Hugo House, head of business development at Good Energy, writes how the Government’s controversial move to cut funding for the Feed-in Tariff scheme will affect the solar industry.
The government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT), an initiative to provide financial rewards to small, independent renewable electricity generators, has been a huge success. Good Energy now supports 7,000 households and small businesses all over the country generating their own electricity. These small producers are the ‘mini power stations’ of the future.
The FiT has recently been high on the media agenda due to the government consultation announced last week. A reduction in the subsidy was expected in line with falling costs in solar panel installations and a cap on funding.
But in a controversial move which surprised the industry, the government announced that from April 1st 2012, the current FiT level for solar PV installations below 250kW will not be paid for any projects registered after December 12th 2011.
Those registered after that date will receive a new, lower-level of support from April 1st. For domestic-size schemes, it is proposed to reduce payments from up to 43.3p per unit to 21p for sites of 4kW or below (the size of a large domestic solar PV system).
So what to do now for people keen to reduce their carbon footprint and generate their own electricity? Firstly, those already registered for the FiT will not be affected by the change and will continue to receive existing rates, index-linked and guaranteed for 25 years.
If you have a solar PV project underway but not yet completed and registered, you will need to do so by December 11th. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), this means a project must be commissioned (in working order) and have had its request for accreditation received by a Feed-in Tariff licensee, such as Good Energy, for schemes up to 50kW.
So the message for those already in the process of installing solar PV is make sure your paperwork reaches your FiT licensee by December 12th. Any installation whose application is received by Good Energy after midnight on December 11th 2011 will be subject to the lower rate of FiT from April 1st 2012 onwards.
As a champion of small independent electricity producers, Good Energy will provide efficient, expert support throughout the process. The company has the systems in place to process applications as quickly as possible so long as the applicant meets the new December deadline.
If you have not yet accepted a quote, now is a great time to be researching the options and making sure you make the right decision on renewable generation. Costs for solar panels have fallen sharply in the last year, and are expected to continue falling. After the deadline of December 12th, it may well become a ‘buyers’ market’ as consumer interest in installing solar PV falls sharply.
For those committed to reducing their carbon footprint, solar PV still represents a sensible investment. Even under the proposed new FiT rates, the average family household (a three bedroom domestic property) who installed a 2.5kWp solar PV after December 11th 2011 could earn an income of almost £500 from the FiT.
They could also save up to £150 per year in electricity bills, depending on the pattern of their energy usage. As long as the UK continues to rely on imported energy, electricity bills are expected to keep rising. Micro-generation will still provide some shelter from price rises.
Will Hitchcock (pictured) from Suffolk, renovated his family’s Victorian cottage, introducing energy efficiency improvements and a 2.7 kWp solar PV system.
“We’re now into our second year of generating our own electricity using solar PV”, Hitchcock said. “The output has exceeded our expectations for both years and we’ve been really pleased with it so far.”
Good Energy customers who have installed their own solar PV (the ‘mini power stations’ of the future) report a drop in domestic energy consumption from a combination of learning the best way to use their own electricity and increasing energy efficiency. Nearly one quarter claim to have cut consumption by more than 20%.
“It’s been interesting to see how generating my own electricity has resulted in changes to my routine”, Martin Stott, a solar generator from Oxford, said.
“Before having solar PV, I used to put the washing machine on in the evening and run the dishwasher at the same time. Now I run them in the morning when the solar panels are working. Because the energy is yours, you take more ownership over it.”
To find out more about renewable energy and the Feed in Tariff, click here.
How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life
Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense. But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?
For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out. A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession. This bigger issue was that of climate change. And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.
Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more. He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland. There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.
The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done. With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet. The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind. As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness. The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small. The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty. As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.
We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help. And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet. Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change. You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed. But so is he. Every change starts with one.
5 Things You Can Do Yourself to Improve the Value of Your House
Whether you want to own it or list it, every once in a while, a house needs a facelift. This will not only improve quality of your life but will capitalize your home’s value significantly, too.
The best way to improve home value by yourself is to upgrade only what is necessary and nothing more. For instance, why would you buy a new bathroom door when a little retouch and a coat of fresh paint will suffice? By taking this approach, you are allowing yourself to make several small improvements instead of venturing just one or bigger ones. Select projects thoughtfully and know when you should stop.
Pitch in for the kitchen
If you really want a return on investment one day, start in the kitchen. By many, the kitchen still represents the heart and the soul of the house, the central hub of a property and it will all on its own add colossal value to your home. Moreover, the kitchen can be a breaking point in selling the house, so you should not hold on to your wallet in this area.
There are many little things you can do to spruce up the overall image of your kitchen. You may paint the kitchen cabinets, replace old door handles, add additional storage space with a sliding wall or a kitchen island if there is enough room for it. In addition, you may open the living space up by taking a kitchen wall down. Possibilities for do-it-yourself are many.
Add an attic or a basement bedroom
Properties are usually valued by two things: land size and the number of bedrooms. The price range between a three to four-bedroom home is two to four hundred thousand. Since you can’t change the size of your land, you can at least increase the number of bedrooms.
If you are prepared to go full-scale, converting the attic or the basement into the bedroom is another especially favored project that will by far boost up your home’s value once you decide to put it on the market. Until you decide to list it you will enjoy in your own extra space for entertainment, living, sleeping, playing, exercising, or whatever you fancy.
Transformation with paint
If your walls have scrapes and stained paint, a vintage color or shabby wallpaper, several cans of paint can make a striking distinction. In order to increase the value of your home, it is recommended to go with neutral colors that will unify the whole house and make the space visually bigger.
Bottom line, nothing can transform a home like a cast of fresh new paint. It is the number one way to beef up a property value of any budget. Additionally, painting the house is still one of the easiest, fastest and highest value drivers.
Secure with style
All of your effort and money would be wasted if you can’t protect the investments you made. A good security door costs as little as a few hundred dollars but if it saves you just once from being robbed it instantly pays itself off. People avoid putting security screens on windows because they mostly do not look stylish enough, but there are other options, such as installing shutters. There are so many elegant and cool shutter options that we found at Independent Blinds & Awnings that it’s really hard not to find something for you.
Basic maintenance for a worry-free mind
A clean house is a healthier house for you and your family. By making a clean house your number one on the list for improving, you accomplish a couple of things at once.
First, you stay on track with maintenance issues and, consequently you are able to recognize future problems before they become costly ones. Secondly, you don’t allow dirt and garbage to pile up over time. Thirdly, smudged, dirty windows can have a bad impact on the overall perception of the house. Same as eyes are windows to the soul, windows are for the home. Therefore, you need to wash them properly.
Spice up the landscaping
Big backyard is an all Australian dream and still, it is more often than not the most ignored area of the house. However, landscaping is really important as it frames a property from every corner.
Simple, low budget cosmetic changes in the front yard including installing garden beds, adding plants, pebbles or mulch, and paving or painting the front walls will positively lift the curb appeal as well as the property value. As for the backyard, you may span a lawn to create more open space for you and your family to move freely, cut and reduce unruly trees and vegetation, and fix the fence if needed.
Adding value to your home through a cosmetic or structural renovation is an actual way to quickly enhance your money invested in a property. In the end, you need to make sure that if you will continue to live in the house and renovate, that your renovations will contribute to a good lifestyle and that it will give the impression of a “ready to move in” property once you decide to list it.
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