I’ll start with the bad news…
At the end of October last year, the government announced a massive 65% reduction to the Feed-in Tariff – a subsidy aimed at encouraging the growth of renewable energy. The industry asked for the cut to be implemented over a longer-term so they could plan accordingly, and a consultation was overwhelmingly against the cuts, but the government went ahead anyway. This took place within two months of the announcement, and the sudden cut led to several solar companies going bankrupt and 10,000 job losses in the renewables industry.
Five years ago, the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) rate was a generous 43p per KWh; last October it was 12.92p; now it’s just 4.39p.
So why didn’t such a large reduction in FITs put me off?
Whilst I have lost out by not buying sooner, I still think it’s worth getting solar panels. For one thing, the cost of solar panels has halved over the past 5 years.
Although our system cost £6,000, we have saved this money by living green lifestyles – including not running a car. We should earn our money back in 12 years, and from then on we’ll be making money from the system. Even if we sell the house, the promise of free electricity is likely to likely to tempt more buyers.
It’s about more than the money, though. There is something truly wonderful about seeing how much electricity we produce. Of course, there is also the nice feeling that I’m helping the planet out by producing sustainable energy.
There is one further thing, which to me is most significant of all. Producing our own energy provides us with security against future shocks. I recently watched Chris Martenson’s excellent set of short videos, which highlight the risks posed by dwindling supplies of oil and flaws in our financial system. He highlights that as oil and gas become more and more difficult to extract, they could become exponentially more expensive; something which has been previously found with other natural resources. At the same time, money is subject to inflation (our money becomes worth less over time), in a precarious balance between banks and the government.
In this country we are facing a gap between energy production and resource. Our energy in the UK is largely from gas, coal and nuclear. The government has committed to closing all coal power stations by 2025, and seven out of eight nuclear power plants in the UK are due to be decommissioned in the next 15 years. At the same time, the government has issued a moratorium on the cheapest form of energy – onshore wind. It looks likely that, despite having the best wind and tidal resources in Europe, we will have to import more energy, possibly at high cost.
For the peace of mind, the financial benefits and the sheer joy of producing energy directly from the sunshine, I truly believe that installing solar is worth it.
Furthermore, with the roasting summer we’re having, now is a great time to install solar, and sunny Southampton is the perfect place to do it!
If you don’t have the money for solar panels, you can still invest in and support clean energy
Community energy schemes offer a better rate of return than savings accounts at the moment. Simply changing your energy supplier to a renewable provider feels good and can make a big difference in supporting pollution-free energy production.
Finally, in light of the fact that our government has recently cut subsidies to renewables whilst increasing subsidies to fossil fuels, you may also wish to sign this petition.
Jenny Barnes works with Southampton Climate Campaign.