Keeping the lights on

From fuel poverty to keeping our lighting on, in five short years -the overall outlook for both power supplies and global energy costs is not looking good.

Power My Home PV Solar Panels UKSpeaking this week, Mr Geoff Huhne, our Energy and Climate secretary, said there had been “far too much dithering for far too long.”

That was necessary to replace older power stations and invest in alternative technologies such as solar panels, to “keep the lights on”.

Now nobody is suggesting that solar panels and other green technologies can fully replace our need for energy, but looking at a mix of different ways to reduce our dependence on the unpredictable Middle East and Russian energy supplies can only be beneficial in the longer term.

Global energy costs have risen by 30% in such a short time that individual countries such as the UK are powerless to prevent further rises. Other issues have contributed to the energy costs we see today, such as the privatisation of the energy companies, which has led to a dominantly profit-based industry, almost a cartel.

The easiest way for foreign-owned energy suppliers to make money is importing gas and oil, but the United Kingdom needs to move away from both. Alternative energy technologies, including solar panels, are essential to provide the cheaper energy we need to function both as individuals and as a country.

Traditional oil is a finite and dying resource. The drilling now taking place in the Arctic shows that the oil industry is becoming more and more desperate to find alternative sources, but the truth is that this drilling isn’t going to lower prices.

The rest of the world is becoming more industrialised, so putting a more significant strain on what is available, and partly because the oil here in the Arctic is not at all cheap to extract.

Subsidising the domestic micro-generation systems by using the current feed-in tariff scheme is the beginning of an awakening for our country. Oil and gas are both subsidised, so incentivising an alternative method makes sense. There are already solar panel plants in the USA producing electricity that is cheaper than oil and the global rush for alternative energy, which we are currently seeing, will inevitably bring down costs in the future.

Solar panel technology can now, however, give homeowners the ability to produce cheap, clean energy and earn an income for the next 20 years with the feed-in tariffs.

The feed-in tariff is designed to reward early adopters of solar technology with more substantial feed-in tariffs (currently 21 p per kWh) but will decrease over time, giving later adopters a much lower tariff rate. It is essential to install your solar panel system before 2013 to earn the maximum reward. After that, feed-in tariffs will reduce to an estimated 32p per kW till 2015. Then they will probably be reduced still further.

What the government incentive is trying to achieve is a snowball effect. As more people install solar panels, there will be less of a need for incentives in the future.

The UK’s energy infrastructure, including ageing power stations and an outdated National Grid, is in such a poor state that it would cost scores of billions of pounds to overhaul anyway, even without investment in green technology. Government estimates show the total investment required for both electricity and gas is likely to be £200bn by 2020, a sum which will apply through your energy bills.

As everyone is paying for this massive, much-needed energy reform anyway, it seems short-sighted not to take advantage of the feed-in tariff and protect ourselves from future price rises.

The massive advantage that the UK would have, now being less reliant on the Middle East and Russia, would be to have the freedom from expensive wars for oil supplies, unlike in Iraq and Libya. It would also produce new opportunities and much-needed jobs.

Stuart Lovatt, the founder of Power My Home, concludes, “We are the slowest generation in history to react to a problem. When civilisation itself is a threat, the time for dithering on both individual and national levels must end now.”

“The fight for civilisation’s won; the challenge of keeping it has just begun.”

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2011-07-15
Founder of Power My Home.