R.I.P. F.i.Ts

Back in March 2008, I finished a three day sales and survey course on domestic solar thermal hot water systems and was told to go home and wait for a text…

A text came in, i went to see the bloke who’s address was on the text and i explained what the benefits would be if he had a thermal system installed. He liked what i said and placed an order.  Two weeks later, when installed he stopped using dirty oil for the heating of his water.  He started saving money from the minute it went in. I got lots of texts after that.  Met some great people and had lots of solar hot water systems installed.

Back in those days, people were watching their savings disappear as Icelandic banks started toppling faster than the Greenland ice sheets was melting…. The American mortgage bubble had popped and caused a Worldwide downturn.  Even a run on the banks in the UK was looking likely and with spiralling energy costs and rising CO2 levels, people were looking for a safe bet which financially worked for them and had some environmental benefits…. The dirty Oil wars helped as well to be brutally honest.   Selling solar was easy……  Especially this system….

Thermal solar systems need a pump that uses electricity to circulate the fluid that gets hot in the panels.  This system, the one i wanted on my own home, had it’s own Solar PV panel, that’s the ones that make electricity. It powered the pump when heat was required in the hot water cylinder. So, it cost nothing to run and was carbon neutral from point of installation and if the Russians did turn the pipes off, i could lay in a nice FREE hot bath and not worry about it as it works in a power cut….

As the recession was kicking in, energy prices spiralled and panic hit the streets as banks crashed and governments around the World propped up the corporate world to stave off a full on crash….   The dirty Oil industry was feeding off of the war machine and coupled with the greed in the banks, renewable energy really was a shining light as it is a disruptive product to those industries..   And thermal solar hot water systems sent a signal that homeowners were prepared to do their bit in the fight against climate change and the greedy banks who gave zero interest on hard earned savings…  Solar, for those who could afford it was just as much a no brainer then, as it is today…  So, i hit my targets and had my cost price thermal system fitted and started producing heat which allowed me to turn the oil boiler off for 8-9 months of the year.  On a clear day in January we can still get our water up to 50 degrees and the boiler just tops it up.  No idea how much oil we have saved, or how much oil our customers have saved, but it’s several tankers full a year, that’s for sure…..

I was just about to leave the solar job as we had our eye on a new bathroom and kitchen and started looking at jobs in those fields, when Dave, the boss at the solar company, showed me some papers from the UK Government and also the EU about feed in tariffs and said not to leave just yet, it could be quite exciting when they start in April 2010.

The UK were the 27th Member state of the EU and the 68th Country Worldwide to introduce a feed in tariff scheme when it launched on April 1st 2010.  It was a soft launch as the election had just been called. That took place in the May so the media took no interest in what some considered no more than a Hippy Tax…..

The UK’s scheme was designed to run for two years and then the tariffs were due to be reduced every yr for several years until the costs of the system were down to much more affordable levels…

And so was born the UK’s solar industry as most of you know it.  Through the feed in tariff scheme.   Can i just emphasise solar was not invented in 2010 to make money, it was invented so farmers in rural areas like Arizona could run water pumps to irrigate the land when the wind didn’t blow…. and this was back in the 1880’s!

Most people will be aware that in the EU, solar PV owners get paid for every unit of electricity they generate. It differs in each EU member state and as solar energy systems become much more affordable, the subsidies or tariffs are being removed and member states are being asked to create a more flexible energy reward mechanisms that reflects the falling costs of solar and wind generators.

Here in the UK, the older Feed in Tariff scheme is still in existence, just.  It is for a fixed term and index linked to inflation so a nice little earner.  Solar owners are also assumed to have exported half the energy they make back to the grid and get paid another tariff for that.  Even if you store energy in batteries or charge cars, it is still assumed that half has gone back and is not metered so you get paid this regardless of how much actually does go back.  Depending on when people had their solar fitted will dictate the tariff they recieve …  Since March 2012 (i think)  they have been reduced every 3 months and will continue to reduce every three months until March 31st next yr when they disappear altogether for new solar owners…

If you’ve been following us for a while, you will know we have just had our 3rd solar system fitted.  And to make things interesting we have not bothered claiming the feed in tariff, so in essence, ours in the first subsidy free, grid-tied, solar system our installers have completed.  Next March, as an industry, we have to go back to selling solar for what it is. An energy producer, not an income provider.

No more FiTs.

The FiTs have allowed us to innovate, develop and improve our offerings.  We have reduced the costs by 75% in some areas from what they were 8 yrs ago and there is a good argument for the cessation of them next year…..  the FiT’s have given us an industry to grow and when you consider that solar produces more energy than gas does at times in the UK in recent weeks, almost eradicated coal from the day time carbon mix for 4 months of the year and made more people more aware of our climate and energy security, you could say they have worked… It’s time for us, as an industry to stand alone.  A decent export tariff would be the fairest scheme moving forward, and i think that would be welcomed by the industry, but it’s not looking likely under the present government.

Next April, post FiT, the conversations will be about getting one over on your bank or energy company, worldwide heatwaves and the effects of a changing climate, energy price increases, Oil wars, the Russians turning the taps off and pollution… Just like the good old days when people went for solar for all the right reasons………. In fact, most people who come to us now, do so with these things in mind…   People are looking for a little bit of security and solar adds to the mix when building a resilient lifestyle.

Solar-Power has arrived, it’s proven and good to go. It will reward you 100 times more than it ever could in financial terms when you consider the real benefits.  Imagine if we all just took less from the grid.  Reduced our demand which reduced the efforts energy companies had to put into the oil and gas fields around the World…  The Politics, as our environment, would be cleaner and less polluted. We would pay less for our energy which in turn put more money back in our pockets… And as for energy security,  what security do we currently have?  The French, Chinese, Dutch, Germans and Japanese own our energy companies,  all that profit going to foreign shareholders and foreign governments to pay their pensioners… It really is time to take back control and we invite you to join the solar revolution…  It’s clean, it’s green’ it saves you a small fortune and puts you in control of your bills and your environment and your energy.

You know where we are…