Time to Put on your Thinking Cap, Mr Barker

Greg Barker, the United Kingdom’s Minister for Energy has been vigorously defending his government’s decision to cut the subsidy on photovoltaic solar panels which produce electricity. He point out that indexed linked at 43p per kWh for twenty five years the feed in tariff was too good to be true, although actually it was true and it is about time that the government curtailed the excesses of the electricity feed in tariff for an energy source which cannot be stored and which is produced when we do not need electricity, in daylight hours.

Mr Barker makes out a robust defence of his policy, and I agree with what he writes about the silly feed in tariff for electricity. Even if the tariff is halved, the subsidy is still very generous. The PV industry has complained about the tariff being cut, pointing to their unfulfilled orders. Those orders were obtained as a result of a serious flaw in the design of the PV tariff and it is unsurprising that people have been queuing up to partake of this taxpayers’ largess.

Mr Barker did not address, unfortunately the fact that there is another kind of solar which produces heat, which can be stored outside daylight hours – solar water heating and solar space heating. This industry is significantly smaller than the solar electric industry and lost many of its installers to solar electric when the high subsidy was announced and when the solar heating subsidy was abolished. It was abolished temporarily, and will now come on stream for residential energy users in October, although despite having several years to work out the details Mr Barker’s people are taking their time, for reasons which when heard sound empty.

I note that Mr Barker now thinks that feed in tariffs should be designed more along the lines of tariffs in Germany. I have been urging this for five years, and have been told that the English system would be better. Today the English system is clearly flawed, as Mr Barker admits.

I do not know why the UK government finds it so hard to get its head around the whole energy and climate change picture. They are busily designing subsidies to encourage renewable energy and not taking into account the whole life effect of the renewables that they are backing with generous subsidies and not designing the system to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. If they were we would have seen substantial reductions in the UK’s emissions. Unfortunately there are no significant reductions.

It is about time that Mr Barker and his colleagues at the Department of Energy & Climate Change got their thinking caps on, and if their thinking caps are too small, then it is about time they recruited some better brains. Getting energy policy right is far more difficult than getting foreign policy or even economic policy right. At DECC they seem to lurch from one crisis (treatment of solar water heating) to another (feed in tariffs) to another (over subsidy of wind turbines) to another and another. This does not bode well for the future.

 

One Response

  1. This is why it is important that as many people get involved with the Green deal Consultation, we need to get the Green deal right before it starts (October 2012) it is no good people moaning after the evnt that Green deal is not working, have your say, lets show the Govenment we are interested and want things done correctly closing date for the Green deal consultation is 18th January 2012 http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/green_deal/green_deal.aspx
    There is also a consultation just starting on changes to SAP
    http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/sap/sap.aspx have your say, lets all help shape the furure

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