The Feed-in Tariff scheme is distorting the market for solar technology and urgently requires rebalancing, according to Worcester Bosch’s Neil Schofield.
Schofield, head of sustainable development at the boiler and heating equipment manufacturer told the Climate Clinic Conservative Party Conference fringe event, that care must be taken not to damage the market for solar thermal.
Since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff in April this year, there has been a surge in solar photovoltaic sales at the expense of solar thermal.
“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,” he said.
“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 Government will use the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to rebalance the market.”
According to OFGEM statistics, sales of solar PV have surged 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 show that most solar thermal installers have seen a 75% 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,” Schofield explained. “We believe there is a market for both. 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.”
Schofield also said that there is still a lot of confusion in householders’ minds 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.”