I discussed Feed in Tariffs with David Cameron at our Reading turbine last week. The Tories have a policy proposal to introduce Feed in Tariffs – to do something about the lack of progress we’re making with Renewable Energy in the UK. But I don’t think this will help at all.
(Feed in Tariffs – FITs – are a system of fixed prices for renewable energy paid to the generator by the ‘grid company’. The fixed price is above the ‘market’ price and hence provides financial support to enable more renewable capacity to be built.)
So what’s wrong with Feed in Tariffs?
Well, actually nothing. It’s a good way to financially support renewable technologies and so encourage their wider use. It’s worked brilliantly in Germany.
But do they have anything to offer the UK? That’s a different question altogether and my answer to that is a definite no. The reasons are simple enough –
Feed in Tariffs are the right answer to the wrong question.
The UK RO (Renewables Obligation) scheme does the same job. It provides support above that which the ‘market’ alone would give.
FITs work well, so does the RO. The RO is not the problem, so swapping it for FITs won’t achieve anything.
The dominant renewable technology in the UK is on shore wind – it’s technically mature, in mass production and it’s economic. We have enough of it to power the whole country several times over (we have 40% of Europe’s wind resource), and it’s expected to deliver the lion’s share of our renewable targets.
Does it need additional financial support? No, it does not. The government only recently resisted the temptation to reduce the support that wind currently gets through the RO – the trend here is reduced support not increased, because wind clearly has what it needs.
The one thing preventing the UK from having a massive contribution to energy needs from our wind resource is the planning system. And FITs won’t and can’t fix that. Feed in Tariffs are about financial support and that is not the problem. It’s really that simple.
There are technologies other than wind of course, like wave power for example, and they need more support (money) to work than wind does, but they are getting this through the existing RO mechanism – which is now giving multiple ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates) to certain technologies, like wave and tidal power. It’s as effective as feed in tariffs at this job.
Feed in Tariffs were a great idea 15 years ago and would have helped the UK then, but we finally got our act together with the RO some years ago (it’s our Feed in Tariff by another name) – and our problems today are not money, they are planning – only planning. Let’s discuss instead adopting German planning laws – now there’s an idea David….
You can now see part two in this series on Feed-in Tariffs here.