The Energy Review

In May last year Alistair Darling, then Secretary of State for Trade put his name to a document published by his Department which comprised three hundred and forty three pages; it was the Energy White Paper. 

You will find that “solar” within the context of a heat creating technology occurs only two times, and once of those times is in a footnote. It was a depressing indictment of the Government’s thinking and competence.  

Heat is responsible for over a third of our country’s energy usage and water heating around 24% of an average homes’ energy use and carbon output. The Energy Review should have been renamed “the Electricity Review” and Energy Policy “Electricity Policy”. The Government had no heat policy and therefore no energy policy under Mr Darling’s stewardship. 

This is serious because of all the renewable technologies, renewable heat technology is the most mature and predictable and the only technology that enables the renewable energy created to be stored economically. Heat is important; in our country people still die of hypothermia: I know of no case of anyone dieing because they could not turn on their television. 

Mr Darling is now promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer where he is bringing his talents to looking after the nations’ money and saving the Northern Rock Bank. I think he can do less damage there.

In the European Union the leading solar thermal country in terms of per capita installations is Cyprus. You might expect that. After Cyprus comes Austria and Germany. Austria is the EU’s leading exporter of solar thermal technology and Germany is the EU’s biggest market. Recently France, Spain and Portugal have increased demand for solar thermal by tax rebates, regulations and subsidies respectively.

The UK has the lowest solar thermal operating capacity in the entire EU, but clearly the UK government thinks it knows better than its European partners. Even the USA projects a 50% increase in solar thermal take up next year.

The Energy White Paper indicated a lack of clear thinking, in its failure to suggest measures on the scale that are needed. The energy utilities cannot be relied on to take up measures that are contrary to their core business and interests. Individuals are very keen to help but they have no real guidance, no real support.

At Genersys I find consumers very interested in solar water and space heating, where on an individual house basis they can save around half a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions for a solar water heating system if they are on the gas network but around twice that figure if they are not on the gas network. 

You cannot of course, and I do not suggest that one can build an energy policy solely around renewable heat but it is a critical component in any sensible energy policy and as such a component that is missing today. In this country our engineers are as competent as those of our European partners, our population as aware of global warming.

The reason why solar thermal in the UK is still a tiny industry is simply that we do not have the right policies in place to encourage its take up.  An energy policy that will provide us with secure energy, some degree of energy independence and which will address the real problem of climate change needs real measures that will see things like solar panels on every roof, not lengthy and expensively produced documents of pious hope.