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Feed-in Tariff criticised at Conservative Conference fringe event

A speech at the Climate Clinic, a fringe event coinciding with the Conservative Party Conference, stated that the Feed-in Tariff requires urgent attention to prevent continued distortion of the solar technology market.

Neil Schofield, head of sustainable development at Worcester, Bosch Group, said the scale of the distortion has resulted in a of solar photovoltaic sales at the expense of solar thermal since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) in April this year.

“The success of solar PV on the back of the Feed-in Tariff is a tremendous boost for renewables, but we must be careful that it does not damage the market for solar thermal in the process.

“We need a twin-track approach which balances the relative merits of each system and favours both equally.

“At the present time the market is distorted in favour of solar PV due to the Feed-in Tariff and it is affecting the solar thermal market. Our hope is that the new Coalition Government will use the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to rebalance the market.”

According to OFGEM statistics, sales of solar PV have surged in recent months with 3,606 installations made in August, compared to 1,736 in July and 1,397 in June.

Meanwhile, figures from the Solar Trade Association highlight that the majority of solar thermal installers have experienced a 75 per cent drop off in orders since the beginning of May.

“It is not the case that we have two competing systems, only one of which can emerge the winner,” said Mr Schofield.

“We believe there is a market for both systems, which is demonstrated by the fact that Bosch Group has acquired two solar PV companies in recent years to complement its existing solar thermal capabilities.”

“Solar PV is a much higher capital cost solution, but it has the obvious benefit of being electricity generating and therefore potentially income generating. 

“My view is that the market for solar thermal is very different. It is a much lower capital cost solution and is aimed at those whose primary concern is not income generation but energy conservation.

“It works very well in combination with a high-efficiency boiler to reduce household energy usage by using solar power for the generation of hot water while the boiler takes care of domestic heat. I believe it could play a major role in the war against fuel poverty.”

During the speech he also outlined his concern that there remains some confusion in the minds of consumers about solar technology.

“It is deeply concerning when you read a letter in a national newspaper from a householder that attempts to calculate a payback period for an installation using a solar PV installation cost and a solar thermal energy saving figure.

“It is clear that many consumers still do not understand the technology on offer and at worst are making decisions based upon very faulty calculations.”