Monthly Archives: October 2011

Solar tariff cuts risk jobs, industry warns

The subsidy for solar power is to be cut in half for new installations from 12 December of this year, the government has said.

Solar panel makers and installers say the cut will cost thousands of jobs.

It also means consumers who register for the scheme after that date – even if they have already paid a deposit – will see their return halved.

The government has launched a fast-track consultation on the change, but says it reflects falling panel prices.

The new tariff of 21 pence, down from the current 43p, will take effect from 1 April and be paid to anyone who installed their solar system after 12 December.

Speaking in an emergency debate at the House of Commons, Climate Change Minister Gregory Barker said the government risked running out of money by next year.


Paying people to use less energy will save money


Everyone wants cheap energy. The UK’s North Sea oil and gas reserves, exploited systematically since the 1980s, helped give us a long run of low energy costs – and we built our consumption patterns on this bonanza of cheap supply. But since 2004, energy imports and prices have risen sharply.

Household bills have doubled in tandem with the doubling of the cost of imported gas, which now makes up nearly 40% of our demand. As Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of British Gas, said: “The price we pay for our gas is determined by a global marketplace, not the marginal cost of North Sea production.” Our reliance on a single source of fuel for almost all our heating and half our electricity – good for both climate and cost in the 1990s – is looking less wise now that prices are rising.

Rising prices are supposed to make us use less, which means less cost and less carbon in the atmosphere. But the consumer pain of price rises also creates a political demand for action to cut prices, which has fed demands on George Osborne to cut “green levies” on our bills. Doing so would be counterproductive, because it will raise future bills.


‘This could put us out of business’: Couple face ruin over £73,000 bill, despite electricity supplier admitting it made an error


A married couple say they are facing financial ruin after they were landed with a £73,000 electricity bill in error – and were ordered to pay it.

Despite their electricity supplier admitting to the mistake, Sean and Catherine Coleman have been told an astronomical underpayment must be met after they were undercharged for five years.

The couple, who run a bar in Leeds, were unknowingly undercharged by a British Gas consumption meter for five years – an error to which the company has admitted.


Npower fined £2m by Ofgem for mishandling complaints

The energy regulator Ofgem has fined Npower £2m for failing to handle complaints properly.

Ofgem said Npower had not recorded complaints properly or given dissatisfied complainers details of the Energy Ombudsman’s redress service.

It added that Npower had now remedied all of the breaches of the regulations for which it was fined.

A spokesman for NPower said: “We are very sorry, we let our high standards slip on this occasion.”

“A small number of processes were not correctly adhered to. We have zero tolerance for this type of issue and we’ll continue to work hard to make sure our customers are put first.”


Biomass branded as ‘inefficient’

Plans to supplement Britain’s electricity needs by burning large quantities of wood are inefficient and put rural jobs at risk, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will tell UK ministers.

Mr Ewing is to meet the UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry and host a meeting with bioenergy stakeholders.

He will urge Mr Hendry to follow the Scottish Government’s lead and abandon subsidy for large-scale woody biomass in plants which produce electricity only.


Solar panel subsidies to be slashed from next year

Cuts to the feed-in-tarriff scheme, which rewards households for using renewable energy, will see the amount they earn fall from 43.3p per kilowatt hour of solar power to 21p.

Returns will fall from about 7 per cent to 4 per cent, official papers published on the Energy Saving Trust (EST) website suggest, in a move that could make the technology affordable only to the wealthy.

The move would almost double the length of time it would take for solar panels to become cost-effective, meaning it would take homeowners an estimated 18 years to earn their money back rather than 10.

Solar panels have dropped in price from an average of £13,000 to £10,000 over the past two years, meaning the amount consumers could save has steadily risen.


Some background facts on UK domestic energy supply


1)      About 60% of UK householders say that they have never switched suppliers.
2)      The number of switchers is tending to fall. 22% of electricity customers switched in 2006, falling to 17% last year. The gas numbers were similar.
3)      Only 13% say that they have recently checked prices.
4)      Ofgem research suggests that ‘5-10%’ of householders ‘proactively’ search for better prices. Up to 90% of people were shown by their consumer research to be ‘disengaged’ or ‘passive’.
5)      The last check by Ofgem indicated that there were about 320 different tariffs available in the UK domestic market (January 2011). This is up from about 170 four years before.


UK to announce solar tariff changes on Monday

Britain’s energy ministry said it will on Monday launch a review of state subsidies for solar power installations, the second change to the scheme since it started in April 2010.

Energy Minister Greg Barker is scheduled to publish details of a consultation into altering the so-called feed-in tariffs (FITs) in Parliament at around 10 a.m. on Monday.

“We’ll be publishing a full consultation on changes to the solar PV (photovoltaic) tariff changes in Parliament on Monday,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

The ministry also said leaked consultation documents on the Internet, which proposed a 50 percent cut, were inaccurate.

The minister is widely expected to suggest slashing state aid for solar plants, after he hinted at a tariff reduction in a speech delivered at a conference on Thursday, saying costs for solar modules had fallen 70 percent in two years.


Work on Ireland/ UK power link begins


Work begins this morning on the laying of underwater cables to link the electricity power grids of Ireland and Britain.

It’s been described as the biggest energy infrastructure project here, since the construction of Ardnacrusha power station.

The East / West interconnector involves the laying of 180 kilometres of undersea cables to enable the flow of electricity in both directions between Ireland and Britain.

When the €600 million project is completed next year the Irish electricity grid will be able to call on power from Britain when needed.