WARE, England, October 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
- Solar industry plans to help Government on their all-out assault on fuel poverty
On August 27 this year, the Department for the Environment and Climate Change announced a reduction in the renewable energy Feed-in Tariff (FIT) from January 1, 2016, despite David Cameron saying that tackling climate change and poverty go together, and that renewable energy helps keep future generations secure. Cuts to the UK FIT, which currently enables those most in need to benefit from highly efficient and cost-effective energy, could leave thousands of families struggling to heat their homes, and worsen the UK's already extremely pressing fuel poverty situation. In September 2015 at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York, David Cameron also stated "Back in January, I said 2015 should be the year we tackle extreme poverty and climate change. These two things go together and both have the potential to give security to future generations to come." This focus was set on overseas investment and funding rather than in the UK.
Furthermore Mr Cameron at the October 2015 Conservative Party Conference said, "Conservatives understand that if we're serious about solving the problem we need to tackle the root causes of poverty. If we tackle the causes of poverty we can make our country greater."
Despite this, 2.34 million UK homes are currently deemed as being in fuel poverty, and this has a direct and very damaging effect on each and every member of the household. A recent survey by Turn2us (a national charity that helps those in financial hardship) found that nearly four in five families have struggled with their energy bills in the past year. Three-quarters of parents said that their children's health has suffered as a result, and more than half believe that it even affected their children's school work.
Addressing this very real issue is a key objective for Housing Associations across the country, and after five years of positive discussions, the sector was ready to embrace all the advantages that solar power would bring to tenants living in fuel poverty - a significant and positive step forward. However, the recent proposal to reduce the renewable energy Feed-in Tariff, despite an increase in international expenditure, will leave a huge question mark over Housing Associations' willingness to accept this cleaner, greener and more affordable alternative to fossil fuels. Many tenants, who would have otherwise benefitted from the scheme, could now be left much worse off
Currently, Housing Associations that choose to install renewable energy technology (like solar power) to their properties, receive money back from their energy supplier for the electricity that they generate. By effectively creating and using their own energy, tenants are able to significantly reduce their energy bills, making a huge and worthwhile difference to those who need it most. Solarplicity With plans of over 150,000 installations over the next two years, including 3,000 freely allocated systems to Housing Associations (equating to £1.2 million per annum in Feed-in Tariff income), the FIT has the potential to considerably reduce the number of people in fuel poverty, and even result in a CO2 reduction of 150,000 tonnes. But with such dramatic cuts, both Housing Associations and solar energy providers will be priced out of the renewable energy market. Already, two solar energy companies, Mark Group Ltd. and Climate Energy Ltd. have gone bust, meaning a total job loss of over 1,000 and huge investments gone to waste. If no action is taken, it will be the fuel poor who are left most disadvantaged.
In order to address these issues, engagement with the Government is vital - a solution is needed that will enable renewable energy industries to support Housing Associations in helping prevent fuel poverty to thousands of tenants across the UK. Government strategy clearly outlines the need to reduce energy costs, and with electricity making up (on average) 50% of household bills, cutting the Feed-in Tariff vastly contradicts these aims. Cuts also contradict a recent Government Paper on fuel poverty, which clearly states their commitment to 'taking account of the needs of the most vulnerable'. And despite fossil fuels being a much more expensive and environmentally damaging source of energy, the government subsidises fossil fuels by an incredible £26bn per year, compared to just £3.5bn that is spent on renewable energy.
Possible solutions, moving forward, could include a capital contribution to investors who install solar panels on Housing Association properties, a new band of FIT for installs at Housing Association properties, or tax benefits for investors.
By working together to find a forward-thinking and long term solution, the Government, Solarplicity and Housing Associations could lead the way, continuing the positive steps that have already been taken towards a more affordable, greener future, and helping to lift the UK's 2.34 million homes out of fuel poverty.
Appendix Government Paper on fuel poverty: 'Cutting the Cost of Keeping Warm - A New Fuel Poverty Strategy for England'
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