Archive for October, 2011

– experiences of fitting household solar energy – Getting FITS VIII is part of a series of blog posts by Limu on the attempt to install solar power at home with the help of the UK Feed in Tariff.

I have now chosen a company to install solar panels! Once I was happy with their credentials – Micro-generation Certification Schemes (MSC) accredited, they have an office address (virtual companies have a higher risk of being cowboys) – the decision came down to the panels they sourced, which being re-conditioned, are both more environmentally friendly and cheaper (see FITS VI).

I had thought earlier about installing both solar PV and solar thermal (water heating). None of the companies seemed to be particularly clued-up about doing this, saying that they had other contractors they work with, but not presenting a particularly integrated service.

This is understandable in some ways, as the products (electricians for PV, plumbing for thermal) are different, and the additional cost of doing both means a lower profitability. However, a large part of the costs of installing each of them is scaffolding/roofing work and installing both could be a good way of managing energy price risks. With systems designed to last 25 years and hopefully longer, the financial attraction is not just the lower energy costs now, but the protection against much higher grid-electricity and gas costs in future.

Installing both solar thermal and PV would give some protection against each of these, and so while giving lower returns, gives greater protection against future risks. Whether the risk-reduction justifies the lower returns is down to the risk-aversion of the individual, but it was something I would have looked into further if a more integrated service had been on offer.

Of course, future energy prices are unpredictable, and most discussion recently is of how far and fast they can rise. However, recent discoveries have suggested UK Shale Gas is set to upset the status quo in the gas market. The UK is said to have discovered vast reserves in Lancashire [1]. Shale Gas will have environmental consequences, so these should be factored into its exploitation through appropriate taxation. Some might argue that cheap energy is what the UK economy needs to kick-start it right now. Its true that the economy needs a boost, but an unsustainable one isn’t in our best interests.

Extracting new fossil fuel supplies as cheaply as possible will encourage less-efficient exploitation of them, meaning that the UK economy doesn’t gain the greatest value from them. For example, if gas prices are suppressed then including solar-thermal in the design of new buildings will become less attractive. However, we should expect these buildings to last a century, over which time gas is unlikely to remain abundant, necessitating expensive retro-fitting. I’m assessing investments in my house over a shorter timescale (the 20 or so years I expect to live there), so new gas supplies that stop prices rising too fast over the coming decades would be good news for me, and mean the decision not to install solar thermal isn’t one I regret.

[1] BBC News – Shale gas firm finds ‘vast’ gas resources in Lancashire

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In investigating FITS I’ve discussed the certification of solar PV installers, and received some useful advice from NAP. Operational since 1992, the NAPIT Group of companies holds and maintains Government approved registers of competent contractors within the electrical, ventilation, plumbing and heating industries inEnglandandWales, so they obviously have a role to play in the standards and skills needed to make theUKa greener place…

Guest moo from NAPIT. 21/10/2011

The forthcoming Governmental Green Deal intends to steer the UK towards a more sustainable energy-driven future and whilst pre-Green Deal research is something of an expected development in the ongoing ‘green’ battle of Britain, some results prove to be nothing short of extraordinary.

The concept for Green Deal is that householders could have an energy-efficiency improvement provided by a Green Deal Provider without directly paying for it. The Green Deal Provider would be paid by a surcharge added to the householders electricity bill, provided that the surcharge was at least offset by the savings made by the improvement (in other words, the overall household utility bill should be no more than before the improvement was made). Proposed measures include replacing heating equipment or controls, using renewable energy, and improving insulation levels.

*Recent research has revealed that when it comes to insulating their homes, UK householders are less attracted toward annual savings of around £400 as they might be to lifestyle-enhancing ‘sweeteners’ such as bus passes or fruitful  incentives towards their 5-a-day.  Whilst that may seem shocking, the actual percentages are even more eye-opening…

  • 10% “can’t be bothered” to install cavity wall and loft insulation
  • 17% couldn’t afford to further insulate their home.
  • 15% are unsure about cavity wall and loft insulation
  • 9% have too much clutter in their loft
  • 3% don’t have a ladder

An array of incentive schemes are now being introduced across the country, and given the above results, it’s difficult to say which incentives will attract most; savings or suggested sweeteners such as these…

  • Government Green Deal– offset initial insulation costs via energy bill increments from the government’s flagship energy-saving plan to transform the country’s building stock and to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
  • DECC/B&Q/Sutton Council– the loft clearing service is subsidised and aims to determine how detrimental the ‘hassle’ element is to the uptake of renewable energy technologies such as solar paneling.
  • Homebase/Carillion/Local Authorities- the popularity of incentives such as council tax holidays and in-store vouchers will be gauged to assess the appeal of Green Deal and to identify how its future can be furthered.

NAPIT Director of Inspection Services Richard Gould commented on the research…

In order to successfully progress into a greener country, it’s important to understand the everyday needs of the average householder, as it is to identify potential incentives which appeal to them.  Whilst initially startling, these recent findings might make perfect sense for householders who appreciate the value of green power but shy away from schemes the deem to be involved, awkward or demanding”

NAPIT have been selected onto the Green Deal pilot scheme to act as a Certification Body with the role of ensuring that advisors and installers are competent to carry out safe, effective and compliant work under the Scheme. With over 8000 companies already approved by NAPIT, it will be inviting existing and future members alike to help deliver this key government initiative.

*research individually conducted by EON and The National Resilient Homes Project

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– experiences of fitting household solar energy – Getting FITS VII is part of a series of blog posts by Limu on the attempt to install solar power at home with the help of the UK Feed in Tariff.

I checked the suppliers I am talking to are MCS accredited. They are.

I also did a bit more background research to the calculations in FITS VI. This confirmed that a solar irradiation level of 1150 is right for Bristol. However, the data published by Europeto work out values seems to be targeted at experts in the sector rather than the layman: http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvgis/apps4/pvest.php# . Some more user-friendly explanations of the technical terms and data would be appreciated.

A further source of potential advice I checked out was this Energy Saving Trust tool for assessing suitable alternative energy technologies for your home: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewableselector/start/ . It starts by asking some sensible suggestions that help you think about the potential of your home. However, the figures produced show how little return most renewable energy technologies generate (without an incentive like FITS).

Investing £1,000’s for £10’s of annual returns could well be off-putting, to the extent that I wonder what this tool is going to achieve. I would think that a more important line of argument is that the costs of installing many of these technologies will be lower when done as part of the building/re-building/re-furbishment process. Talking of building work, we have a small flat roof on a corner extension that the builders fitting the solar panels will be able to see… we are dreading what they will find and the potential expense of putting it right!

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A meeting in Nairobi this week will develop the formation and working principles of The Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES follows the recent report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) which demonstrated the vast economic value of the services that ecosystems provide and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) which found that large degradation and loss of ecosystems has happened in the last 50 years and could grow significantly worse. Its aim is to strengthen the interface between science and policy to help ensure that ecosystems and therefore their value to society are not significantly reduced as society continues to develop.

We in the pasture have always maintained that environmental economics plays a very large part in the bridge between environmental science and policy so it is good to hear that the IPBES will be placing a large emphasis on economics in their work. We also hope that IPBES follows Bob Watson’s suggestion to avoid blaming developing countries: “If they think this is just the white world, the developed world, telling them what to do, that’ll be the end of it … The climate debate has been, ‘you rich countries got rich by using cheap fossil fuels, and now you’re telling us not to use them.’ We must not get into that”.

If you are interested in learning more, here is a nice article by Michael McCarthy of the Independent with a slightly different take on the story.






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