‘Rent-a-Roof’ scheme provides cash and power
Almost 900 solar panels are to be installed on council-owned buildings across Aberdeen as part of the Rent a Roof scheme.
Aberdeen City Council was the first local authority in Scotland to apply for the scheme and has already installed solar panels on many public buildings around the city, including sheltered housing developments, schools, offices and council depots. Planning permission was only needed for some of the buildings.
The Development Management Sub-Committee unanimously agreed applications at: Fergus House residential care home in Dyce (108 panels); Aberdeen Children’s Home in Bucksburn (41 panels); Parkhill Court sheltered housing complex in Dyce (54 panels); St Machar Academy (484 panels); Ferryhill Community Centre (34 panels); and Bucksburn Swimming Pool (128 panels).
Convener Ramsay Milne said: “”This is a really good example of one of the many ways the council is working to improve its green credentials. The installation of these solar panels will not only reduce the environmental impact of the running of these buildings, but it will also reduce the cost of running them. I am pleased to see Aberdeen taking the lead in this way and expect other local authorities will follow it.
“I hope that the approval of these applications, which accord with the city’s planning policies, will encourage applications from other public bodies and companies.”
Solar panel industry still waiting for a decision
Article by guest blogger Laura Traynor, Msc Energy Management.
The solar panel industry is currently waiting on a decision from the Court of Appeal which could determine the future of the sector.
In October, a leaked government document suggested that cuts to the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) would happen sooner than the industry expected. A few days later the cuts were confirmed and the rate was set to be halved from 43.3p to 21p per kilowatt hour from December 12th , instead of April 2012 as originally planned. However, the consultation period ran for an extra 11 days after this date. This was deemed to be “unlawful” by the High Court when Friends of the Earth and two national solar panel installers challenged the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in December. The DECC then took its case to the Court of Appeal on January 13th to apply for the right to appeal against the decision.
The result of this is still not yet known although suspicions are that the appeal will be granted. There are three possible outcomes:
- The application to appeal is not granted – The High Court ruling will be upheld and installations will still receive the 43.3p rate until a date for reduction is settled upon. This would likely be April 1st at the latest as this was the original cut date.
- The application to appeal is accepted but the DECC loses its case – Again the High Court ruling would be upheld and the 43.3p rate will return.
- The application to appeal is accepted and the DECC wins its case – All installs since December 12th will receive the 21p rate.
There is some debate about which result will be the best for the solar panel industry. It’s likely that if the FiT goes back up to 43.3p we will see another boom before April. However, the impact of this could be disastrous in the long-run. The “spending envelope” – the amount of money the DECC has forecast energy companies will have to pay out under the FiT scheme – has mostly been eaten up by the surge in installs before December 12th. If another surge in installs occurs at 43.3p then the funds available in the spending envelope will dry up, and many people fear that the FiT will be cut to a much lower tariff of 9p per kilowatt hour, the equivalent price under the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme for larger installations.
There has been no word yet on what the result will be, nor has a solid timescale for releasing the result been announced. The closest indication has come from the DECC in the following statement:
“The Court of Appeal has not yet decided whether to give permission for an appeal or made a judgement on the FITs case. The Court will wrap up the decision on permission for an appeal and a possible judgement if an appeal is allowed in the next few weeks. Once the outcome is known we will consider our options and make an announcement on the way forward to provide clarity to consumers and industry.”
The timescale given in this echoes a statement from the judges saying that the latest a result would be known would be February 9th, though they would try to have a result released before then.
Until the result is announced, the solar industry is in a state of limbo. The only certainty that the industry has to work from is a DECC statement guaranteeing that customers who install solar photovoltaic panels between December 12th 2011 and March 31st 2012 will receive no less than 21p per kilowatt hour for their FiT. Whatever the outcome of the appeal hearing, the main factor to determine the future of the solar panel industry in the UK is what the FiT rate will be after April 1st. At 21p the FiT still offers a good return on investment for customers, better than many other possible investments at this time, as panel prices have fallen in response to the proposed changes. However, if the worst fears of the industry are confirmed and the FiT drops to 9p or gets cut altogether, then it may only be the larger solar installers with their greater ability to buy panels in bulk that survive.
The author, Laura Traynor, is the marketing co-ordinator for AC Gold Energy, a Stirling-based company specialising in solar and renewable energy solutions.