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The feed-in tariff scheme unravelled



It’s an issue that has provided the solar industry with weeks of uncertainty in the last six months or so, but for now, the feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme looks to have achieved some kind of stability.

Feed-in tariffs are the amounts paid by governments to businesses, individual households and other organisations to generate renewable electricity. Often, this is through the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The tariff awarded to cover the amount of electricity generated for domestic use means that any surplus electricity can be sold and exported back to the National Grid.

As of March 3 this year, any solar panels installed incur a FiT rate of a 21p per kilowatt hour (kWh). For a domestic systems installed after August 1, the FiT will drop by 24% to 16p per kWh.

In May, a statement in the House of Commons, accompanied by the release of the government’s response, confirmed that the cuts, due to come into effect on August 1, would provide the industry with “TLC: transparency, longevity, and certainty”.

Energy minister Greg Barker underlined the government’s long-term commitment to the sector by announcing the reformation of a dedicated PV Cost Reduction Task Force, committed to solar development and trailing the launch of a new solar technology centre in Cornwall.

“We can now look with confidence to a future for solar”, said Barker, “which will see it go from a small cottage industry, anticipated under the previous scheme, to playing a significant part in Britain’s clean energy economy.

“I want to send a clear message today. UK solar continues to be an attractive proposition for many consumers considering micro-generation technologies and that having placed the subsidy support for this technology on a long-term, sustainable footing; industry can plan for growth with confidence.”

The tariff is hoped to increase each year, in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), but with the time scale being decreased from 25 years to 20, this will seriously impact on potential returns for the long term.  The sting of the reduced FiT lifetime may amount to an approximate £20,000 loss, according to David Hunt, director with renewable energy company Eco Environments.

On a broader time scale, the solar industry welcomes figures revealing that the market is gradually recovering from cuts in the scheme. Deployment of solar PV has steadily increased over the last two years and seen a steep rise of around 620 kilowatts per week since the start of April, according to figures published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Number of PVs installed each week: Ben Willers.

The report revealed a collapse in demand after the government halved the levels of incentive available from April 1. Just 885 installations were recorded in the first week of April, creating only 2.5 megawatts (MW) of new capacity – a hugely reduced figure when compared with the tens of thousands of installations undertaken during December and March.

Some 2,280 solar installations were completed in the week ending June 3. The following week, 1,038 installations took place.

The figures come as DECC announced a change in the way future cuts will be handled. From August 1, the tariff will be reduced by 3.5% every three months – a decrease that will be allowed to grow to 28% should there be an unprecedentedly rapid uptake in installations.

If uptake is low, cuts can be deferred for upto six months.

DECC says: “We will consider that, through these changes, the FiT scheme will continue to support sustainable growth in solar PV, helping to ensure that the scheme is accessible for the many and not the few in a way which provides value for money to bill payers.”

Mainland Europe has been somewhat of a driver for the UK in clean power and in 2010 gave $35 billion (£22 billion) in renewable subsidies – more than half the global total, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

With economies increasingly lacking resources to splurge on the sector, a risk emerges that renewable demand will also shift.

Kick-starting the feed-in model back in 1991, Germany’s Act on Feeding in the Grid Electricity Generated from Renewable Energy Sources, fostered an industrial strategy which served Denmark and Spain well, too.

But the support from tariffs is dwindling. In January 2012, Spain halted subsides for renewable energy projects to help curb its budget deficit. Projections of as little as 50MW of solar PV was said to have been installed in Spain this year compared with 2,800MW in 2008 – before cuts in subsides first came about – according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

With the UK FiT remaining at its current level until at least August, now is the best time to take the leap into renewables. Get in touch with Good Energy – the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier – to find out how.

Further Reading:

Continued exploitation of fossil fuels sees global carbon emissions rise

Bright future predicted for solar as government learns its lesson

Global solar market brimming with innovation 


Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy



Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands



Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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