By Chris Botragyi
While my enmity for such reaches epic proportions akin to Mount Vesuvius’ volcanic eruptions (especially when they slam down the phone first after I’ve told them that I’m not interested!), we have to say enough is enough. Only recently, one such firm (who shall remain nameless) was fined a record £200,000 by the Information Commissioner for making around six million various automated calls––yes, six million! Now, while these nuisance calls are finally dealt the blow that they are deserved, the truth remains as to whether these useless, soul destroying wastes of exercise are genuine enough, if in fact you decide to let them lure you into their claws. But all this aside, let’s concentrate on one of the more ‘popular’ items constantly recommended to us through the sheer hell of the sales call.
So, we have all heard the continuous spiel of how “great and environmentally friendly” solar panelling is, and that it “will save you a fortune!” But does this really ring true, and are they for you? Before you go scampering up a ladder and smashing your roof tiles to smithereens, or frothing volcanic lava all down the phone handset, we need to see the future of solar panelling.
The answer to the above question is yes. Solar panelling will indeed save you money whilst you reduce the carbon footprint within the family home. But the popularity surrounding solar panellingis currently at an all time high. Not only are households making vast savings on their annual bills and pocketing nice wads of cash back from suppliers, but the energy itself is almost akin to the scale and efficiency as that of mother nature, and her very own ways of utilising the sun’s energy. This is due in fact to the ever increasing development of technology regarding solar panelling.
In 1839, a French physicist by the name of Edmond Becquerel built the first ever photovoltaic cell. Over the many years that have transpired, the technology–-and efficiency––seems to better itself by the decade. However, production costs in the past were difficult to keep down; this caused its popularity to dwindle somewhat, forcing the boffins to hack and chop at the tech as they strived for a way for families to have a modest, yet affordable system. But the key elements that eventually led to the big rise in solar panelling companies wasn’t only the efficiency, but the fact that the whole idea was, and is, working more productively than originally thought. From crystalline silicon and mono-crystalline silicon, to polycrystalline silicon and silicon thin film (bear in mind that these are just a few), the overall results are by far exceeding their original plans and proficiency. But as we all know, the more that something excels, the more money it makes; this in turn has grabbed the attention of the Government and other such corporations.
The government continues to ride the crest of the wave with their obligations to help you in your greener endeavours with schemes like the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT), which allows you to receive money back from your energy suppliers for producing your own electricity. This works by receiving a fixed rate for every unit/kWh (kilowatt per hour) you generate. Though again this all depends on the type and size of system that you install. Then there is the export tariff. This works by selling your extra energy, that you fail to use, back to your energy suppliers (currently around 4.77p per unit of electricity). These are just a couple of the schemes out there used to help and encourage the switch amongst households across the country. *Full details of these above schemes can be found on the government website at: www.gov.uk
Predicted average based systemCosts of solar panelling and installation (based on an average
Annual generation payment/income (for energy generated): £420
Annual export tariff (payment for unused energy sent back the grid): £80
Annual savings off your bills: £120
*Based on a MoneySavingExpert article guide.
But after the success of this ever expanding efficiency (as seen above) comes the kick in the teeth; you see because of the vast brilliance in out-performing its original productivity and projections, the government has now decided to butcher the subsidies that were offered to help with the switch by a whopping 87%! This is certainly the way backwards, as the switch will dramatically start dissipating––a move that experts have raged “could kill off a promising industry”. And if this isn’t enough to put that sour taste in your mouth, then a document delivered by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will surely ram the taste down your throat, as it has shown that the FITs are also likely to be in the firing line.
From the 1st January 2016, FITs for the more modest systems are to be radically reduced. Smaller systems are to be slashed from around 12.47p per kilowatt per hour to 1.63p! This seems to be blamed on the over expenditure from within the £7.6 billion budget originally allocated. The reasons for the cuts are accredited to the fact that solar should now be able to take care of itself. Not only does this spell potential disaster for the solar industry, but also for the thousands of job losses that could occur overnight. With around 700,000 homes across the UK already generating their own renewable and clean energy, unfortunately this will fail to move progressively forwards. It really is a case of two steps forward and 10 back. *Figures and stats from a Guardian newspaper article written by Terry Macalister.
With governmental talks and promises aimed at going greener and helping to save the environment, it all seems to be for nothing. The potential fall of solar energy will no doubt create chaos amongst homeowners alike; most of these families, although seeing the productivity and value originally, were reliant on such subsidies from the government. But with the forecasted cuts ready to hit with the power of a force 10 gale in January, one can only fear for the future of the solar panel industry.
So, my answer to the original question was yes; I still stand by that. With the renewable energy and technology available currently surpassing every original predictions and expectations, it seems a downright shame––preposterous in fact––that the industry, whilst always finding new and improved ways of sustaining its success, has to face these forthcoming cuts.
Finally, word to the wise. If you do decide to go ahead with the switch and take advantage of the government subsidies before the January axe, don’t fall for the aggressive sales tactics or tacky videos that promise you the world if you change. Always do your homework, and find reputable installers and manufacturers to discuss your questions, and any other issues that you are not comfortable with. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme––also found on the government website––offers important installer information that is advisable to be read before you make your final decision.
Let’s hope that the government comes to their senses and finds a way of reversing the dramatic cuts, thus allowing the solar panel industry to carry on thriving in a world where the green of paper should be made readily available for the green of the planet.