Death of the Feed-in-Tariff

The Feed-in-Tariff was first introduced in the UK in April 2010 to act as a financial incentive for homes and businesses to take up renewable energy. Succesful applicants receive a payment for the clean energy they produce receiving a guaranteed fixed price, indexed for inflation for 20 years.

The Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) has been extremely successful at encouraging the take up of renewable energy. Most installations in the UK could not have happened without it.

Unfortunately, the FIT subsidy is set to end in April 2019. As set out by the Government in the 2017 Autumn budget, “there will be no new subsidies for renewables until 2025”.

So what does this mean for the future of renewables in the UK? Thankfully, a dramatic fall in costs since 2010 means that access to solar power is much more affordable than it was. As the costs to store energy using battery power technology decline the time is approaching where there will be no need for subsidies after all, though making this happen by April 2019 will be a challenge.

Battery Storage

As the Feed-In-Tarff subsidy dimishes over the next year, solar power installers will be looking to use battery storage as a way of making new projects work financially. Being able to charge a battery with solar power means the electricity does not need to be consumed at the point of generation, instead it can be used when it’s needed, day or night. This could prove to be just the catalyst needed for wide-scale clean energy deployment.

Combining battery storage with renewable energy will unlock the door to using clean energy sources around the clock putting the final nail in the coffin for fossil fuels in our energy supply. Furthermore, in the same way that solar and wind power costs have plummeted, we can expect the price of battery storage to fall as production techniques improve and economies of scale take hold.

Battery Storage at Dyke Golf club

With falling costs, home storage is seen as increasingly attractive in the UK, particularly to early adopters, being the 850,000 homes with solar panels. The Tesla Powerwall, perhaps the best known energy storage battery, has recently become available in the UK, soon be challenged by a British made Nissan battery. Other British manufacturers are Powervault and Moixa.  There have even been suggestions that electric vehicle batteries can be connected to the grid to sell extra power at peak times, adding another incentive to becoming an EV owner.

The energy market is certainly set for some rapid and profound changes in the years to come. In the last part of our Energy Trends blog series, we’ll look at the emerging popularity of heat pumps and how smart meter will change the way we buy power.

clear solar panel

New skyscrapers are being built in London and other major cities all the time, with rooftop solar panels now being included as standard – excellent news for anyone concerned about the environment. If solar panels could be integrated into entire buildings however, the amount of energy that could be generated, and the consequent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, could be a giant leap forward in the battle against climate change.  In this blog, we look at how close we are to achieving that goal.

Cambridge-based startup Polysolar is developing see-through panels that can be designed into buildings, greenhouses and canopies. It has already utilised the new technology at two Sainsbury’s petrol stations and a canopy at the Barbican Centre in London, and its latest installations include a transparent solar bus shelter in the centre of London’s Canary Wharf.  However, research funding and green subsidy levels will dictate how quickly these panels become a widespread mainstream commodity.

To make this technology more affordable, government subsidies and investment in green technologies are necessary. Despite breakthrough innovations in creating a clear solar panel, production on a large scale is restricted by technological limitations and high costs.

The UK government could help by investing in greater research and development, with the result that once a mass production technique is achieved, it could be sold to other countries and companies around the world. Widespread uptake of the technology would further drive down costs and could make this practice an industry standard in the not too distant future.

solar panels in skyscrapers

However, such a radical transformation of energy generation is unlikely to go unchallenged by existing fossil fuel energy companies. Businesses with a focus on centralised distribution may increase funding of political lobbying to stop or restrain government support for such innovation for their own self-preservation.

Regardless of the challenges, once ‘clear solar panels’ can be readily integrated into the windows of our houses, workplaces, and leisure centres, our capacity to generate clean energy will be enormous. Clear solar panels will bring a huge change not only to local communities but also to our planet by massively reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from our buildings .