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Poll: Should governments be providing better incentives for solar power generation?

09/09/2019
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Solar power is one of the most well known and effective means of generating clean, renewable energy. But is enough being done to promote the effectiveness of photovoltaic panels and encourage people to install them?

We want to know what engineering professionals think. Have your say on the future of photovoltaic panels in our poll:

Solar farms can be a very effective way of generating clean energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, but they require a huge amount of space. A more efficient solution is through solar panels on residential rooftops, allowing people to power their homes from their own sources and selling the excess back to the grid. 

Over one million solar PV installations are now in operation across the UK, doing just this, with the majority having been installed over the last decade. However, reports show that the number of new installations has halved in both 2017 and 2018, as government subsidy cuts remove much of the economic incentive.

Over 1 million solar panel installations have been recorded in the UK in the last decade, but changing government policies are resulting in owners receiving less financial benefit from them
(Image via Flickr)

A feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme, launched in April 2010 was closed for new customers in March this year, to be replaced by a smart export guarantee (SEG) in January 2020. This scheme will require energy suppliers to buy surplus solar, wind or other renewable energy generated by their customers - with the amount measured by a smartmeter. However it’s thought that this will ultimately result in a smaller return for those with solar panels on their homes, meaning it could take up to 20 years to recoup the initial costs of installation. 

In addition, the UK Government is proposing plans that will increase the VAT on household solar and storage from 5% to 20% from 1st October. Currently more than 17,500 citizens have signed a petition calling for these plans to be scrapped.

Despite the country’s intention to increase dependence on green energy, both of these factors are likely to damage the industry with fewer people being willing to invest the considerable amount required for installation without the promise of a good return. 

And the UK is not alone, with President Trump’s recent 30% tariffs on foreign produced solar panels resulting a negative effect for the industry, which heavily relies on cheap imports.

Thousands of people in the UK are now complaining that they are not receiving as much benefit as they were promised from their solar panels
(Image via Wikimedia)

Even without accounting for these measures, it seems that many people are finding that they are not receiving as much return on their investments as initially thought. The BBC reported today that thousands of people who bought solar panels in the last few years have complained to a financial watchdog that they have not seen the savings that they were expecting when they installed the panels. Despite being promised “free electricity” with more being sold back to the grid, some were finding that even after 20 years the amount they would save and get back would still not be enough to cover the cost of installation.

Have your say

What do you think? Should governments be providing more incentives for people generating power from solar PV panels? Or does the problem really lie with the effectiveness of the technology itself, or with companies overpromising on the benefits? Have your say in the poll above, or in the comments below.

The results and best comments will be published on Monday 16th September, and featured in next week’s EngineeringPro newsletter.

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Poll: Should governments be providing better incentives for solar power generation? - Time to read 3 min
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