Consequences for the solar panel industry

I am proud to be an early adopter and user of the internet, and I am equally inspired by the same pioneering spirit within the solar panel industry today.

The internet then and the internet today.

The internet then and the internet today.

Like the early internet before it, there were people ready to take advantage of new people venturing into a world of unknowns. Most pioneers can and do learn quickly and manage to avoid the pitfalls of a new landscape.

However, the same company names using salespeople from the second glazing school of salesmanship and charging disproportionate prices, sometimes more than 30 per cent more than is deemed ethical, keep cropping up.

On the positive side, this makes the lives of good solar installers more comfortable, but, such behaviour, leave people confused and distrusting of this still fledgeling industry.

Such greedy practices within the industry need to be stamped out today because the consequences of not doing so could unravel the excellent work that has been done to clean the industry up through regulation and the many ethical installers who yearn to see the industry succeed long-term.

Since the formation of the MCS accreditation and RECC bodies, the bad memories of the early solar industry are fast fading and today’s solar pioneers can now expect a level of quality and service that is the highest in the world.

I too was confronted by a cold caller. A canvasser was selling the concept of solar technology. Little did he know, I had ten years experience, and so I listened intently to his wild and exaggerated claims about what solar can do for me. The equivalent of a spammy Nigerian email I thought.

And this leads me to my point; I would hate for the solar industry to go through yet more public media negativity because of a few companies and their commissioned based sales people making over the top claims and excessive pricing structures. EON recently fell foul of just this practice recently.

The good news is that the adoption of solar panels has increased recently, but what the dotcom boom of the early internet demonstrated, was that even if your time has come like solar technology today, bad decisions can burst your bubble.

Despite this, I am very proud of the passionate work that most installation companies are doing to improve consumer confidence and drive solar technology into the mainstream arena where it now belongs.

Let’s not let the good work of the many – be spoilt because of the bad practices of a few.

Political short-sightedness in a long-term game

Feed-in tariffs for solar panels are like life itself. Very few will appreciate them, they are always at risk and may be gone before you know it.

You can see this short-sightedness within our politics today with energy and environmental cabinet positions being taken by politicians with ‘business as usual’ attitudes, even at this time when both these problems are accelerating in their severity.

Credit where credit is due though, so a special acknowledgement for these former ministers; Chris Hulme, Greg Barker and Edward Davey whose enthusiasm for alternative and solar panels shone through.

These politicians headed the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and did attempt to move the political direction for these two very urgent and related difficulties.

Unfortunately, a dark cloud could take the wind out of the sails of our turbines and the shine from the solar panel industry as David Cameron appoints new climate sceptics and advocates critical positions.

Matthew Hancock, who is reported to be a proponent of rolling back of green incentives is now appointed the head of DECC. Also, the new environment secretary and former Shell employee, Liz Truss and George Osborne’s well-documented view of alternative energy technologies may create problems for the solar industry, primarily if a full Conservative win occurs in the next general election.

This short-sightedness in these political appointments is not unusual because, in the 18th century, it was common knowledge that coal was a vastly better form of energy than wood. It took a further one hundred years to adopt this more advanced energy source fully.

This time eventually spawned the industrial revolution, so you could argue that politics impeded progress by a full century. We cannot afford to do the same for the green revolution.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a century to kick our heels and argue with sceptical traditionalists.

These huge issues of our time including environmental collapse and peak oil problem have been well-documented since the mid-1950s, even Margaret Thatcher acknowledged the global warming issue in 1989.

It is then very saddening and perplexing why the political children of Mrs Thatcher are still banging the sceptic’s drum. Hugging Huskies have sadly been replaced by ‘business as usual’ and Mr Osborne and other key politicians, now shamelessly working against the inevitable tide of progress and thus bringing this full conversation circle back to the word ‘greed’.

What Mrs Thatcher inadvertent unleashed during her political years was an economic feeding frenzy. Instead of planning for the long-term and against her better judgement, the North Sea oil extravaganza – only gave us short-term gratification.

Since the last day of the Roman Emperor Julius Ceasar, modern politicians and leaders have been doing the bidding of the aristocratic elites for fear of the general backstabbing. In these recent times, this means corporate interests or for this article, the energy companies that dictate Conservative policy today.

Of course, centralised energy companies don’t want people to produce their on-site photovoltaic power, generate what would primarily be their revenue through the feed-in tariff and reduce the need to purchase their fossil fuels – so they plot, pressurise and lobby to preserve the status quo.

This is why I shout from the rooftops to take-up this unique window of opportunity.

A full Conservative party win at the next election will undoubtedly mean an unravelling of what the Labour Party began and the aforementioned Liberal Democrats ministers have fought so hard to protect during this period of the coalition.

We all know solar panels are going to play a big part in the global energy future, but just like those 18th-century logging barons, their modern-day counterparts will not relinquish power without a fight. Unfortunately, this time, we don’t have a full century to make the necessary advancements.

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2014-07-23
Founder of Power My Home.