I’ve just been speaking to eco-warriors at Friends of the Earth who are pretty thrilled by something the government may be doing – can you believe! Thanks to the tireless campaigning by the charity, along with the Coop Bank, the Renewable Energy Association and others, ministers are tabling an amendment to the Climate Change Bill which – if it goes through (fingers and toes crossed) – would introduce something called a ‘feed-in tariff’. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with subsidies for takeaway dinners, but would guarantee rates for electricity produced from renewable energy.
Now, don’t nod off…do stay with me, because this could eventually mean cold hard cash for all you environment-loving frugalists out there. Right now, if we decide to save the planet/save on our hefty energy bills by installing solar panels etc., there is no legislation determining what rate our energy company should pay us for the energy we produce. By law they are supposed to pay us something, but according to Friends of the Earth, enforcement of the legislation has been patchy. “The energy companies currently pay people what they fancy and some paid nothing at all until recently,” explains Dave Timms, senior parliamentary campaigner at the lobby group. “The legislation hasn’t been enforced.”
In comparison, in other EU countries, such as Germany, if a business builds a warehouse they can go ahead and invest in solar panels, knowing roughly how much money they will be able to generate from them because they will be paid a set amount for each kilowatt of electricity they produce.
But the amendment to the Climate Change Bill could incentivise consumers and businesses to install renewable energy. “This would totally transform the economics of renewable energy,” says Dave Timms. “It will take it into the realms of something anyone can do. And it wouldn’t just apply to households but businesses too. You could have solar thermal or solar electricity, ground source heat pumps under the garden or, for people in windy areas, wind turbines, or biomass wood pellet heating systems.” So we could obtain cheap green energy and make some money out of it too!
While the changes mean people with enough savings could install renewable energy sources in their homes – admittedly not something those in fuel poverty could afford to do – Friends of the Earth want a more organised approach.
“What we want is for whole communities to come together and install renewables that work,” says Dave. “In Derbyshire Friends of the Earth came together with the Coop to finance a water turbine. But these schemes are few and far between – done because of dedication. We want it to be done by everyone. People have seen their energy prices rocket,” he says. “Some of the worst cases of fuel poverty are people living in rural areas in stone houses (unsuitable for cavity wall insulation) relying on oil-fired heating. What we want is something big enough that a council can do it.”
And if you think all this is years away, then think again. “If the government gets this right and they make it available to a sufficient scale, and if they bring it in with a timetable, then we could see it in 18 months,” he says. “If they don’t we’ll have to fight on.”
Exciting stuff! Let’s hope the government doesn’t change its mind or drag its feet on this one…
Would you install renewable energy in your home? Do you already have solar panels/a wind turbine etc.? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!