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.
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 …
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?)
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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. :(
"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.
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.
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".
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?
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.
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.
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
@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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
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.
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*.
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.
"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:
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):
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.
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.
"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.
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.
It is indeed funded by other consumers, but the amount added to bills is between £1 and £3 per household per year. There is a lot of ill-informed noise (yes, you, Andrew) about it being too burdensome on "poor people".
The price of solar equipment has dropped faster than expected, so a cut in the rate was inevitable and part of the mechanism of the scheme - but a cut of over 50% with virtually immediate effect is knee-jerk bureaucracy at its worst.
The PV installation (surprised?) firm I work for had been scheduling jobs into January before this announcement was made, so we already have many unhappy customers who will not be getting what they have paid their deposit for.
So what you're saying is that the company you work for only has a business plan due to huge taxpayer/fuel-user subsidies paid to support the products it sells and installs? Marvellous. Economics at its very best. It is not knee-jerk it is called "balancing the books" and it is something the previous Government should have tried.
You can't say that there's a massive amounts of wealth redistribution from the poor to the middle and wealthy classes and then turn around later in the same article and say the amount of energy produced is so low it won't pay it's own installation cost. The two logically must be proportionate to each other
If the amount of leccy produced is low, then There isn't a great amount of wealth redistribution going on via FiT. Equally if the amount being redistributed is high then there must be a lot of leccy.
as noted above whether the FiT for solar makes great deal of sense for most of Britain should be considered separately to the level at which it is set. That aside, it is disingenuous to assert that it is a wealth redistribution tax from the poor to the rich (such as VAT) because you omit the cost of capital investment required - manufacturers and installers stand to benefit initially, owners possibly over time. If you're against that then you must be against any investment that can be set off against tax. There may be a price rise as a result of the tariff but this is also because of increased generating capacity and can be offset by subsidies to the less well-off, though grants to house-owners for improved insulations (paying for "negawatts") is probably the most efficient way of dealing any imbalance and probably the best way for Britain to reduce its energy bill quickly.
Returning to the level of tariff - salutary lessons from Germany and elsewhere do apply. In Germany it was the solar energy lobby itself that pressed for a faster than planned reduction in tariffs due to excessive demand. Again the suitability of FiT for solar in Germany is debatable, South of the Main is deemed to suitable, but the aim of this kind of cross-subsidy was to kick-start investment in the technology and it has been an undoubted success in this area with jobs being spread across Germany and China - boosting capacity, reducing prices and transferring skills; if anywhere needs a leg up with environmentally friendly energy it is China.
Solar is still a small player in the energy market but Germany is already ahead of target in reducing emissions and the share of energy provided by renewable sources. At the same time I think we're onto the third round of subsidies for building insulation. Having just moved from a poorly insulated flat into a modern one I can confirm that my heating bill is on a downward trend. The rise in renewables is generating renewed interest in the spot market and escaping the clutches of Gazprom which supplies the vast majority of Germany's gas.
If you want to go kicking a country for its energy policy then Spain is worth a look: it keeps energy prices artificially low with the state paying for any shortfall (usually of Oliver Reed proportions), exports dirty energy to the Maghreb (distorting the market and reducing the incentives for efficiency) and has horrifically high FiT in a country destined to be as covered in photovoltaic cells as it is in polytunnels which seek to make economic value from the same abundant source of solar energy.
Coal is the future. It can be "produced" in the UK (uk jobs), delivered by a coal merchant (uk jobs) and a few lumps produce a lot of heat for a long period of time, fortunately its still relatively cheap despite VAT - WTF is being warm a luxury?
Bollocks to the c02, I expect the amount released in my lifetime vs knocking out 2x kids and the C02 they would produce is a lot lower.
The actual extra on an electric bill is 9% for renewables and environment which is a bit different to a few pence.
On a bill of £1000 per year for all electric assisted housing that's a large lump.
This is a transfer of cash from the poor to the well off. It goes to roof renters too, so big business reaps the profit as well.
In Spain now all new properties have to have solar water heating (yes that means blocks of flats with hundreds of units on the roof!). They probably take a lot less resources to make, don't require any feed-in and are probably cheaper and more useful to the new home-owners than PV panels.
Before you say yeah well it's a lot hotter here; we had our first snow here last Friday; about 6", just north of Madrid, and I haven't really seen the sun much in a week.
As it happens I also like PV panels a lot. 100% of the power for our space systems come from solar...
if you don't give incentives why would anyone bother. If it is a requirement to have a broad range of renewables, possibly because someone couldn't' get their arse into gear about nuclear and everyone complains about everything else, solar panels seem to be one of the best.
Nuclear - don't build that near me I might get sun burn if its hit by a 40ft wave.
Wind- great but oh don't build it where its windy it may spoil the view and think of the birds.
tidal barrier - think of the birds, coastline fishes.
shale gas - think of poor old Blackpool tower it might fall down.
clean coal, is that an oxymoron, they tried to replace a coal burner with a clean version near me but the greens shut that idea down so now my wife with c.o.p.d has to breathe the particles that there are (presumably because clean coal isn't as someone mentioned "perfect").
if only the generators could afford to build solar farms they would be huge to get the efficiency so it would be back to either don't put it on the hillside because it spoils the view and don't put it on the fields as we need food this leaves distributing it over roofs, maybe not efficient but who can complain about that. Oh wait a minute think of the poor.
if its going to be on peoples roofs otherwise planning permission will be tied up in endless court proceedings, human rights appeals, judicial reviews (all the rage now I hear), European courts etc. Then why shouldn't the roof owners get a cut. An alternative would have been micro wind generation I guess and the population would have been reduced as neighbours shot each other over the noise.
who do you class as poor as well, many of those will think of nothing paying 35 pounds a month for the latest bling mobile, but 300 for some installation which would pay back in a couple of years, couldn't possibly do that. I know a sweeping generalisation but I was venting.
Before the spelling and grammar Nazi jump in can I say 2 things. 1 I'm an engineer. 2 bloody HP touchpad.
Not convinced by this myself, anyway. People throw around (as in the USwitch graphic) this 8% return annually, conveniently forgetting that you can't realistically get your capital back out, and there's no real evidence of the added value or not you get when selling the property. Worst case, you write off the panels completely, in which case the whole life return is nearer 4% p.a. (i.e. it take you the first 12 years or so just to get your initial outlay back).
Compare that to taking 12k and stuffing it in a high-yield account, tax-free if you can swing it - you'll comfortably beat 4% average over 25 years, and the interest would compound to boot - as well as all the cash being on hand if you need it back. And if you need a loan for that initial outlay... oh, dear...
So yes, you get a few quid of free electricity when you don't need it (I want solar to generate power on a winter's evening, not mid-day in July), and you get the smug factor, but really...?
I'm a closet tree-hugger, but not enough to spend this much to get effectively nowt back beyond a damaging social distortion. We'd be better off funding someone further south to generate power - maybe there's a new business opportunity for Greece?
Andrew, you seem to tar all middle class people with the same brush. That's not really fair. Can you give figures on how many 'middle class' people have panels on their roofs? I would estimate a very low proportion indeed. You probably haven't noticed, but the recession means that even the middle class don't have a great deal of cash to throw around - you have to be on a damn good salary to have money to spare at the moment.
If you really want a hobby horse on which to push the poor to rich money transfer you should be thinking about petrol prices, which has a far greater effect on the poor than the rich than anything to do with these subsidies.
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