Online solar advertising targets Wivey

I have received enquiries about recent online advertising, which is targetting people in Wivey and saying that solar funding is available “with ZERO up from costs”, which has “just opened up in Wiveliscombe from June 26th”.

Solar Enquiry

There are plenty of reasons to doubt this offer. Why has it just opened up in Wivey? Why are no contact details given? It sounds too good to be true? What are they not telling you?

I contacted them to find out more about what is really offered. The representative I spoke to on phone was OK and not too pushy. He was keen to arrange for someone to come to see me when full details could be provided, but he accepted that I would think about it and contact them. He rightly highlighted the savings on electricity bills and quoted the correct rates for support currently available to all through the government’s feed-in and export tariffs. He didn’t mention homes needed to have an EPC energy efficient rating of level D or above.

The company behind the offer is Project Solar, which is not stated on their website advert. They are based in Manchester and have not opened up a new local office.

They offer loans over 5, 10 or 15 years at an interest rate of 9.9% per annum, although also said buying outright was best. The rep said they had to visit to give accurate costs, but indicated it would cost £6,000-9,000 and that 14 panels would be about £6,500, which I assume would be for a typical domestic system with a peak power output of 3.5-4 kW.

This system cost is OK but it is likely that you would get a better price by inviting quotes from local installers. Their interest rate for a current loan is very high – the best rate from Nationwide is currently 3.4% and you may do even better by adding the cost to your mortgage.

What not like

I expect there would be a harder sell from a rep making a home visit. In the small print on their website (above), they indicate electricity bills increase by 7.28% and inflation by 3.04% per year. Such large annual increases would result in savings in the future looking very high. Their electricity bill increase looks particularly high and you should be able to do a lot better than this, including by switching suppliers.

Google reviews (22) for Project Solar indicate they have had some satisfied customers while others much less so, complaining of high pressure sales techniques.

I advise against going with this company. You are likely to get a better deal though a recommended local installer. And if you want to avoid up front costs, take out a loan yourself to pay for the cost. If earning a good return is important, check the estimates provided in quotes by installers carefully and note how long it will take before the system will pay for itself and before you will move into profit. It may be about 10 years, so be confident that you are likely to stay in the house for that long, as you cannot take the feed-in tariff with you (it transfers as a benefit to the new owner but you will still have to pay back any loans taken out).

New government feed-in tariff guide

There have been significant changes to the feed-in tariff scheme from 8 February 2016 and the government has published revised guidance at:

I have updated this website where necessary and checked that content on links provided has been updated too.

Installing solar panels on domestic roofs can still be worthwhile, due to the big reductions in panel costs, but returns are less financially attractive than before with payback periods now up to 15 years, when they were 10 years or less previously.

The environmental benefits of solar panels of course remain and they contribute to decarbonising our electricity supply by switching from generation by fossil fuels.

New solar PV feed-in tariffs from 8 Feb 2016 announced

The government has announced new feed-in tariff rates for solar PV to apply from 8 February 2016. The tariffs will be lower but the reduction is not as big as first proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

To protect a new budget allocation of £100 million, there will be a four-week pause on new feed-in tariff registrations from 15 January to 8 February 2016. Installations between these dates will receive the new 4.39p per kWh rate from 8 February onward.

The government now aims to offer a 4.8% return on solar PV investments and there will still be on-going quarterly degressions to slowly reduce tariff rates. The cost of solar installations should also continue to slowly fall.

For further details see:
Money Saving Expert – Solar panel earnings to be halved from February – are they still worth it?
Solar Power PortalGovernment sets future domestic feed-in tariff rate at 4.39p per kWh
YouGen – Feed-in Tariff for Solar PV cut to 4.39p/KWh, not 1.63p

Install now before tariffs take big fall and petition

The government proposes big reduction in feed-in tariffs for renewable generators from January 2016 (UPDATE: now expected to take effect on 25 February 2016).

Those considering solar PV panels should move quickly to benefit from current tariff rates. Once an installation is registered, you stay on the same rate with an annual inflation uplift.

The Energy Saving Trust shows the tariff reduction proposed for domestic installations is 87%.

YouGen and the Centre for Sustainable Energy have published the following reports on the proposals:

These aim to explain the reasons for the proposals (to control budgets and offer better value for money), with YouGen also highlighting what feed-in tariffs have already achieved.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) on behalf of the solar industry has stated:

“With these changes expected to take effect in January, we will see a surge in deployment over the next four months as consumers and installers seek to avoid the cliff edge the REA has long warned about.

“Rooftop solar has to been seen as one of the key technologies for a decarbonised future, with consumers and businesses also gaining control over the centralised energy market, this is a phenomenally damaging and short sighted decision which sets back this goal significantly and will lead to higher costs in the medium to long term.

“87% is beyond the worst fears of many of our members, it is hard to see how homeowners or businesses could see solar as an attractive option for the foreseeable future following these disproportionate cuts.

“Solar has come down in cost so dramatically in the past five years and has grid parity in its sights, the industry feels like it’s having it’s legs cut away metres from the finishing line.”

Earlier in July, REA had published a report detailing solar power’s impressive cost reduction in the past decade and modelling different scenarios to grid parity in the next five years, so the costs of solar power matched retail electricity prices. REA’s aim was to enable the industry to continue to develop as direct subsidies are gradually phased out.

REA’s press release stated:

  • Ground mounted solar set to reach “grid parity” by 2020.
  • Rooftop solar is following closely behind but needs stable policy to achieve the cost reductions necessary.
  • UK needs to avoid a cliff edge to ensure a smooth transition and help the UK achieve the most cost efficient renewables strategy.

A petition (click to sign) to the UK Government and Parliament is calling for a review to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s approach and states:

“Today (27/08/15) DECC announced a proposed cut of the Solar Feed In Tariff by 87% by January 2016. A variety of recent cuts by government to support solar and renewable energy will cause a loss of affordable clean energy choices, taking away power from people and handing it back to big energy firms.

“Subsidies for ALL renewables currently cost £3.5bn yr compared to £26bn yr in subsidies for fossil fuels. That’s £400 per year per household to support the fossil fuel industry.”

Funding for renewables

There are three government schemes to provide funding or loans for small-scale renewable generation at home or by communities and businesses. Both the Feed-in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive help to make renewable generation a good investment.

For those without investment funds, the Green Deal can provide a loan for energy-saving measures, such as insulation, and for renewable energy generation, including solar panels. The loan is paid back through energy bills and should be exceeded by the value of energy savings and incentives, which means installations can be funded without incurring additional net costs.

Until the end of June 2014, there is also a Green Deal Cashback Scheme, which is a first-come, first-served offer whereby you can claim cash back of up to £4,000 from the government on a large number of energy saving improvements.

Feed-in Tariff

The best known financial incentive for renewable energy is the Feed-in Tariff, which can be claimed for domestic, community and business installations generating renewable electricity. Technologies covered are solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, water (hydro) turbines, anaerobic digestion (biogas energy) and, currently, micro combined heat and power.

Information and links for further details are given at costs, benefits and the Feed-in Tariff.

Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable heat incentive (RHI) is similar to the Feed-in Tariff, but is paid for renewable heat generated by solar thermal panels, air, ground or water source heat pumps and biomass (such as wood) heating. It can be paid to home and business owners and also to landlords and providers of social housing.

The Energy Saving Trust publish a guide to eligibility for the Renewable Heat Incentive.

For RHI for homeowners, see guides provided by YouGen and Ofgem.

For RHI for businesses, see guides provided by Ofgem and YouGen.

Green Deal

The Green Deal is an innovative financing mechanism that allows you to pay for some or all of the cost of energy-efficiency improvements through savings on your energy bills. A feature of a Green Deal loan is that it is tied to the property, so, if you move, the new owner benefits from the savings but also takes over the loan.

Green Deal guides are available from YouGenEnergy Saving Trust and the Government.

Also see:
• Money Saving Expert – The Green Deal mythbuster
• Which? – The Green Deal explained