Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Spain To Cut Wind, Solar Power Subsidies In December

Spain's government is seeking to press ahead with planned cuts in costly renewable energy subsidies in early December, as part of ongoing austerity moves, a spokesman for the country's Industry Ministry said Wednesday.

The plan, which is designed to make annual savings of around EUR100 million, should be fairly similar to draft cuts discussed with sector representatives in July, spokespeople for the ministry and the wind and solar power sectors said. The cuts are more drastic for solar power generation, they said.

However, the cuts may also effectively shelve projects to build solar power that would have received around EUR1 billion in subsidies in coming years.

Solar power, the most expensive contributor to Spain's electricity generation, currently accounts for around 3% of Spain's power generation and around half of renewable energy subsidies. Wind power accounts for around 13% of generation.

Spain is among the countries most reliant on renewable energy--a policy that has made it less dependent on fossil fuel producers but has resulted in higher energy prices, stoking up inflation and hitting the economy's international competitiveness at a time when domestic demand has weakened.

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Industry growth sees photovoltaic costs plummet

THE capital costs of photovoltaic plants have fallen more than 40% in the past two years because of the growth of the industry, says the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association.

The lower capital costs put photovoltaic on an equal footing with other solar technologies, the association said yesterday.

Photovoltaic technology is traditionally more expensive compared to other solar technologies, and involves the conversion of solar radiation into direct-current electricity using semiconductors.

The National Energy Regulator of SA’ s October 2009 renewable energy feed-in tariff guideline put photovoltaic at R3,94/kWh and concentrated solar at R3,14/kWh.

"Since 2008, when the (feed-in) tariffs were calculated, the size of the installed (photovoltaic) market has more than doubled, resulting in the capital cost of (photovoltaic) power plants dropping by over 40%," photovoltaic association found er member Ryan Hammond said yesterday.

"The current cost-effectiveness of photovoltaic is equivalent to any other solar technology and it remains the most versatile renewable technology choice, capable of being easily applied in installations from 10W to over 100MW and more," he said.

In Europe, the renewable energy feed-in tariff for photovoltaic is about R2/kWh, he said. "We need to sit down with the Department of Energy and look at the real numbers. We would love to see the R3,94/ kWh revisited. There is no gain for SA in using outdated numbers. Government must recognise that (photovoltaic) costs have fallen," he said.

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Friday, 19 November 2010

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Farmers rush for solar panel riches

Worthy Farm in Somerset is well known for setting records.

It plays host to the Glastonbury music festival - the largest in the world.

Now, one of its cowsheds is set to become the UK's largest agricultural solar array, benefiting from the governments new feed-in tariff scheme, which rewards people for generating solar power.And it is unlikely to be the last.

But as farmers around the country rush to take advantage of the scheme, the government is considering lowering the subsidy as part of the Spending Review.
On-farm solar

The tariff is designed to reward people for installing renewable energy by paying for the electricity they generate.

It pays up to four times the retail cost of electricity, whilst also allowing the power to be used for home appliances.

Or, as is the case here, for a dairy farm.

For Michael Eavis, owner of Worthy Farm and host of the Glastonbury festival, it is the perfect opportunity.
Mr Eavis's solar roof should generate enough power for about 40 homes.

Unusually, it is built using solar panels made in the UK by a local firm, Solar Sense.

"We've seen a 200% plus growth in inquiries and resulting business since February," says their director Kerry Burns.

"It's difficult for a company to keep up with."
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

If they touch the feed-in tariff, you can forget about private sector funding for renewables”

End Quote Ray Noble Renewable Energy Association

But the money, like much of the expertise for the new industry, is coming from Continental Europe.

Dutch ethical bank, Triodos, has extensive experience with similar tariffs in Spain and Germany and has provided £500,000 to this project.

The bank is aware of the pitfalls. Spanish tariffs had to be changed due to their generosity.
Funding worries

But the money to fund all this ultimately comes from energy bills, not the government.

Some energy experts, such as Professor David Newbury from the University of Cambridge, argue this is the wrong way to fund a scheme that generates little electricity for the grid.

"It's essentially research, and I'm not sure that the right way to finance research... is a tax on electricity consumers, many of whom are poor," he says.

The latest Ofgem figures show a dramatic pickup in demand, with more than 10,000 installations since the scheme started.

Most are small domestic projects, but larger farm-based schemes are due to be installed, and so claiming the guaranteed payments, during spring.

The scheme was only launched in April, with cross party support, but the government has now confirmed it will be subject to the Spending Review, with a view on its impact on bills.

With projects already underway, this has sparked fury in the industry.

"If they touch the feed-in tariff, you can forget about private sector funding for renewables," says Ray Noble from the Renewable Energy Association.

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Feed-in Tariffs any drawbacks to solar panelling?

Q I am considering an offer from British Gas to install solar panelling on my house. The offer is very generous. There is no charge, a 25-year guarantee and all work involved is done by its employees. Is there any drawback to solar panelling?
A Yes, there are several drawbacks. Earlier this year (March 21) I answered a query about the Feed-in Tariff (FIT), whereby home owners generating their own electricity are paid for every unit of power they feed into the national grid. It is the FIT that makes photovoltaic (PV) solar panels worth considering as an investment, because it might earn the average PV panel owner about £900 a year. (Although, as I pointed out at the time, it would still take about 13 to 17 years for this income to compensate for the installation costs of some £12,000 to £15,000.)

Without the FIT payments, generating your own electricity from the sun is not such an attractive proposition. At the times when you most need to use electricity – that is, after dark – your PV panels won’t be generating any, so you’ll be paying for your power at the normal rate through your meter.

You get free electricity to use only when the sun is shining brightly and directly enough on the panels to generate a current. But that is chiefly in the summer, between 10am and 2pm, and with little or no cloud cover (with respect, not the most common conditions in your part of Britain). And, of course, at those times, you are unlikely to be using much electricity anyway.

You won’t have the lights on, you won’t be watching television because you’ll be out in the garden and you won’t be needing to heat the house. Possibly the only benefit you will get is free power for your fridge. The surplus electricity generated at these times will be fed into the grid, earning FIT money for the owner of the panels, which won’t be you because it will be British Gas.

The promotional literature from British Gas (and the other companies who are making similar offers) suggests that the average householder signing up for this “rent-your-roof” scheme will reduce their electricity bills by about £150 per year. However, many people will save much less. It depends how much electricity you use during those sunny periods. People who are out at work during the day, for example, will not see much benefit.

In return, by installing its PV panels on your roof, British Gas will be claiming all your Feed-in Tariff payments for itself. You will have to sign a contract leasing your roof and the air space above it to British Gas for 25 years, for no additional payment. The lease will be lodged with the Land Registry, and therefore legally binding. You will not be able to change your mind or remove the panels during the 25 years and, should you sell the house, the new owners will also be bound by the terms of that lease.

For me, this is a major stumbling block. I personally would be hesitant about buying a house with these unsightly black rectangles stuck on the roof and even more hesitant once I found that I wouldn’t even benefit financially from the surplus electricity they produced.

I’m sure there must be many other potential homebuyers who would feel the same way, and you might even find your house “blighted” by this 25-year commitment.

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