VEGA News Item

Rent-a-Roof, Free Solar Panels, and Reduced Electricity Bills - 11/08/2010

Thousands of homes are being offered the chance to rent their roofs to a solar power company in exchange for cheaper electricity bills

1.  Thousands of homes are being offered the chance to rent their roofs to a solar power company in exchange for cheaper electricity bills. Isis Solar, the company, will pay for solar panels to be installed without any costs being borne by the homeowner. Accordingly, families will see their electricity bills fall by up to two thirds; the average home therefore stands to save about £340.00 a year. However, homeowners must agree to keep the panels for at least 25 years and allow access for maintenance.

2.  The scheme means that “homeowners who cannot afford the typical £10,000 cost of installing panels will be able to take advantage of the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme for small-scale renewable forms of electricity,” according to the Times (28 July 2010). Under the rules of the scheme energy companies are obliged to pay a fixed rate for every unit of electricity generated, regardless of whether the home uses it or it is fed back into the grid.

3.  The companies are allowed to pass on the full costs of the scheme to all consumers through their energy bills, “meaning that homes without panels will end up paying for those that do,” states the Times. The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that the scheme will cost £8 billion over 20 years and add £8.50 a year to the average household electricity bill.

4.  Isis Solar, which plans to install a 3.3 Kw solar panel array on 18,000 homes by 2015, will earn 41.3 per KW/hr of electricity generated, or about £1,100 a year per roof. Lawrence Buckley, the firm’s director, says: “We aim to make domestic solar energy accessible to as many people as possible, not just the few who have up-front cash.”

5.  To qualify for the free panels, a home must have a roof facing roughly south with at least 24sqm. of unshaded area.

6.  The right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank has called for the feed-in tariff scheme to be abolished, saying that it was a waste of money. It published a report that calculated that it would cost consumers £460 for every tonne of carbon dioxide saved by solar panels and other small-scale energy systems. However, insulating water heaters or installing programmable thermostats cost only about £10 per tonne of CO² saved. These improvements might have been installed already, the unshaded roof might not be exposed to sunlight from directions other than south, unless such restrictions had been averted in future developments; and the panels would require to be washed. On the other hand the deal might include replacements of old equipment – even tiled roofs – still running after, say, 15 years without fault or repair. Standards of installers may be low and the state of British builders, housing stock, and DIY are poor: we are getting to the stage where a complete re-building will take place as often as replacing the curtains, and alternative heating systems will come on to the market. Careful reading of catalogs, Which? – type reports and neighbors’ experiences will require focused listening in the gossip “down the pub.”


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