Connect with us


Valuations Office Agree Business Rates For ‘Mainly Export’ Solar




Companies can see how much their properties are valued at on the VOA website[1] as the draft rateable values for 2017 for properties that pay business rates are published today.

Included within the figures published is an unexpected sharp hike in the solar part of business rates for organisations that use power themselves from solar rooftops that they own. The proposed tax hike has caused dismay in the solar industry and across the green economy. MPs from all sides of the House have raised the issue in Parliament. Ministers are waiting until the publication of detailed proposals to form a view.

Due to existing legislation, complex VOA classifications mean that owners of solar panels are split into two classes; those who ‘mainly export’ their power, and those who use the majority of power onsite on the sites which they occupy. The good news is that the STA has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the VOA [2] following close work on the fair treatment of ‘mainly export’ generators. This means that most solar systems exporting to the grid or via a Power Purchase Agreement to tenants will see a decrease in business rates, reflecting falling costs, and lower rates of subsidy.

However, great concern remains over the treatment of business and some public sector rooftops. Organisations that own their solar panels and use most of the power themselves – a highly efficient option – will see a 6-8 fold increase in the business rates they have previously paid for solar. This threatens to damage the commercial rooftop industry and sting businesses taking action on climate change. It is now up to Ministers to intervene to prevent red tape crippling the rooftop solar industry.

Paul Barwell, CEO of the STA said:

“The good news for ‘export’ solar is that, in most cases, the rateable value will fall from 2017, some by as much as half.

Rates should reflect the true value of the solar asset, as well as the income received.

“As both of these have fallen dramatically over the last 5 years for solar power, the rateable value has also fallen: logic has prevailed. We now need Ministers to act to ensure similarly fair treatment for those supplying themselves with their own rooftop solar.”

The current situation for solar rooftops will lead to perverse outcomes; two identical installations will potentially pay very different rates depending on who owns the solar panels, and how. For example, an organisation that owns and uses its own solar panels will be paying far more than in a scenario where power is generated by a third party through a Power Purchase Agreement or if the installation is set up as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). A similar scenario arose some years ago on Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and the government took legislative action to correct the position. The STA is calling on the government to now take similar action on behalf of the solar industry. The tax hike will hit some schools, but not private schools with charitable status. Further information is available in a briefing by the STA for the industry [3].

The STA has calculated that businesses that use their own onsite power will see a reduction of around 2.5% on their return on investment, damaging project economics. The business rates portion from solar on a typical 100kW installation in this case would rise from £400 per year to £2,700 per year.

Zac Goldsmith MP questioned Treasury Minister Jane Ellison on the tax hike at an Environmental Audit Committee hearing last week while Green MP Caroline Lucas has written to Ministers and is tabling a cross-party Early Day Motion (EDM) as soon as Parliament returns.

Caroline Lucas MP said;

“Hiking business rates for firms which produce their own energy from solar panels is a short-sighted move. Solar is a cheap and efficient way to produce energy, yet this Government is side-lining this hugely popular technology and now risks allowing it to be undermined. This tax hike will punish those businesses which are acting on climate change, and it should be rethought immediately.”

The STA is asking Ministers to table secondary legislation to apply similar exemptions as have been enacted for CHP. The STA is also asking for a permanent exemption from business rates for microgeneration.

Paul Barwell added:

“One of the huge advantages of solar is that it has low operational costs as the sun is a freely available energy source. The estimated £1,000 a year operational and maintenance cost for a typical 100kW system will now be dwarfed by the £2,700 annual rates bill. Legislation needs to correct this anomaly so that all solar installations are treated fairly.’”

The STA is continuing its close dialogue with key stakeholders in DCLG, Treasury and BEIS and has been providing important evidence from asset owners who will be affected by the change in rates and who are reassessing their approach and modelling to investing in solar. Previously microgeneration solar (sites less than 50kW) has been exempt from business rates, but it is not yet confirmed that this will be made permanent in secondary legislation.


7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption



Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions |

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

Continue Reading


Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis




Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens |

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

Continue Reading