Waiting for renewables

Mr Greg Barker, the United Kingdom’s climate change minister, is concerned that there is what he calls “a lot of resistance” by householders to fit renewable energy measures. His department proposes incentives to enable householders to do this. The most popular  form of renewable energy, solar water heating, which can be easily retrofitted to most homes and where the home itself will enjoy the savings in terms of money and emissions, will soon benefit from incentives under the renewable heat incentive, the details of which Mr Barker’s department has yet to publish.

The more exotic and costly options – solar photovoltaic which generate electricity, are requirement very substantial subsidies to make them attractive, and although there has been some take up, I predict that the benefits in terms of emission savings will be lower than expected.

It might be unfair to claim that the Renewable Heat Incentive has taken too long to come to fruition but it is certainly not unfair to point out that it has been quite wrong to over subsidise electricity generation while ignore proven heat technology.

We have been waiting for an announcement on the Renewable Heat Incentive for far too long. Solar thermal technology has been completely unsupported in England for the past twelve months and in that time electricity generating has been subsidised out of the public purse, with most of the subsidy going to the nuclear industry.

Mr Barker points out that the Green Deal will be launched in 2012 and that will enable people and businesses to pay for the cost of renewables on an instalment basis out of the savings that they will make from the installations. If you are waiting for the Green Deal then I advise that you do not hold your breath; if the Green Deal follows the same tortuous procedure as the Renewable Heat Incentive the target date of 2012 is likely to be postponed.

Mr Barker has warned that eventually there will be sticks as well as carrots to encourage people to take up renewable energy generation. I think that we need more sticks; today there is no reason why every new home should not be fitted with at least one technology like solar water heating; retrofit will eventually be required on all homes, but fitting these technologies to homes in the course of construction is significantly cheaper than retrofitting them and it seems that we are wasting an important opportunity in not doing so.


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