A recent survey of YouGen users has shown that setting a cut-off date for installations that falls before the end of the feed-in tariff consultation period undermines trust in the consultation process.

The study asked: “Is it acceptable to set a cut-off date for installations that is before the end of consultation?” A staggering 91 percent of respondents answered ‘No’.

Those disillusioned with the Government’s decision took to the comment section of the survey to voice their opinion on why such a move is so damaging to public trust:

“To do so indicates the consultation is a hollow exercise with no intention of the feedback from the consultation making any difference.”

“Suggests that the consultation is a sham.”

“This negates the benefit of having a consultation, as it implies that the decision has already been made.”

“Disingenuous. Suspicious. Untrustworthy.

The consultation, which ends on Friday 23 December, proposes to reduce the feed-in tariff rate for domestic scale solar PV installations (up to 4kWp) to 21p from the current rate of 43p. That is too low according to 63 percent of respondents, with 35 percent saying it’s correct, and just 2 percent who think it’s too high.

One of the most pertinent proposals, destined to have the most significant impact on future take up of the feed-in tariff, is the introduction of strict energy efficiency criteria for eligibility post April 2012. One of the proposals, outlined by DECC in their Impact Assessment, is that buildings must reach energy efficiency standards of EPC level C or above before the owner can claim the feed-in tariff. Less than 10 percent of houses, and 34 percent of flats, are currently rated C or above according to figures in the most recent housing survey.
Only 18 percent of respondents thought that this was a sensible criterion. A further 26 percent agreed with the idea of energy efficiency criteria, but felt that EPC level C is setting the bar too high. More people were against the idea, with 19 percent agreeing with the statement “no, microgeneration is not related to building performance”, and an additional 31 percent saying “no, microgeneration brings people in touch with energy use and is a good trigger for energy efficient behaviour”.
“Also, the EPC is mostly about measuring heat loss, whereas for the vast majority of solar PV installations, the electricity generated by solar PV is used for lighting and running appliances. While it makes sense to introduce energy efficiency criteria for the renewable heat incentive, there’s no logic in linking it with the feed-in tariff.  
“Feedback from YouGen users indicates that they become much more interested and engaged with their energy use after they install solar panels. They value the electricity more, and use it more carefully, and are more likely to take other energy efficiency measures.  If the Government is serious about the shift to a low carbon economy, it doesn’t make sense to kill one of the few ways that has caught the interest of the public.”
Comments from respondents on this point included:

“It could be argued that microgeneration is of itself a way of increasing energy efficiency”.

“Having installed PV at our house I’ve seen the way it’s changed the whole household’s attitude to energy consumption for the better. A better solution would be to train microgen installers to be ambassadors in energy conservation, and make making such recommendations a compulsory part of the PV design process.”

“Energy efficiency IS an important issue, but it is separate from the issue of sustainable generation.”

“Microgeneration income was going to finance improved insulation, like triple glazing and advanced heating controls.”

The feed-in tariff rate for solar has been shaken twice by emergency reviews designed to keep the scheme within the budget set by the Coalition Government when they were elected. Respondents were asked whether they thought it was right to cap the budget. An overwhelming 55 percent said ‘No’, just 30 percent said ‘Yes’, and 16 percent indicated that they ‘Did not know’.

“We are calling on the government to uncap the budget, and provide enough support for the solar industry to grow and thrive and stand on its own merit,” says Cathy Debenham.

“A recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has just demonstrated that there is huge support for solar power: 74 percent of respondents think the Government should look to use more than at present. The Renewable Energy Association says that the cost of solar is falling so dramatically that in about five years time it should cost no more to generate one’s own solar than to buy it from an electricity company. Government policy created the boom. Please make sure that it doesn’t cause a bust.”

The majority of respondents toYouGen’s survey seem to support the arguments put forward by lawyers representing Friends of the Earth, Homesun and Solarcentury. The group believe that the consultation period enacted by the Government over the proposed feed-in tariff has been illegal; a decision by the High Court is expected later today.