Why we must look beyond solar export tariffs

Posted in: Solar Energy

Posted on: 11.04.2019

As you might be aware, the Feed-in Tariff closed to new entrants at the end of last month.

This ground-breaking scheme helped almost one million households and businesses generate their own clean power. Good Energy was an early pioneer in small-scale renewables, creating HomeGen way back in 2004. This provided small generators with a payment for all the energy they produced, whether that’s used at home, or exported. The scheme was a first of its kind and lay the foundations for what became the Feed-in Tariff.

The government will soon introduce its new plan, the Smart Export Guarantee, to ensure energy companies pay small generators for any excess power they export to the grid. However, the SEG won’t be introduced for months, inevitably creating uncertainty and delayed investment in the UK’s burgeoning solar industry. In response, we have seen a number of suppliers introduce their own export tariffs, designed to attract solar generators by promising different rates for their power.

Given our role in helping create the Feed in Tariff, we have been considering what the future should look like. Export tariffs clearly have a role to play. In 2003, we introduced SmartGen, which offers customers with sites above 10 kilowatts a fixed, competitive price for their export generation.

For smaller generators, we are strong believers that the main benefit to installing renewables is using the power at home; cutting energy bills and carbon emissions at the same time. Any focus on replacing the Feed-in Tariff needs to have this as its primary focus, recognising that exporting renewable power is just one part in changing our energy system.

Similarly, we need to develop the infrastructure for consumers to share this power in a peer-to-peer environment, paving the way for a truly decentralised network of small energy providers. Our Selectricity platform was an early example of this model and can provide a route to larger-scale adoption.

A related technology piece is ensuring export data from solar panels are stored and communicated accurately. Without intelligent data, it’s likely new customers will remain better off with estimated readings. We have worked hard on getting this technology right, focussing on communities of exporters who will benefit the most from precise readings.

As we enter a world without the Feed-in Tariff, we must use imagination and ambition to create a system that allows customers to change their relationship with energy. The focus on export tariffs is welcome, but it risks missing the bigger picture.

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