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Solar FIT to Bust #2

Conversations about small scale solar photovoltaic panel electricity generation continue on the Claverton Energy Research Group online forum.

You have to be prepared to dodge flying nuclear trolls, but apart from that you too can contribute, as long as you have an in-depth knowledge of the price of everything in the UK electricity generation network.

Dear XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

Do you think it’s possible that nobody is immune to emotional reactions to the fate of the solar power industry ? For example, you say, “I find it most frustrating that others do not even attempt to contest the factual statements or assertions I make on the basis of evidence, but simply revert to the emotive and subjective.” And yet in the very preceding paragraph you say, “…the religious diatribe of the PV industry”, which some could validly claim is an emotive and subjective statement.

You seem to be quite married to the idea that the sole focus of assessing the solar PV industry should be the differential pricing between installed cost and module cost. I’m not going to argue numbers with you, but let’s take a look at money questions, if that is your sole concern.

You do not appear to take into account peripheral costs, such as the cost of the electronics necessary to hook a home solar system into the grid, nor the employment costs, nor practical details such as the cost of scaffolding.

More importantly you do not appear to have a recognition of the “externalities” – the costs to the whole electricity network of centralised generation and transmission losses. Can you offer an estimate of the value of unloading the local area of a grid in the neighbourhood of the solar PV system ? Can you offer an estimate of the added efficiency of having some local, distributed generation, so that the high voltage network does not have to transform power down to the local area ? Have you an idea of the carbon displacement value from having zero-emissions generation in the local grids ?

XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX mentioned that there needs to be additional grid management and reconfiguring of cabling if small scale solar generation is taking place on a wide scale. But how does the cost of that compare to having to put up major new cabling for bringing new wind power south to England from Scotland ?

There are people who have looked at these questions of costings. Over the last few years I have read a few things on this, but the references are not uppermost in my mind, sorry to say.

The electricity generation industry are showing extreme reluctance over new investments – partly due to fluctuations in Government policy, partly due to continued risks from carbon pricing being imposed (which I am against), partly due to the volatility in the global energy commodity markets, partly due to stress from the economic volatility and the lack of credit.

True more than ever before is the pragmatic fact that all new energy deployment will require state subsidy.

In the face of all this nothing-doing, the two things that have continued to accelerate have been wind power and micro-solar.

Greg Barker MP keeps uttering “867 million” as if that’s a larger number than the several billion committed to Carbon Capture and Storage and new nuclear subsidies. We won’t see any real benefits from CCS or nuclear for at least a decade. Why should we spend money now on these things ? If you look at it carefully, you can see that the “867 million” in the Feed-in Tariff budget is producing more real benefits in the current moment than any of the other proposed reforms of the electricity “market”.

I reckon he should be allowed to double the feed in tariff budget. Naturally, he should start slowly ramping down the tariff amounts guaranteed to new solar PV installations. It makes sense as the module prices are reducing (although other costs are not). It doesn’t make sense to kill the industry off with this sudden, early 50% reduction in state support.

I think that rooftop solar has to be part of the “energy mix”, and that we cannot afford nuclear power and carbon captured-coal (or CCS in general).

I have taken an approach with my individual energy use that matches the way I feel my country should behave. I have taken actions to reduce my personal energy use and increase the amount of renewable energy that I use, and hopefully, I shall have some microsolar very soon, despite Greg Barker MP’s unwise intervention in the functioning of the industry. If it all goes according to plan I will be using very little gas and exporting electricity on a net annual basis. That will make me one of the nation’s electricity generators – and decentralised power will be working.

For the record I am neither a member of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or the Green Party and I don’t own any shares in the solar power industry.

Regards,

One reply on “Solar FIT to Bust #2”

Looks like the latest backpedalling exercise is about to begin: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/8883989/Cuts-to-solar-panel-scheme-could-be-phased-in-after-public-backlash.html

> Greg Barker MP keeps uttering “867 million” as if that’s a larger number than the several billion committed to Carbon Capture and Storage and new nuclear subsidies.

I’ve just been hunting around and I can’t find anything that explains where this £867 million came from. Did they just pull it out of their… uhh… thin air?

It appears to be an arbitrary limit that exposes that either the Tories do not understand how FITs work – or they do and are making sure FITs don’t make the disruptive solar industry too successful… otherwise people might notice we don’t need nukes.

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