. My figures are not only based on pvgis but on actual real systems over a full year, no air mass calculations were required to make it look like I was being accurate.

          I was what I thought was a heavy user of electric (cooker, tv, computers, tumble dryer) and used ~ 3600kWh a year so almost generate what I consume (obviously too much in summer and not enough in winter) but no one said solar was to meet 100% of our needs. But from your figures of 6000 kWh some people must be running a lot of electric heaters

          1. Pypes

            @A25

            AM1.5 is the standard system for rating PV panels, it's got nothing to do with the appearance of accuracy.

            The 6000 kWh / capita / year figure includes non-domestic (i.e. commercial / industrial) consumption

            I don't really see how energy-per-unit area is some sort of jedi mind trick to imply small returns. If you are of the opinion you can afford 28.6 m^2 of PV without taking out a 2nd mortgage on your home then go for it, just don't pretend that it would ever be an economically viable solution without hugely inflated feed-in tariffs.

            1. Andrew 25

              @Pypes

              "If you are of the opinion you can afford 28.6 m^2 of PV without taking out a 2nd mortgage on your home then go for it"

              You need to spend less time with theory and more with real examples. Those 28.6 m^2 of panels you say require a 2nd mortgage is actually the panels I bought for my house, the whole system cost less than most brand new cars and with the FIT subsidy has a pay back of less than 10 years and will run for 25+.

              So using my system lets go for a real world example instead of your theory

              - 22 x 180Watt Sharp panels (each panel having dimensions 1m x 1.3m), so 3.96kWp

              - 1 x SMA SunnyBoy 4000HF inverter

              - Installation, wiring etc

              - Sunny Beam display (a little gadget to tell me current power output, daily money made etc, just couldn't resist)

              - My council being scumbags and wanting to make money out of me so insisting on their own inspections, fully chargeable of course (despite installer being competent body scheme, MCS certified etc), making me get structural engineer roof loadings -> councils in Devon don't try to extract money in this way and just let you get on with it.

              Total cost: just under £14,000

              According to pvgis (and I have checked those figures against other systems that have been running for a full year and they seem close), I'll generate > 3300 kWh. Since 1st April it's been 43.3p / kWh and without an export meter you get an assumed 50% exported at 3.1p / kWh. So that's 44.85 p / kWh which give me a FIT payment of £1480 a year index linked for the next 25 years (went up 4.8% this year).

              Since install in March I have generated more than 1,400kWh.

              If you can't afford 14k then do get a loan over 10 years, it'll payback the interest on the loan and you'll have 15 years of no loan and money coming in. Or get a smaller system, I went for the sweet spot of 4kWp, if you go over that then the tariff drops so you need to go over 4kWp by a significant amount.

              1. Pypes

                @A25 again

                I struggle to see the point you're trying to make.

                The panels were expensive (£14k), and your "great returns" are pretty much solely dependant on getting paid several times the going rate for electricity.

                I think rather than hitting everybody's back pocket to subsidise tin pot environmental statements on middle class rooftops, we should be investing in something that has at least a slim chance at producing energy on a similar scale, and at similar cost as current dino-juice methods. (I would suggest LFTR but I fear the huge amount of negative feedback)

                1. Andrew 25

                  @Pypes again

                  "I struggle to see the point you're trying to make."

                  My point was to give people real figures instead of your fag packet calculations. Also 14K is not a second mortgage, most people would think nothing of buying a car on finance but seem to struggle with something that will actually pay back and some (yes only due to FIT, I never said I wasn't making a profit without FIT)

                  "subsidise tin pot environmental statements on middle class rooftops"

                  Ultimately I'm not doing it for the environmental reason, it was a pure financial decision. As for that class statement, I merely see it as a way to get back some of my tax from the benefit class who are burning electric during the working week on their 50 inch plasmas and game consoles *ducks and awaits the flames and down votes*

                  My other point about light levels was because someone corrected you and then you went ape on their arse telling them their figures weren't worth shit when yours were the ones plucked out of your arse

                  1. Pypes

                    @whoever

                    I think people underestimate the cost (a significant fraction of which is embodied energy) of producing PV grade silicone, or are we going to start buying into these monthly "dirty cheap thin-film PV cells are just around the corner" announcements. Neither of these techs are particularly new, and they (well poly / mono silicone) are already produced on a pretty industrial scale and have been for some time, and guess what, they still ain't cheap.

                    Also, you should ad hominem more andrew, it really makes for a good argument, especially while you are fucking your neighbours over to make a quick buck (LOOK I can do it too!)

                    1. Andrew 25
                      Trollface

                      Do not feed the trolls

                      Wow, you've now thrown in some Latin for good measure to go with your 'calculations', clearly your intellect is vastly superior. All hail Pypes our overlord

                2. A J Stiles
                  Alert

                  What you're missing

                  "The panels were expensive (£14k), and your 'great returns' are pretty much solely dependant on getting paid several times the going rate for electricity."

                  Ah, but the going rate for electricity is only ever going to go up, not down. The point will come soon enough when, even if you were only paid the going rate for what you generated (which is functionally equivalent to the case of never generating a Joule more than you can use), it would still be enough to offset the cost of the panels.

                  Meanwhile, the more middle-class people install solar panels, the cheaper they will get for working-class people as economies of scale kick in, process hit rates improve, tooling costs get amortised and patents expire. Come to think of it, the last days of fossil fuels probably will be marked by people eager to show that they can comfortably afford to use non-renewable energy wastefully; it will be a roof *without* solar panels that indicates affluence .....

        2. Michael 31

          Mistake in your Maths: Conflict with reality

          1. Buy a light meter from Maplin and measure it. Over 1100 W/m^2 is available on a sunny day in London.

          2. Why? Because one tilts the solar panels to compensate for the latitude.

          3. Actually in Summer, solar panels work better in the UK than they EVER do at the Equator: day length beats angle.

          1. Pypes

            @M31

            There is a reason a standard spectrum is used to assess PV, and that has got everything to do with the bandgap of your chosen semi-conductor. Your maplin-tier light meter is telling you exactly fuck all of use.

            1. Andrew 25

              @Pypes @M31

              Michael 31 is correct, panels may be rated using 1000 W/m^2 however in the real world it is sometimes higher than that. Ultimately the peak light level is irrelevant since without a tracking system you won't hit peak for large portions of the morning and afternoon.

              All that matters is the yearly output for 1 kWp of panels. Even Lewis admitted for london that was 800kWh / kWp (it's actually nearer 850 but I'll let him of that one)

    3. Andrew 25
      FAIL

      unfortunately inaccurate

      "Who's paying for your neighbour's solar panels?" You are -> yes you are and I thank you kindly ;)

      Some of Lewis's mistakes had to be pointed out.

      1. Prices - since I paid less than £3.5K per kwp you can stick those ridicules figures up your backside where I suspect you got them

      2. My sharp panels have a 25 guarantee for 80% performance from Sharp and there are many (obviously older tech) systems out there that have been running for 30 years already

      "The solar panels would never pay for themselves normally in the UK's climate" - stop peddling this uk weather is so bad for solar myth, don't confuse pissing it down a lot with lack of sun power over the course of a year; we have the same solar irradiation in the south east as northern Germany.

      I'll grant you that payback without FIT with today's energy prices would be a struggle but as you point out prices will keep going up and soon even without FIT they will break even on their own.

      £600 in feed in tariff since March, thanks for your money Lewis.

    4. Andrew 25

      another effing assumption about british weather and solar

      Try some facts - solar irradiation maps and pv estimation in europe:

      http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvgis/apps4/pvest.php#

      1. fandom
        Mushroom

        Nothern Germany?

        Isn't that the place where southern Germans don't want to live because it is raining all the time?

        1. Mark Aggleton

          No

          it's because it's raining e-coli the whole time.

      2. Figgus

        Timing

        "I'll grant you that payback without FIT with today's energy prices would be a struggle but as you point out prices will keep going up and soon even without FIT they will break even on their own."

        Then wait for the tech to mature instead of tilting at windmills enacting silly fake markets in the form of subsidies...

        Fact is, if you need to subsidize something then it isn't a viable option.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Subsidised industries.

          Apparently neither coal nor nuclear are viable then. Nor agriculture.

    5. Michael 31

      Solar PV: Be surprised

      Q1: Where on Earth does the most solar energy fall in one day? That's right, the North and South Poles.

      Q2: Does more solar energy per square metre fall on the UK during the summer than EVER reaches the Equator? That's right, yes it does.

      In the summer, day length beats latitude.

      Subsidising middle class PV-ites is unfair, but so are many subsidies, for farmers for instance. However, these houses then don't need to be supplied with electricity which would otherwise have emitted carbon.

      If we want the cheapest electricity possible we should just burn coal and to hell the consequences. if you want to build any kind of sustainable energy infrastructure you have to start somewhere. These policies are imperfect, but they are a step in the right direction.

    6. Andy 18
      Boffin

      Calculate it for yourself...

      I'm amazed how many register readers can't operate a spreadsheet.

      A 4kWp solar system (the biggest you can install without reducing your FIT rate or the power company complaining) costs:

      - £15,000 if you go for the super fab latest panels

      - £12,000 if you go for cheaper ones (but with the same guarantees)

      - £9,000 if you install it yourself (admittedly unlikely)

      I've ignored the discounts you can get through group buying of up to 20%.

      With southern UK solar incident radiation at ground level (someone else posted the EU site for that) I generate roughly 4000 kWh per year (3940 as calculated but everyone I know with a PV system has achieved better than that). Working on the £15k system with no FIT and using all the generated power (i.e. ignoring the export income) and with inflation of 5% a year I will be at payback after 10 years and be better off by £40,000 in 25 years (although I'd expect the panels to continue generating for a while after that).

      With the FIT I will be at payback after 5 years and £100,000 better off in 25 years (or £30,000 if you correct for the value of money by allowing for inflation - 340% over 25 years).

      In the interest of being fastidiously fair, I'd probably have to replace the £2,000 inverter twice in 25 years (they tend to only last 10 years on average). On the other hand, electricity prices are going up faster than inflation because of all those renewable power installations (!?)

      I really can't understand why new houses don't all have solar panels by default. Mine are paying a couple of months of my mortgages each year.

      ---------

      On a much more frivolous and badly researched note, if I used the generated power to charge a Tesla roadster and use it for business travel (no company car tax on electric cars by the way so I can buy the car out of pre-corporation tax profits) I would also get another £4,000 in mileage (10,000 miles at 40p a mile, tax free and I don't need to buy any petrol). That and the FIT would pay for the Tesla and the solar panels after only 11 years.

      1. fandom

        A couple details

        Could you please tell me how much you get paid per Kw, and how much does you neighbour pay the electric company to use it?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Profits of Doom

    Once a google search for /scottishpower profits/ returns something other than obscene levels then they (and you) might have a point.

    2011 had their spanish owners whining about a mere £1.2 bn.

    Are you suggesting they aren't making enough money ?

  4. Graham Marsden

    So take the advice of Martin Lewis...

    ... at www.moneysavingexpert.com and fix your energy prices now!

    1. Shadowmanx2009
      Thumb Down

      Re:So take the advice of Martin Lewis...

      I rather think that's just playing a mugs game! What the energy companies (and the Government) should be doing is investing in better sources of energy such as Nuclear power.

      Whilst it's 'nice' to be green etc., this doesn't help with the bills! A properly thought out policy which inludes nuclear power would mean we're not facing an energy crisis a decade down the road.

      Investing in renewable sources of energy is sensible, but there are only so many wind farms and solar panels that can be built/installed. Putting pressure on manufactureres/engineers to make their electronics more efficeint in power usage, should also be part of this.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remind me again

    How much money did the enrgy companies lose last year?

  6. davenewman

    Feed-in tariffs are an insurance policy

    The point of paying more for renewable energy now is that when the oil and gas run out, we won't be left without any power. Since we are already past peak oil, we are talking about supply restrictions within 20 years.

    Like any insurance premium, you pay more now to save money later. In this case, some of us are paying a premium now for our children and grandchildren's sake. This seems fair to everyone except for greedy selfish bastards.

  7. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Generate power on gym bikes

    They would generate renewable energy, although probably not enough to power the lights plasma tvs and air conditioning

  8. Brian 62

    Calling captain obvious

    The whole point of the Green movement has been that we are not actually paying the real cost of energy. Switching to renewable green energy means that costs will obviously go up somewhat, as you now wind up paying more of the cost for solar, wind, etc...

    What everyone forgets is all the other costs associated with cheap energy like coal and oil... pollution, health problems, etc... that all need to be paid for by everyone through high taxes and insurance rates.

    1. NomNomNom

      le tit

      as a greedy selfish bastard I agree with you completely

    2. Naughtyhorse

      not bad except...

      Load growth and generation capacity mean that the lights start going out in the uk before 2020

      feedin tarrifs are all about subsidising wind.

      Wind will _never_ be a viable source of power in the uk

      (end your internal dialogue, you are wrong, get over it)

      Established wind farms are _massively_ under performing, 'expert' estimates of output and the behaviour of the wind have proved to be 'significantly over optimistic' the revised pumped-hydro requirements would involve flooding most of the lake district and ALL of scotland (bit of poetic license, but the actual figure is a-fucking-lot).

      Wind was the gubbermints way of avoiding the hard answer to the question.

      not having electricity is not an option.

      the only way to get the electricity we need is nuclear.

      spend the money, do it properly it's prolly more ok than most other options.... mahoosive earthquakes and hyuwuj tsunamis notwithstanding.

    3. Luther Blissett

      ... the oil and gas run out...

      Your naivety is charming. The government is the biggest greedy and selfish bastard, and can have you for breakfast. So should the oil and gas run out, your solar panels will be immediately nationalised. There will of course be no money left to pay com-pen-say-shun.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      re: Generate power on gym bikes

      ...for the plasma TV, it can happen. 200W is feasible for puny humans. For half-hour, I guess.

      ... For the AC, not so much, since the simplest of the ACs, wall-hanging units of 12.000 BTUs, translate to a 3HP electric motor. Sort of. Not counting losses or the actual thermodynamic losses. Take it as a drunken napkin-math.

      If you can pedal hard enough to generate 3 FREAKING HORSEPOWER on a steady basis, you don't even need a motorcycle.

      Absolutely correct.

      PS. I saw a gym that had a fan powered by whoever was on the bikes. If nobody is pedalling, the fan dies off. Later a LCD TV was added. I guess it took at least 2 people to make it work steady.

  9. blackcat
    Thumb Down

    Ah yes...

    ..the FIT 'subsidy' that isn't a subsidy.

    The greens go 'Nuclear would never survive without subsidies' but if anyone suggests cutting the FIT to a more sane level they act as if the world is going to end. Heck you can claim FIT subsidy for systems that are not even connected to the grid! There are companies out there desperate to get any bit of rooftop or land to stick some 'renewables' on and cream off the profit while they can.

    I can't remember the source but I read an article about the German PV subsidies and it basically said it did little for innovation. To get the most money you had to get in early and to get the quickest payback most went for cheap chinese panels. Yes you get a booming trade in installation but once everyone has them all the jobs go away.

    There are 2 reasons why companies like RES fight tooth and nail to stick windturbines all over the countryside. Either 1) they are really concerned about CO2 and saving the planet (so why are they not also investing in storage systems to store overgeneration for later use) or 2) they just want to make oodles of cash.

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Cunning?

    "But a flat tax like that - one which hits poorer people, to whom the electricity bill is a noticeable expense, disproportionately hard - would be politically difficult to implement, so the way it is kept off the government's books is particularly cunning."

    Nah! The man responsible is the same one who used PFI to put just about all government spending "off the books". Hiding a flat-rate tax that hits his own electoral base hardest was just a stroll in the park for him.

    He's also the guy who switched off the fuel escalator, which is the closest thing we've ever had to a pure carbon tax. I remain of the opinion that if you want to reduce CO2 emissions, then the simple but foolproof mechanism is to tax fossil fuels at source. There are only a few hundred mines and refineries that would need to be regulated and you are already measuring their output. You can multiply, can't you? What's the problem?

    And if you think a flat-rate carbon tax is too awful to contemplate, then you clearly don't really want to reduce CO2 emissions that badly, so stop interfering with the energy market and let the various technologies compete on a level playing field and let your electorate enjoy some cheaper energy prices.

    Either way, what the government is doing right now is moronic.

    1. Nexox Enigma

      Not really...

      """There are only a few hundred mines and refineries that would need to be regulated and you are already measuring their output."""

      You might not know this (Well, you've clearly no idea) that a large portion of fossil fuels are never burned, and therefore do not contribute CO2 to the atmosphere. Do you propose to tax the evil, evil carbon that ends up stuck in PVC pipes, road tar, or tight vinyl pants (coincidentally I'm in favor of taxing the latter, if worn by blokes)? Seems like that's a bit far-reaching for an environmental tax.

    2. oddie
      Thumb Down

      tax at source...

      I wholeheartedly agree, more of the money that is spent on oil and gas needs to be retained in saudi arabia, iraq, iran, norway, etc. As a norwegian I sully support this.

      You might however have some difficulty explaining to the UK Exchequer why all of a sudden all the taxes they used to put on fuels of various kinds are now suddenly not going to them anymore ;)

      tax at source will work the day that we don't have individual countries anymore.

  11. Simon Neill

    Solar Panels

    What I'm seeing here is that its a battery style wearing out - so after 20 years they still work, just only at 80% efficiency.

    I still say the absolute biggest problem with solar and wind is simply availability. We can make the things cheaper, perhaps we can make something organic that works of chlorophyll. BUT - probably my highest energy use in the day is at 6:30 when I have a morning (electric) shower. Let me just look up how well PV cells work on average at 6:30 am....oh right, they don't. Guess its cold showers from now on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wow - you're right!

      I've been blind all along there is no way of storing energy for use the following morning... I'm going to rip out my hot water storage tank and recycle all those batteries. Thanks, you've done me a real service...

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Biggest problem

      I think the biggest problem is the return on investment. It takes 20-30 years to break even and even after 5-10 years there may be a much better product out that produces twice as much power.

      They don't make commercial sense but can help reduce CO2.

      1. ChilliKwok

        "They don't make commercial sense but can help reduce CO2."

        Not really. Conventional power stations must be kept running to provide power when the sun goes in or the wind stops blowing. These stations operate in a less efficient mode due to all the ramping up and down - and as a result generate more CO2.

        Second point is one of scale: The total average output from the UKs 3000+ windmills is less than half the output of just ONE conventional plant!

        eg. 5.2GW installed wind x 25% average output due to windspeed variation = 1.3GW average output. Compared to Drax 3.8GW x 80% availability = 3GW available output.

        Now compare the cost, land area and environmental impact of 3000 windturbines vs one conventional powerstation.

        As for solar: forget about it. It doesn't even register. Total UK installed capacity = 0.08GWp x 10% capacity factor accounting for clouds/angle of sun etc = 0.008GW average output.

        Yes - that's right - every solar panel in the UK can only muster 1/375th of Drax's output.

        This stuff ain't rocket science. Unfortunately our politicians are fools and under the spell of renewables snakeoil salesmen.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    nwo

    So where is this Tax really going, the banksters!

    In most of the poor homes, the council etc, have installed central heating and removed the

    fire places

    so now the poor can't even burn wood to keep warm!

    what a fking joke the uk is.

    I wish 1066 had a different outcome :(

  13. DominicT
    WTF?

    And nuclear?

    How long would it take nuclear to pay for itself without subsidy? Oh yes, that's right - it never has, so nobody knows.

    People like Page don't like paying for electricity that actually costs a realistic value. Fossil-fuel generation is unsustainable and everything else is more expensive. What does he want us to do, exactly? Electricity is inevitably going to cost more, although perhaps it would be nice to see an escalating tax on it with the revenues used to subsidise the bills of the poor to cover necessities. I doubt Page and his right-wing nutjobs would like that much, though.

  14. Anton Zeelie
    Megaphone

    Pay less to the shareholders!

    If businesses like Scottish Electric don't try and keep their share prices artificially high by paying major dividends to their shareholders, it might go better as well. The original idea behind shares was to measure the shareholders' confidence in the business to succeed, not confidence in getting major payouts every year. Because the share holders are Numero Uno, and NOT the consumer, we have a huge problem. And the consumer basically have no way to force the prices down - we are forced to pay whatever these companies want, because we CANNOT live without these commodities, and the companies know this.

    1. blackcat
      FAIL

      So why..

      "How long would it take nuclear to pay for itself without subsidy? Oh yes, that's right - it never has, so nobody knows."

      So why do companies only build 'renewables' when there is a subsidy? The greenie arguement about nuclear would have some weight if the greens were not utterly reliant on even bigger subsidies themselves.

      Last year the UK gov spent 1bn on nuclear. In the same time 1.6bn in subsidies was coughed out for UK windfarms. And over 10 years the German gov has handed over some 40+bn Eur in PV subsidies. This green energy seems pretty awful value for money and you can't even be sure it will generate anything.

    2. G Murphy
      WTF?

      Except...

      Generally major shareholders of utility companies are institutional investors, either directly or indirectly through investment funds, who are very interested in a steady income stream so that they can provide for things such as your endowment policy, life insurance policy and, most importantly, your pension. Blaming shareholders when they are representing your future financial security is a little odd.

      That's not to say I think it's right that they encourage ever larger dividend payments but I do understand why they do it!

      1. Anton Zeelie
        WTF?

        However...

        It does mean that all of this is still done to the detriment of the consumer, who doesn't have a choice.

        Personal opinion is that public services like energy, water, transport should be regulated capitalism.

        Let the fares cover only the manufacturing and maintenance costs and an amount put aside for replacement of old equipment/installations. No profit. Aaah - I forgot - that would be WAY too idealistic. And no way the fat cats/board members/(put other benefactors like politicians here) will EVER want to go down that route as they are the only parties to lose out....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Except...

        "Generally major shareholders of utility companies are institutional investors, either directly or indirectly through investment funds, who are very interested in a steady income stream so that they can provide for things such as your endowment policy, life insurance policy and, most importantly, your pension. Blaming shareholders when they are representing your future financial security is a little odd."

        That's how everybody ends up pointing the finger at everybody else for some rather nasty stuff that, when discovered, can make a company look really unethical. The idea is to make the people with the power look blameless while putting the guilt on someone else.

        So the chairman of the company can say, "Well our shareholders expect a return on their investments." This is the excuse that more or less says that of course the company would be nice to some people in the developing world who have to work 20 hour days for hardly any money in awful conditions, but those nasty shareholders force the company to forego treating people to those luxuries.

        Then the institutional investors say, "It's not my role to dictate what the company does - all I do is manage my portfolio and look for a good return for my customers who demand it." This excuse more or less says that the company has a free hand to do the right thing, but those customers demand an aggressive stance when it comes to companies that don't deliver ample returns.

        And that leaves the finger pointing at you, the guy with the pension plan who has no idea that a bunch of people are actually blaming you for someone else's misery.

    3. mmiied
      Mushroom

      nuclear costs

      I do not have the evidance for this but I was told by somone who works in the nuclear decomising industry is that plants in the USA do pay for them selfs and pay a tax on all energy sold to pay for the cost of decomishing

      and by the way before anyboady says so the reasion a lot of decomishing at the moment is very expencive is the things that at the momeny are begin decomishened are test reactors a lot of witch where pushed to the limites (as you do in tests) ans therefor there where some unexpected results witch are costly to clean up

      1. Lonesome Twin
        FAIL

        education costs

        Sadly speelign this pour detrackts badlie form any seriuz point yur trying to make. Honestly, if you can't be arsed to take in the fundamentals that school has been trying to push into you all your life, why should we believe that you have the intelligence to sort out fact, fiction, and conspiracy theory?

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
          Flame

          @ Lonesome Twin, you rude bastard ...

          ... I take it you have heard of dyslexia? However, you have no idea what it means, do you?

          I don't actually know mmied, but s/he is a regular poster here, unlike you, and whilst the spelling is not perfect, there is no doubt of his/her intelligence.

          How about you go away and keep your spiteful opinions to yourself?

    4. Aaron Em

      Don't feel too bad, it's not just the UK

      From here in the US, reading a news story such as this one is like looking two or three years into the future. I guess it's nice that rich people will have another way of extracting money from people like me who are foolish and useless enough to work for a living.

      Also, don't worry too hard about your lack of a fireplace either; burning wood releases carbon, after all, and we must think of the precious forests, so I have no doubt whatsoever that that'll become a serious crime, not very long at all after people start needing to do it in any kind of serious way. Then you can go to prison for trying to keep Granny and Junior from freezing to death, and then *all* your labor will be at the service of rich people, instead of whatever mere fraction they're extracting from you right now, by means such as having to pay extra taxes for not owning something you cannot afford.

      Don't complain, though! You're paying a premium now to improve the future of rich people's children and grandchildren, and since they are clearly the best of us, it only makes sense that we otherwise useless poor people should be put to privation on their behalf. What more do we deserve than nobly to suffer on behalf of our betters?

  15. ColinP
    Mushroom

    Lewis is on a roll

    First today from Lewis we get a Eurofighter rant, then one about green technology.

    I predict a totally objective article (with "analysis" second page) about the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency doubling its estimate of the amount of radiation released at Fukushima, and how that is somehow further proof that Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power. (Build more reactors now!)

  16. JonW
    Flame

    You're not giving the full picture

    A friend put up a 3.5KW PV array on a 2-axis tracker a few weeks ago (~£17K). Now I accept that it's sunny weather, but he got 42KWh out the thing the other day - that's a real-world, pukka figure. Also, remember that he isn't paying to import those KWh from the grid out of taxed income which further skews the financial argument.

    The ROCs and FIT are doing their job - promoting alternative energy sources and micro-generation. I fully expect them to be reviewed / cut soon (Surprised they weren't in april, tbh) now that the ball is rolling.

    It's all well and good to blame the Govt / Fat cat suppliers, but burning dino juice/gas to make electricity is madness - we need to be sharper than that. Personally, I'd like to see a crash Nuclear program in the UK but we've pi$$ed away our expertise in that field and have to make do with what we can.

    1. ChilliKwok
      WTF?

      Realistic PV figures

      I find those figures implausible. To generate 42KWh in one day a 3.5KW PV would have to be delivering 3.5KW non-stop for 12 hours. Is your a friend's installation in orbit?

      When I looked into it - the most optimistic quote I got, for a perfectly oriented static 3.5KW PV array, was 3000KWH per year = 8.2KWH per day on average.

      Also - a "two axis tracker" for £17K?? I was quoted £17K installation for a plain 3.5KW roof array.

      Another cost to consider is the 'Inverter' which converts the DC PV output into 240V AC suitable for use or feeding into the grid. These have a MTBF of 7 years - and cost £2000 to replace. So you need to budget £6000 for replacing these over the lifetime of the array.

      After much careful consideration I decided it was not worth the cost or trouble. The only people profiting from this scam are the PV companies. And I can assure you, your PV array will not make one jot of difference to the weather or global temperatures.

      1. JonW
        Boffin

        Figures are good

        Look for another installer :) The delta between a fixed array and a tracker is around 6K istr

        Anyhoo - bit of a cloudy start to the day, but note when it begins / finishes generating.

        http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/802/14857530.jpg/

        Oh, and you're assuming a catastrophic fail of the inverter, but I take your point.

        1. ChilliKwok
          Pint

          Thanks

          Thanks for the graph. Yea - we have had alot of sunny days lately - although I don't think the area under the curve amount to 42KWhr as claimed.

      2. Andrew 25

        @ChilliKwok

        "I was quoted £17K installation for a plain 3.5KW roof array."

        As someone else said, look for another installer, my 4kWp static roof array was £14k

        "The only people profiting from this scam are the PV companies. "

        No you are wrong. I will be making money thanks, the whole scheme has been designed to give 7-8% ROI over 25 years for house holders installing solar under the FIT subsidy.

      3. Andrew 25

        @ChilliKwok

        "3.5KW PV array, was 3000KWH per year = 8.2KWH per day on average."

        Yearly total looks ok, but you then tried to make a comparison between an average and a single clear day in summer. I got > 26kWh a couple of days ago on 4kWp system. A good day in the peak of Winter will be more like 2kWh

      4. Andrew 25

        @ChilliKwok

        sorry for the multiple posts, only just seen another one of your bizarre figures.

        "These have a MTBF of 7 years - and cost £2000 to replace."

        no no no, they are supposed to last at least 10 years, mine has a 6 year manufacturer warranty and mine (4KW with 2 MPP trackers - because my array is split 12/10 panels on 2nd and 1st floor roofs) cost in the region of £1200-1400.

        In doing my figures I assumed replacing the inverter once with a brand new one and ignored electricity savings so only used the FIT income against cost of install plus one replacement inverter. Payback doing that was 10 years, and if I was unlucky and had to replace the inverter twice then that would just wipe out less than a years FIT income.

        1. ChilliKwok
          Thumb Down

          Not such a good investment

          The 6 year expiration on your Inverter manufacturer's warranty would appear to agree with my 7 year MTBF estimate.

          Regarding your 10 year 'investment return'

          So it's basically like a £15K bond - but you have to keep the money locked up for 10 years before it starts to payout. That's a long time. Too long for most people. And any payback is entirely subject to the whim of politicians.

          All I would say is, 10 years is a long time in politics. If global temperatures continue to plateau there is likely to be a major reversal in public support for green taxes. Expect to see subsidy cuts once the posturing politicians see public opinion turning against them.

          1. Andrew 25

            investment is not subject to the whim of the politicians

            "So it's basically like a £15K bond - but you have to keep the money locked up for 10 years before it starts to payout."

            ish, it starts to payout immediately so you get the £15K stake back over the first 10 years then for the next 15 years it continues to payout (possibly slightly less due to panel performance drop, but the payout is index linked).

            With the FIT as an investment, you put £14K (in my case) in and each year they give you back more than 10% of your initial investment over 25 years. So ignoring inflation (index linked should sort out inflation), that £14K will get you at least £35K in todays money so £21K profit (plus smaller electric bills since you won't be paying for electric to run the lawnmower).

            "And any payback is entirely subject to the whim of politicians."

            No. As it's now installed it is a 25 year contract with a large electricity company (there are no tie-ins to an electricity provider as the FIT provider and your electricity provider don't have to be the same).

            For new installations they could change the law in a flash (current rules are that new entrants will get 8% less per year, but once you are installed you get locked in at that rate (plus index linking).

            To stop farmers milking solar panels instead of cows they are already changing the larger system tariffs.

  17. b166er

    FUD

    Let's just advance projects like the Sahara Solar Breeder.

    And start more projects like Ivanpah.

    It's f'in obvious really, all energy on this planet is thanks to the sun, so let's collect that proactively rather than lettings trees(oil/coal/gas) take years doing it for us.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perpetual Money Machine

    So how efficient would PV technology have to be before it's worthwhile floodlighting your own or your neighbour's roof (to generate solar power FIT at night)? I suspect we're not there yet...

    More seriously, there must be a lot of scope for fraudulent wiring, to help the PV panels along a little bit during the day time.

  19. Richard E
    Thumb Down

    Somewhat misleading

    I think you'll find that the current proportion of energy bills that goes to subsidising renewables is miniscule. Yes, it will rise somewhat over the coming years but it will never be anywhere near the money made by profiteering energy companies.

    In addition, remember that energy security is going to become increasingly important as climate change kicks in. The more we rely on foreign energy sources, the more risk there is that we'll be caught out without power. Not only that, fossil fuel energy prices are set to rocket in the years ahead while renewables will actually get cheaper as the technology matures and is employed more widely.

    In terms of energy security we should also be considering whether it's appropriate for our energy generation systems to be owned by overseas companies anyway, and whether or not they should be returned to state ownership and operated as non-profits. Energy supplies are simply too important to entrust to overseas interests and big business, and any profits should be ploughed back into the system to ensure we can meet the future's needs.

    In real terms we actually are not promoting home-grown energy sources and renewables enough. Almost certainly we also need nuclear power, however unpopular it may be among Greens. If we wish to retain our lifestyles, we need to bring down CO2 emissions. If we don't, we will have a poorer and poorer lifestyle in the future as things get progressively worse. It's as simple as that.

    1. Naughtyhorse
      Facepalm

      renewables will actually get cheaper as the technology matures and is employed more widely

      and presumabbly the wind will blow more consistently and the sun wile shine more consistently too

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Improvements in technology leads to cheaper products

        Not sure what your problem with that argument is.

        Quantum Mechanics has remained unchanged. But so has Moore's Law ...

        1. Aaron Em

          Moore slaw

          Moore's "law" -- actually, a mere observation, of which fools quickly make too much -- has already broken down for computer processors and other high-density ICs. Why do you think there hasn't been a new single-core processor in something like five years? Because parallel programming is an idea whose time has come, and Intel/AMD want to privilege social engineering over revenue and profit by forcing everyone over to it? Not likely! They're making multicore processors now, and forcing the developers to catch up, because they can't squeeze any more speed out of their single-core designs without a much smaller manufacturing process which appears to be a long time coming.

          Now it's possible that a similar limit in solar PV is a long way away, and that we still have as much range to improve solar panel technology as we did computer processors in, say, 1990. If that turns out to be true, then it'll prove wrong all of us who counseled patience and caution in developing a dependency on the technology before it was known capable of handling the load. But, so far, the rate at which solar PV conversion efficiency improves has appeared much closer to a linear progression than to an exponential one. This being the case, I find it difficult in the extreme to credit the sunny predictions of solar fans who tell me not to worry, the next generation of the technology really will be the panacea they've been promising all along.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Not a law, you say? Shocked. I'm shocked.

            TL;DR

            Solar PV conversion efficiency is improving.

            1. Aaron Em

              Not fast enough

              And not in accordance with the claims being made on its behalf.

              But I suppose you'll just have to forgive me for wanting to see some evidence of solid, sensible, evidence-driven planning, before we continue any further on a social re-engineering project easily equal in scope and breadth to the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward -- and with just as much potential for catastrophe as either.

              Silly of me, I know.

      2. Dreaming Ant

        Constant Wind and Sunshine

        The wind may not blow more constantly but various technologies are being developed to help manage and match demand and supply. Having more variable non-despatchable renewable capacity on the grid creates challenges and problems but it also creates an incentive to solve those problems.

        These include vehicle to grid storage systems, demand management of high load items such as fridges, electric space heating and heat storage systems.

        There are commercial incentives to design wind turbines which have a higher capacity factor. Turbines that can operate at lower wind speeds for example or better wind mapping and turbine sighting.

        Despatachable renewables will become more flexible if the market places a premium on flexibility.

        Developments in smart grids mean that we should be able to deal better with short term

        Or we could spend some money on increasing the amount of interconnector we have to Ireland and continental Europe so we can sell our surplus wind, wave and tidal when we have it and buy back replacement energy when the wind isn’t blowing.

        Perhaps the simplest demand and supply matching tool available would be to expose domestic customers to the half-hour period prices. This would encourage consumers to switch their own demand away from peak times and to times when electricity is cheaper.

        Any form of volatility creates an opportunity to make money by smoothing that volatility or by better predicting movements. This holds true for a UK grid with lots of renewables as it does for any other form of market volatility.

        These problems are solveable.

        1. Aaron Em

          I look forward

          to having my space heater "demand managed" at three o'clock on a windy January morning, when the grid's under heavy load because everyone is trying to keep warm.

  20. Mike Street
    Pirate

    Not a theoretical discussion this...

    Every year, in those months we like to call 'winter', it gets cold here in the UK.

    And every year, there are somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 'excess deaths' in winter in the UK, according to various estimates (I choose the smallest & largest I found).

    Most of those deaths are due to, or exacerbated by, would you believe it, the cold. At least some of them are due to people not being able to afford to heat their homes.

    It is very likely, therefore, that some of those excess deaths would be avoided if these 'green' taxes were removed and energy prices were therefore lower.

    The likely conclusion is that 'green' policies are killing people here in the UK every winter.

    Happy now, 'environmentalists'?

  21. TheOtherHobbbes

    Lewis, you *utter liar*

    Instead of punching hippies, try asking ScotPower's board why they're trying to rip people off further because their product is now so expensive - after a decade of naked profiteering and swingeing price rises - that customers have finally reached the limits of what they're able to spend.

    http://tinyurl.com/5wnojjk

    Green policy has nothing to do with any of this. Nor does this frankly bonkers attempt to start a tabloid witch hunt against anyone who decides to insulate their home more effectively.

    Or perhaps on Planet Lewis we should all be doing our patriotic corporate duty by heating the neighbourhood through the roof so ScotPower's board can keep awarding themselves large bonuses?

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/scottish-power-gas-bills-19-134834469.html

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      No tanks

      Nothing to do with the environmentalists. Every other EU country buys gas in the warmer times when it is cheaper, stores it in tanks and and then uses it in winter.

      In the UK we don't store anything near as much.

      Those who get the winter fuel allowance spend 40% of it on heating, so why not 100%?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Ah

      But of course the greenies will like that.

      A dead granny will only hold about 16kg of carbon, actually probably only about 10kg since food will have been off the menu for a while.

      Even better by burying the dead granny that carbon will stay locked in the ground or taken up by the biosphere and little released as CO2. How wonderful.

      That dead granny won't be taking up any more of the UKs carbon allowance which can then be spent by important environmentalist on latés and iPads to be used in their super eco houses bought using government subsidies extracted from the dead granny's pension.

      They might object to cremation, that uses up their gas.

      Makes me want to buy a V8.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Mike

      "The likely conclusion is that 'green' policies are killing people here in the UK every winter."

      No - the actual conclusion is that profiteering energy companies are killing people.

      1. Aaron Em

        And worsening the situation, this is noble?

        I sure don't see a hell of a lot of effort on the part of greens for better regulation of existing energy companies; the attitude seems to be "the worse, the better" on the theory that the quicker they're allowed to run themselves into the ground, the quicker they can be replaced with their supposed equivalent in solar and wind generation.

        But why expect anything else? If there's one thing true of greens, it's that they give more of a damn for their ideology than they do for anyone who doesn't run in their social circles. Why should they be any different here?

    4. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
      FAIL

      @TheOtherHobbbes

      Re: "Instead of punching hippies..."

      We've been about 5 years away from irreversible catastrophe for my whole life, apparently. When I was a teenager this sh*t scared me; I mean, the argument sounded convincing at the time, and there was the illusion of evidence. 30 years later and I'm still waiting for the sky to fall in. Reckon I'm still scared?

      These damn hippies any more? They deserve rather more than the metaphorical punching you accuse Lewis of giving them.

      Life (and the maximum post length allowed here, whatever that is) is too short to catalogue the absurdities in full, but someone mentioned "peak oil": this has been predicted for nigh on 90 years now... you *did* get the point of the story of the boy who cried "Wolf!", didn't you..?

      To paraphrase Dawkins: "good people do good things, and evil people do evil things, but to get good people to do evil things, you need the Green Movement".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        5 years.

        Quote please.

        Over the years I've heard a lot of talk about 2020 (usually as a point of no return), 2050, 2100. But eco-disaster by 1995 (assuming you're 20)?

        People have been predicting the end of the world for 2000 years. Can I therefore infer from your argument that the world is never in fact going to end?

        Peak Oil has been predicted for 50 years (not 90 years), although the earliest predicted date for the moment of peak oil, is 1995. Perhaps you'ld care to rephrase that very misleading remark.

        Please stop exaggerating quite so much. Why are anti-greens so hysterical about everything?

        1. Aaron Em

          Because we suspect you are making a horrible mistake

          One with severe consequences for, at least, the subset of our species inhabiting what we please ourselves to think of as "the developed world".

          For a lot of us, it'd be one thing if at least you lot could be convinced that nuclear power does not involve a contract with Satan himself, but you won't, and you've very obviously got the ear of those in power. So we're going to end up with a pure renewables plan, with no backstop; better, we're going to end up with a pure renewables plan with which the rich and powerful have no problem, because they're not the ones getting the shitty end of the "we can't generate enough electricity to satisfy all of the demand" stick, and all of it wrapped up in an overweening self-regard by those "virtuous" and "righteous" enough not to give a rat's ass about all the people you've plunged into privation.

          "People have been predicting the end of the world for 2000 years. Can I therefore infer from your argument that the world is never in fact going to end?"

          Not reasonably. But you can sure as hell draw the inference that we apes aren't any fucking good at making big scary predictions like that one and then getting them right. That said, I don't think the greens are wrong about things like peak oil and climate change being problems; I just think they're appallingly misguided in how they intend to go about addressing those problems, and I think that the reason you can't budge them from their path with a crowbar and a thousand pages of evidence is because they're operating as much or more on the basis of faith as on that of reason -- it's not just a matter of preserving good conditions for our progeny at this point; it's become a matter of morality and of virtue, and that scares the hell out of me because I know enough about history to be aware of what tends easily to happen when government becomes more concerned about living up to an ideology, no matter how noble, than it is about the people to whom it is at least theoretically responsible.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Down

            You Lot

            Let me just stop you there.

            Which fucking "lot" do you think I belong to? And how did you come to that conclusion. Please show your working.

            You've turned a few sarcastic remarks (often to some of the most ridiculous hyperbole) into the idea that I'm an arch-green. Now who's working from faith, not reason?

            As it stands, I'd rather not have Nuclear power, but right now, it appears that we need it as part of a range of technologies, and you won;t hear me talk against with any great passion or commitment. I do believe in investing in green-tech, and no, I'm not interested in all the doomsayers bleating about it bankrupting us. Science costs. This lovely Internet? Government money bought you that.

            Everyone so keen to whinge about the millions. What about the billions that get thrown at unscientific, unproven voodoo economics clap-trap.

            Now, having completely misread the situation, perhaps you should reflect on the fact that you're only human too, and maybe _your_ perception is wrong.

            1. Aaron Em

              Yep. Had that coming

              Fair enough and apologies. I find it is getting easier to be paranoid about the situation as the "pure renewable or bust" crowd seems to be gaining political power.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @Aaron Em

                No worries. We've all got the faulty monkey brain.

                The nucleartards might be well advised to lean a little politics, like the greentards did. But they're too busy cussing it as a soft subject, shouting about their intellectual superiority, cheer-leading their favourite technology during a disaster and then blaming the greentards because they don't have anyone's ear.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Also on the subject of you lot and making mistakes.

            See the herd in force:

            http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1086375

            17 thumbs up for a load of total bullshit. But as long as it's sneering at the greens it must be right.

        2. Tom 13

          Well. they haven't been able to memory hole my brain yet

          and I do recall reading articles in the ever-child-friendly Ranger Rick Magazine back in the 1970s that said we'd be out of oil by 2000, or that at the very least it would be so scarce nobody but the millionaires would be able to afford it. Taking into account inflation, you'd need to translate millionaires into billionaires, and I can still afford to put gas in my car. They were preaching wind, solar, tidal and geothermal back then too, with the Great Scientific Breakthrough that would make them all plausible energy sources as being just around the corner.

          Given that, I'd say we've got the right to be snippy with young whipper snappers who think they know everything and we're just dumb bastages.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hey Gramps ...

            ... put your reading glasses on. I actually date it earlier than you, at 1995. What I was arguing against was the remark that "peak oil [...] has been predicted for nigh on 90 years now", which is disingenuous at best. More likely, it's just false.

            In truth, it's hard to tell. What does it mean? That for 90 years Peak Oil has been predicted in 2250? That in every one of the last 90 years a Peak Oil prediction has been missed?

            Care to date the Hubbert Curve for me?

            "Taking into account inflation, you'd need to translate millionaires into billionaires."

            Taking into account some pretty hefty hyperinflation as well. I'm comparing millions today to billions today. You old boys really aren't doing so well with the English. Keep nodding off, do we?

            "young whipper snappers who think they know everything"

            That, my friend, is a tired old trick. Can we stop the fun with age slurs now?

  22. Phil Miesle
    FAIL

    @JonW is exactly right

    Modern, high-efficiency gas plants achieve 55% efficiency (excluding thermal capture), and that's before grid loss. Other plants (such as oil and nuclear) operate far less efficiently.

    While there may be some argument in the way ROCs work, FIT is exactly right. A microgenerator creating 1 kWh of energy prevents > 2 kWh of energy consumption...so IN REALITY their power company could pay a microgenerator 1 kWh worth of cost and still come out ahead financially.

    Regardless of "renewable" versus "non-renewable", FIT makes sense. A micro-CHP boiler (for example) can electricity and heat with a MUCH higher efficiency than a power plant.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: transmission and grid losses

      You've made the classic mistake of assuming that the objective is to reduce energy consumption. It isn't. The objective is to reduce CO2 emissions.

      If you believe the IPCC then our failure to charge the fossil generators for the long-term effects of their technology is the biggest subsidy in the UK energy market by a quite colossal margin.

      To a first approximation, it *does not matter* how thermodynamically efficient non-fossil generators are. All that matters for them is "cost per delivered kWh".

      1. Russell Long
        Megaphone

        Objective?

        The objective IS to reduce energy consumption. A five-minute trawl of most 'green movement' articles in the Grauniad will show you that the Green movement is ideologically wedded to reducing energy consumption, presumably because it believes in a mythical pre-Industrial past where the world was perfect and hobbits danced.

        1. Tom 13

          Not just energy. Read carefully and you find that while it is possible

          the above poster talking about planting granny may have had tongue firmly in cheek, the greens don't, and that is their Final Solution to the carbon problem.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Skim over another fact Lewis

    ...bar a long way, most Solar panels fitted these days are Solar Thermal, used for heating water and contribute nothing to the electricity supply.

    But facts, hey, who needs them?

    1. Scott 19
      Thumb Down

      Idiot

      Lewis is talking about leccy prices so why comment on something that has nothing to do with the story? I suggest you go back and have a re-think of your comment.

  24. AC34
    Thumb Down

    Subsidies

    If you're pissed off at subsidising other people's installations, the obvious solution is to install one of your own.. Even if you can't afford the upfront costs, there's plenty of companies that will cover all the installation costs and allow you to use all the energy they generate for free, whilst they keep the revenues from any excess that is fed back..

    Micro-generation requires subsidies just like any other form of energy generation, but with the former at least most of the subsidies go directly to the people involved as opposed to corporate bonuses.. (Or at least that's the way it ought to be..! Yes, I can see the contradiction between my two paragraphs..)

  25. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The real reason the rates were set so high

    was in the desperate attempt to make nuclear look like a viable option. No one realised that renewables were in fact very cheap on an industrial level and so now we have wind farms and solar farms popping up all over the place making massive amounts that was meant to go to subsidise nuclear.

    The price of renewables has been held high because no-one has had the incentive to make it cheaper as it has provided a very reasonable return on investment for a long time now. The subsidies mean someone can now come round my house, stick up a windmill in and I get free power for life and they laugh all the way to the bank.

    And as the subsidies force up the price of electricity more renewable installations will go in.

    Typical government cock-up - cant even get things done for the business that bribe them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC34

      Give us links, please.

      I'll try that for a dollar.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: installing your own

      Will these companies that cover the installation costs also cover the cost of buying a house to start with. If not, it is hard to see how this works for folks who are too poor to own their own home.

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Only for the seriously rich

      "If you're pissed off at subsidising other people's installations, the obvious solution is to install one of your own.."

      A solution available only to the rich. That is to say, you have to be a homeowner, and in control of your own roof (not in a flat, for example). Not even every house owner has a suitable roof.

      I'm not so rich as to be able to install my own. Sure, I could afford the panels and installation without sweat, but not the site to install them on. So instead I've invested a five-figure total total in a couple of funds targeting ROCs and FITs. Only to see the government change the rules to exclude institutional investors - those of us not so rich as to own a home - from access to the best subsidies.

    4. Aaron Em

      You've left something out

      You need to own a house for that. My landlord wouldn't let me install panels on the roof whether subsidized or otherwise, and I strongly suspect that whatever council owns the council house or the council flat wouldn't be any more welcoming of the idea.

      Of course, you could just write off everybody who isn't a houseowner, but...

  26. The Grinning Duck
    Alert

    Not only, but also

    Demand profiling is a pain in the arse as it is, but stick a solar panel or wind turbine on the site and the grid demand becomes as unpredictable as, well, as the weather. Demand gets guessed up, which puts more risk on the supplier, which is promptly charged to Jonny Customer. I’d say the whole thing is a massive cluster-fuck waiting to happen, but that would be cynical of me.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    19% on gas. 10% on electricity

    Scottishpower today.

    Billions in profits not enough apparently.

    Can we blame green policies ? Really ?

  28. Syntax Error
    Unhappy

    Simple Answer

    Government sets the price of gas and electricity. Competition (free market) has failed. If they want to give people money for solar panels etc they can pay for it out of the fairest tax income tax. Saving the planet is naive.

    The only countries which are really affected by increased CO2 and a warmer planet causing unpredictable climate are China and India and that is because they are overpopulated and have many people to feed.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    CHP makes sense, but not much on a micro scale

    "A micro-CHP boiler (for example) can electricity and heat with a MUCH higher efficiency than a power plant."

    The place where CHP can really make a big difference is at the 100kw->10MW scale, to serve a hospital's energy requirements, or an office block, or a factory or that kind of thing. On that scale CHP does make much more sense, and has done for decades when you look at the bigger picture [1], but very few people in power (sic) are interested in the bigger picture.

    In the public sector where folks should have been encouraged as a matter of policy to take a longer term view, rather than the market's inevitable focus solely on what's cheapest today regardless of the ten (or even twenty-five) year impact, and an "energy in total" rather view rather than gas vs electricity vs coal vs oil. It can be done, have a read about what Woking council did starting in the 1990s [1].

    Still, we've wasted thirty years ignoring concepts like CHP, and energy efficiency in general, what's another ten? Oh, the lights go out in the UK in less then ten as we decommission fossil AND nuclear plants at the end of their lifecycle? Whoops. That's the market for you, I suppose - why worry about tomorrow when there are profits to take today.

    Well anyway we'd better start taking energy efficiency (domestic and commercial) very very seriously very very quickly, because the construction of nuclear power stations even if it is the right answer isn't going to be making much difference in the UK in ten years. Maybe we need to look at nuclear in addition too. Maybe.

    Flames, because they keep us warm. We'll need them.

    [1] http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/localgov/goodpractice/sustainablecommunities/Pages/wokingcarbon.aspx

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Hmm rather than renewables only what about climate control

    If we wanted to say make solar viable in the UK, then surely boosting the level of sunshine we receive by climate control would be an interested research field ala the Star Trek concept of Risa (soaking wet planet, made idllyic by controlling weather patterns)

    As an example if weather control was ever perfected the weather report migh say "tonight between 0100 and 0530 expect heavy rain all over the UK, moving into a sunny day with temperatures of around 20 to 25C with a mild refreshing breeze, next week is Christmas so expect as usual heavy snow everywhere between the 22nd of December and the 28th of December, though all major roads will be free of snow as usual"

    Risky but imagine the potential increased crop yields and productivity through no more long cold winters, improved further if we could control the day length of all countries so no more short and depressing winter days, and many more warm long days full of sunshine, which could boost both national morale and tourism income, instead of freezing wet days, tourists could be met with guaranteed and warm sunshine, no mattter the time of year. Apart of course for designated ski areas, which could have year round snow.

    Its an idea, which I would love to see, no more crappy short and cold winter days and lots more sunny and warm summer days.

    However I won't hold my breath and instead will look into more winter coats as the green loonies seem to see any temperature above -50C as abnormally warm and would love dearly to send us back into a super ice age with sub minus 150C temperatures.

    Seems more alcohol to keep warm is the order of the day, though despite 6 units in 2 hours my spelling is almost legiblle.

    1. Aaron Em

      Sweetie, the grownups are talking

      You go back and play with your Star Trek dolls, okay?

      (Seriously: weather control? Try to keep it to things where we at least have any idea of whether or not it's possible on a large scale, much less how to go about it.)

      1. Tom 13

        He seems about as reasonable

        as the green weenies, just taking a different tact.

  31. ChilliKwok
    Big Brother

    Q. How much hidden 'green' tax are we paying?

    Power companies are forced to source 11% of their supply from 'renewables' under the government's ROC system.

    On average electricity from 'renewables' is about 4 x the cost of leccy from coal or gas fired stations.

    So 11% of your bill is inflated by a factor of 4 = 33% extra.

    So we're all paying a stealth tax of at least 33% on all our energy bills.

  32. Mark Berry

    A lot of people seem to forget.....

    A companies director is legally required to look after the interests of the shareholders, not the customers.

  33. John Tserkezis
    FAIL

    Same thing in Australia.

    Government posted rich rebates for solar to encourage people to install them.

    Well, it worked allright. So well in fact, the Goverment can't pay for the rebates any longer.

    So it announced it's no longer offering rebates.

    People complained, so Gov backflips and continues to pay rebates.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our power bills are going up YET AGAIN to continue pay for these "green" uckers.

  34. Magnus_Pym
    Stop

    Lights go out?

    The fact is that the lights go out not when the oil/gas run out but when the suppliers first notice that they are running out. All it takes is for a rumour and panic trading doubles, trebles, quandrupales the price overnight. Power gets expensive. The west start to use force to protect it's economy. Arguments at NATO and the UN about fair access to resources. Stand-offs, skirmishes, battles, wars. The last of the oil gets used up in fast jets and battleships. Hey presto energy poverty the world over. Welcome to the dark ages.

    Don't forget that because of the way OPEC works no-body really know how much oil and gas there is left. Maybe it won't happen for a hundred years, maybe it will be tomorrow. All we know is that it will happen. Surely we aught to try to do something to offset the problem. Probably renewables are not the answer but at least they ask the question.

  35. SpeedEvil
    WTF?

    One major annoyance

    I want to put up some solar panels - DIY.

    i can source these for perhaps 1/4 the cost of certified panels.

    Unfortunately, if I were to connect these to the grid - I can't even get back what I'd normally pay for electricity - only 3p/kWh or so.

    1. Roger Mew
      Happy

      DIY

      Well yes, but put up the minimum you can and then increase the number and put them in. Most controllers deal with 2 banks so you will not even have to modify the original wiring. As for costings, we here in France get 40% of the cost returned and get 6x the cost per unit of leccy sell price so its a good investment.

  36. Chris D Rogers

    Tidal & Tidal

    We can be green and still be pro-nuclear.

    I think wind farms everywhere are a bloody eyesore, not so bad if offshore, but they don;t look like Dutch Windmills do they?

    What about tidal power, its green and we are a small island - I'm confident engineers could get it right.

    Also, what happened to the Severn Barrage, with some tweaking it could have produced up to 8% of the UK's energy needs - obviously our privatised companies do not wish to support this, they only care about share holders.

    Gas, Electricity, Water are all needed and should be owned by the State as strategic resources and not private companies.

    Privatisation and competition was supposed to deliver huge savings passed on to the consumer - I see no savings and profits are passed on to shareholders and owners, many of whom are not even British.

    Until we have a comprehensive National energy policy that is deemed on a strategic national interest, nothing will change and we, the average punter, will have to fund everything and lump it.

    Talk of a free market is bullshit, all you have are privatised monopolies - still, they pay the Tories large fees - so that's okay then!!!!!!

  37. Scott 19
    Thumb Down

    Missing something

    The Goverment has to push the prices of leccy up because to make renewnables viable they have to have the same price as fossil fuels, so yes the payments to make re-newables viable will go only once leccy is at the world beating cost of renewnables.

    But don't worry eevy one frothing at the mouth about CO2 and the enviroment as this will not effect your middle class exsistance as it'll only be the poor, helpless and infirm that are effected by this and who cares about them, certainly not any greens i've ever met.

  38. Apocalypse Later

    I've got mine

    Yep, the green obsession is costing you all dearly, but it is too late to bail. I have a 25 year contract, index linked. My last quarter's electricity bill went down to £175 quid (from about £250 before), and they (well, you) paid me £460. The rates went up in April.

    This was on a maximum sized domestic PV panel installation of about 3.9kW peak costing £15,000. So it looks like I will get around £2000 a year back, one way or another, at today's prices, and going up. That should pay the initial investment back in 8 years, conservatively. I don't know where the maths in the article came from- mine are real.

    You can whine or you can get on board. I laugh at the global warming myth- all the way to the bank.

    1. Roger Mew
      Happy

      same here

      Our costs seem comparable with yours except we get more sun hence more leccy, and more money. We have probably half yours and in 3 months this year we are up to about 300kw, good innit.

  39. A J Stiles
    Holmes

    The Elephant in the Room

    Energy prices will end up sorting themselves out automatically, when fossil fuels run out.

    The fact that we are using up fossil fuels faster than they are being replaced, amounts to an invisible subsidy. When the *only* energy sources left are renewables, then the true cost will become apparent.

  40. James Pickett

    Hmm..

    "That and the FIT would pay for the Tesla and the solar panels after only 11 years"

    I think you're forgetting the new batteries required for the Tesla after 4-5 years, and I'm not sure the solar panels will charge it up much overnight...

    BTW, those who worry about CO2 might give some thought to the amount produced during manufacture. Not to mention the Cadmium involved, which is heavily regulated in the EU. Just as well they're made in China!

  41. voice of unreason
    Flame

    The real cost of solar

    Nailing colours to the mast:

    1) I believe that climate change is real, man-made & caused by CO2 emissions. I think this is a bad thing, and should be changed

    2) The best way to reduce CO2 emissions is technological progress. At the moment, the alternative technical solutions are bad, creating more problems than they solve.

    3) In particular, any "energy source" that is not cost-effective is telling you something very direct and specific. It tells you that the resources it uses are more than it saves. Somewhere in the production or maintenance-chain, it emits MORE CO2 than burning fossil.

    4) Yes, I know that costs depend on volume manufacture - I'm not stupid.

    To the topic.

    When it comes to buying, or subsidising solar - it is environmental vandalism to emit MORE CO2, just to look as if you are doing something. You CANNOT quote a 25-year payback on an inefficient technology, when it will save more in CO2 to wait until the efficiency doubles in ten years.

    Suppose you have a calculation problem that will take 10 years to calculate with today's best hardware. Do you A) Buy today's best hardware and wait for 10 years for the calculation to finish. B) Wait 18 months, buy the best hardware then and wait 5 years C) Errr... that wasn't so hard, was it. Moore's law for solar is less than 10 years in cost-performance, so it is just plain wrong to quote costs on anything longer than 10-year payback. Any business case is done with Net Present Value, which requires an assumed capital depreciation. Did you think that people depreciate capital over three, five years or at most ten on a balance sheet, even when its something with a 20-year guarantee 'cos they're all idiots and you know better?

    Now to the morality angle. You think this is theoretical? Manufacturing YOUR solar panel is killing human beings by poisoning their water supply. Today, in China.No excuses that you didn't know. Bother to Google, take ten minutes. Big solar panel manufacturer WuXi Metec. Now Google WuXi pollution. Zhejiang Sopray Solar. Google Zhejiang pollution. "The farmlands look white; waters look milky-white and are extremely smelly. The southwest night wind covers all nearby areas with a strong odor and prevents people from sleeping. The villagers are all in bad health. Many have cancer—lung cancer.”

    That's the money that we pay for the solar panels, that causes that, directly. Mobile phones too, but guess what - $100 of parts causes roughly 1/50th the pollution of $5k solar panels. That's the way the world is, where we're not looking. A meter of silicon uses a LOT of HF, nitric acid, ammonia, caustic alkali, POCL3.

    Just don't claim ignorance to the man at the pearly gates, because he ain't gonna be listening. Before you bought those solar panels, you Googled the chemical processes, right? Does the internet make it so hard to do a bit of checking nowadays? Really? Not even worth an hour of your time to find out the exact quantities of hydrofluoric acid etch it takes to make your £5K purchase - and what that does to the lungs, flesh and testicles of the people paid $10 a day to do the work? From the technical websites, not the websites of the companies doing the selling (which includes the government "information" sites which are actually just selling themselves). Hmm. Maybe not so interested in the environment after all.

    If we want to make a real difference to the world - learn some engineering & design a better solar panel, and better chemical processes. One with good enough energy effiiciency, that fewer people spew their guts out from slow poisoning of processing chemicals than coal-miners die underground far from their families. That's the real choice we have in life, not spending 10% our neighbours incomes buying voodoo trinkets to decorate the roof.

    Green Tech - I'm all for it. Let's start now.

    1. Apocalypse Later

      today's best hardware

      So you haven't bought a computer yet, as the prices are still going down and the specs still going up?

      I am totally NOT interested in the CO2 panic or other environmental fashions of the moment, but I'm not going to miss out on a good deal because I think someone else's ethical concerns are misplaced or misapplied. This is a bribe, to get rational people to go along with irrational policies. Take it or lose out.

      15k in the bank won't make me anything this year. In three years time, when inflation is raging, I might get 20% on my money as it inflates by 30% and rising (and pay taxes on the "gain"). Or maybe we will get into the state Japan has been in for decades instead- with no interest on savings for a protracted period. I could have bought a new car for the money. Lots of people do, and borrow to do it.

      I would rather preserve something of what I own, as far as possible. The government doesn't give you a lot of outs. Did I point out the FIT payments are tax free? If you want to get in on this, you need to act now. The whole scheme is up for review in 2012 (or is it 2013?). Given the uproar that is starting to build, the scheme may be withdrawn or become less attractive. But like I said, I am locked in, with a 25 year contract with the electricity company (not a Government subsidy that can be withdrawn).

      Turn the handle the way it goes.

  42. voice of unreason
    Facepalm

    @Apocalypse later

    Errr - really, really missing the point.

    Yes, I would buy a computer now, even though I know the same capability is worth half as much in two years time.

    But I really, really don't write into forums, saying "hey, this computer hardware is really reliable, it will last for 25 years. My £500 computer is worth it, because it only costs me £20 a year". That's loony talk. My £500 computer is junk in 5 years, not because it breaks, but because I'm going to BUY A NEW ONE. It may well be worth it, at £100 / year, but that's another story

    Your £5K solar installation is junk in 10 years, BECAUSE YOUR ROOF AREA IS WORTH SOMETHING. You'll get more feediin tariff in 10 years by buying new solar panels. So when you do the trade-off, those £5K solar panels only generate for 10 years.

    And on the morality. If we're doing "those are the rules, quick buck", don't whinge and say it's "illegal" or some such bullshit when the feed-in tariffs are withdrawn and they change the contract unilaterally. Sort of like paying into Equitable Life all your life, and then finding they tell you there's no money left when it comes time to giving you your own money. Happens all the time mate.

    Don't feel bad, much better people than you have lost a lot more money, with long time-scale Ponzi schemes. And they didn't even know, for a fact, that their actions were responsible for people coming to harm, so I figure you pretty low down on the compensation bandwagon of "bad decisions in life that I took"

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    "I'm confident engineers could get it right."

    And doubtless suitably experienced engineers given the right budgets and the right commercial freedoms could indeed get it right.

    Trouble is, in a lot of engineering projects and companies, the people in charge aren't engineers any more, and haven't been for a long time.

    The moneychangers and beancounters and "corporate change management leaders" have taken over, and they mostly couldn't engineer a [xxxxxx] in a brewery. But they all know what the right price for the job is, and if engineers say it can't be done for that money...

  44. Roger Mew
    Happy

    Solar panels

    we have a similar system here in France, good, innit, we get 6x the cost of each unit back, we get 40% of the installation cost back after 1 year and we have a midday (now obsolete but cannot be taken away) off peak boost at about 5p a unit.

    Effectively we will not pay for leccy for at least 20 years for an outlay of €12,000 and get back about €5000. Now that money is better off on my roof than in the bank.

    You have a choice!!!! Well you dont if you have no money, so the really poor pay again.

    Certainly a good inflation hedge though and its g'teed for 20 years. Basically we will get an inflation related amount back but take this year about €1,000 Bank interest a lot less and not inflation rated.

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