CSE offers ‘fair deal’ guidance on feed-in tariffs

Don’t be ripped off by a bad ‘clean-energy cash-back’ deal

30 June 2010

Solar PV panels are expensive. But with the feed-in tariffs* now available, they can be an attractive investment – and some companies and groups are interested in helping you to take advantage of the opportunity.

So you might find yourself being approached with some sort of finance package or ‘rent your roof’ deal, particularly for solar PV. These offers might include a ‘free’ or low cost installation in exchange for allowing the company to pocket the feed-in tariff and possibly some of the other benefits (like the earnings from selling the electricity not used by the household).

It sounds like a fair deal. After all, the company putting the money in to pay for the kit needs to recover their costs to make it a viable business. But there are more issues to address than simply who pays and what they get in return, such as who has liability for the equipment’s performance, its insurance, planning permission etc.

When CSE’s Chief Executive Simon Roberts was recently asked for help by a community organisation, he found that there was no easy-to-access information that would help a householder think through how the deal looked overall. So he spent an hour brainstorming the issues, came up with a short briefing and sent it round a few people for comment.

So many people said it was useful, we’ve decided to add a couple of photographs and make it widely available.

Download Fair deal feed-in tariffs here

Simon explained his approach: “A lot of focus seems to be on who’s funding the cost of the installation and the arrangements over paying it back. But there was no information I could find exploring who holds the risks and liabilities of having a small electricity generating station on the roof of your house. We’re sure they’ll be plenty of perfectly reasonable deals out there, but householders and community organisations should be asking these questions to make sure they know what they’re letting themselves in for.”

You might also be interested in the short video we produced for our PlanLoCaL project 'Things to consider before starting a solar project'. Watch it on YouTube here.

* Feed-in tariffs are designed to encouraging the uptake of renewable energy among householders, communities and businesses. Common practice across Europe, they work by obliging energy companies to pay an above-market rate for electricity generated by small-scale wind or solar installations.

CSE has produced a simple guide to how feed-in tariffs work for a family installing solar PV on the roof of their home. Click to download.

CSE has undertaken research on how different income groups will be affected by the introduction of policies designed to lower carbon-emissions, including feed-in tariffs. See here for details.

 Here's a film CSE made explaining how Feed-in Tariffs from renewable energy projects to fund other activities for the benefit of the community:

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