Sunday, June 03, 2007

UK Government PV Infanticide Shock

Correspondence with Government

I would like to log my protest at the reduction in the subsidy for PV.

I have put down a deposit for a 3 KW system, but the recent decision to cap at £2,500 has totally thrown the planning in disarray. There is a clear contradiction between Governments words about climate change and their action.

Dr Lawson

I am sure you are well aware that since the launch of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) Phase 1 in April 2006, there has been significant demand, in particular for the household funding stream. From a £36m pot of funding, we have now set aside over half of this (£18.7m) to household projects. To date, we have committed over 50% of the total committed (£6.7m) to PV alone, with the PV industry and householders having benefited considerably. Taking into account previous schemes, we have injected a further £35m of Government funding into the PV industry since 2002. We believe this to be a considerable amount of Government money.

As the LCBP was designed to demonstrate a range of low carbon technologies on a range of low carbon buildings, what we are trying to achieve by introducing a £2.5k cap is a simple a fair way of allocating funds to installations across all technologies. By introducing a maximum grant level for each household, we can use the limited funds available to support an increased number of microgeneration installations which is a fundamental aim of a demonstration programme such as this.

With regard to the fact you have already put down a deposit on your PV system, we strongly advise any applicants to only obtain quotes from installers and not pay deposits prior to receiving a formal LCBP grant offer. For any applicant, we cannot guarantee that a grant offer will be made, and it is high risk to pay a deposit on a PV system without having received the go-ahead for the grant from the programme.

I am sorry that you feel that the changes we are making to the programme will sway your decision over whether to proceed with your installation, but I hope you understand that we have limited funds, and want to ensure a more even distribution of funding across all technologies.



Dear Robert

Thank you for your informative email.

£6.7 million is approximately equivalent to 1 day's spending on the Trident WMD system.

An increase in PV funding, rather than a savage decrease, would help the PV industry achieve the economies of scale necessary to get it to be equivalent to average grid prices. I have already pointed out the enormous historic and ongoing subsidies - orders of magnitude greater than the 6.7 million you quote - which have gone to nuclear power.

The PV subsidy stimulates high tech job production and also helps us achieve energy independence.

While this cut is happening, the Energy White Paper is proclaiming the Government's commitment to renewable energy.

I have to express a sense of intense frustration bordering on despair.



I take on board your point relating to PV vs Nuclear and the funding for each. However, I do not believe you are comparing like for like.

The PV industry is still in its infancy, and one of the things we are trying to achieve with this grant programme is to demonstrate that the technologies, whether it be PV or a.n.other are ready for deployment. It could be questioned that after the past few years of funding PV, we already have a fair idea, but it has been development process. We started with the PV field trials which ended this year. We then launched the PV Major Demonstration Programme, with this ending last year, and we now have the LCBP - all rprogrammes have set out to demonstrate the use of the technologies, with only Phase 2 of the scheme now looking towards deployment, driving down costs in the process.

As time has gone on, we have attempted to move away from simply offering capital grants to householders amongst others, as we do not believe that grants are the best way to support, promote and develop an industry such as this. It can and does skew the market, and makes individuals, in particular householders do as they did recently when we introduced the monthly cap - hold fire with installing microgen in the hope of receiving a grant. By issuing grants, it is also difficult to control where the money goes, and that the right people benefit from the Government subsidy.

By limiting grants to £2.5k per household, it will enable us to support more projects with the limited household funds we have. In the short time since re-launch, we have already seen a much more even spread across the technologies, and we will be analysing this going forward. All are aware that this form of grant will cease once the pot runs dry, and it is now a question of when that will be, given that we have recently introduced these new measures. One thing we do want to achieve whether there is a grant programme or not, is people committed to microgeneration, but the Government also has to show their commitment, so we have other measures on the way, including EEC3, stamp duty reductions, and much more besides. I can provide more details, if you want them. The key thing is that we (industry & Government) look beyond the grant programme and onto other measures that help incentivise people like you and me to consider both energy efficiency measures and microgeneration technologies as viable options for reducing our carbon footprint in the most economically viable way. However, this is a lengthy process, and I believe with microgeneration we are only at the beginning of this journey.

I'm happy to discuss this in more detail if you wish. Alternatively, my suggestion to you would be to write to your local MP, who could then raise the issue with the Secretary of State or Energy Ministers.

Many thanks for taking such a keen interest in microgeneration.



Thank you for your reply.

"Not comparing like to like". Our minds are able to make comparisons and discern differences, and any two objects in the universe can be compared and contrasted. Nuclear power and PV are alike in that they both produce electricity. The are unlike each other in that nuclear power can produce the material for nuclear weapons and PV cannot. It is no doubt this property that enables nuclear power to receive such huge subsidies from Government. Greenpeace calculate that the Nuclear industry received £11.5 billion from Government in the period 1990-1995 alone. This is 300 times greater than the figure you quoted as subsidy for renewables.

I bought a poorly insulated house in September, and have taken a lot of time, trouble and expense in insulating it to a high standard in order to be ready to apply PV. I have installed a high efficiency wood burner, and have just fitted thermal solar - I fitted my previous house with this in 1990 - and was planning to fit PV, in the knowledge that a financial payback is pretty uncertain, unless the cost of grid electricity really takes off, but as a conscious choice to spend the money anyway because of the carbon payback, and in order to play my part in stimulating the growth of a benign means of producing electricity. I knew that PV would become more cheap in the future, as technologies improved and mass marketing came into play, but I was prepared to make a donation of my hard earned capital savings (I am a retired GP) to help provide a low carbon future for us all.

I now have to review and revise my plans. It is pretty unlikely that I will decide to go ahead. Thousands of potential customers in the UK will be in the same quandary. The UK PV market has taken a body blow. You say the PV industry is in its infancy. This is true, and the Government has just placed the infant on its front, against the best advice, thus putting it at risk of cot death.

I was a Green district councillor in the 1990s when Mrs Thatcher slashed the subsidies for home insulation. I still have the figures (somewhere) showing the precipitous fall in installation of insulation. To this day, 10% of homes in our benighted and backward country have no insulation at all.

The UK market for PV is bound to fall back as a result of this decision. Maybe Sharp will have to close its Wrexham PV factory, with loss of more manufacturing jobs, and loss of expertise. Then, down the line, as things become more serious (think a great flood of London together with a core meltdown at a nuclear plant due to terrorist attack) the Government will panic-react to the situation by trying to install more domestic PV panels, and will discover that we will have to import them at inflated prices because the rest of the world wants them at the same time.

In short, the UK PV industry is being killed off by Government just as it killed off the UK wave power industry with falsified figured for the Salter duck. Just as we have the best wind resource in Europe, but are importing Danish and German turbines.

I fully understand that the demand for PV panels is taking money from other technologies. The rational and reasonable response to that situation would have been to increase the overall allocation, not to cut the allocation at a time when renewable energy is beginning to move.

I will take up your suggestion about sending a representation to my MP, not because I have a positive rational expectation that anything that ordinary people say has any impact whatsoever on this or any UK Government, but because if we stop protesting, things will become even worse than they already are.

The feeling in this email is not directed at you personally, but at the deeply flawed system of which you have the misfortune to be a part.

Best wishes
Richard Lawson
Joint International Coordinator
Green Party, England and Wales

1 comment:

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