Backers of solar thermal in the UK have spent the better part of the last six months lobbying their government to prevent solar thermal from being removed from the UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) program. The program is similar to the various tax and credit programs local governments in the U.S. offer for renewable energy installations. UK authorities were planning to drop solar thermal from RHI in 2017 so that money being spent to promote it could be invested elsewhere.
The Solar Trade Association led a coalition of lobbyists to convince UK officials to change their plans. The Association began their efforts in earnest with government consultation this past March, bolstered by the support of business owners opposed to the plan.
The typical business owner installing solar thermal in the UK breaks even at about seven years with RHI incentives. In other words, it only takes about seven years for a solar thermal installation to pay for itself. Without RHI incentives, it could take three times as long. The Solar Trade Association and its army of lobbyists argued that eliminating solar thermal from the RHI would prompt business owners to avoid new installations.
Now that the UK government has agreed not to drop solar thermal, there are high hopes for significant expansion in the commercial market. The Solar Trade Association now expects to see the growth it was projecting prior to the March consultation, growth that could help the UK reach its target of 12% renewable heat by 2020.
The Government Incentive Question
Questions about whether government should subsidize solar thermal installations are not unique to the UK. We see the same kinds of things being wrestled with here. Only here, things are a bit more complicated due to the way things are regulated at the federal, state and local levels.
Energy credits are typically the domain of state governments in that utilities are regulated at the state level. However, it’s very common for counties and local municipalities to throw their own credits in as well. The question is always one of how much to spend on incentives and to whom those incentives should be offered.
Here at Solar America Solutions, we have proven that our patented SunQuest 250 solar thermal panel is so efficient and produces so much thermal energy, that systems we have installed have provided a return on investment of less than five years even without government subsidies. However, governments that commit funds to renewable energy demonstrate to the public their support of seeking replacement energy sources that do not rely on fossil fuels.
Solar Thermal in America
Solar America Solutions has been a leader in solar thermal technology since our inception. Here in America, the industry is more focused on commercial applications than residential, which is why our company concentrates on commercial buildings including prison facilities, healthcare facilities, office buildings, dormitories, hotels, and the like.
As solar thermal grows in this country, we are proud to be part of the industry. Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector is the best of its type in the business, capable of providing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour per panel, across a ten-hour solar day. Combined with the right equipment and a well-designed installation, the SunQuest 250™ can provide nearly all the space heat and hot water a commercial building requires.
UK government and industry officials have come to realize how important solar thermal is to future renewable energy goals. That’s why they have changed course and are now agreeing to include solar thermal in their RHI program. We would do well to learn from their example. Solar thermal is just as important to the future of renewable energy in the U.S.
1.Sun & Wind Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/solar-thermal-to-stay-uk-renewable-heat-incentive