Heard the term Feed-in Tariff (also referred to FIT, or REFIT - renewable energy feed-in tariff)? Bet you have. It's the catchphrase of preference for all true RE geeks (that's Renewable Energy, not Religious Education). FIT's will help solve our failing RE targets and if you do not know this already you are sooo behind the times. Our Labour government are now toying with the term and contemplating stealing the march on Tory and Lib Dem sworn FIT policy. There has even been an EDM (Early Day Motion) proposed by Labour MP Alan Simpson that is proving popular with 180 votes so far. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Renewable Energy Association are all shouting loudly for FIT's. And so they should.
So, here for you, is the complete low-down on why we so desperately need to support RE, how to do it and what FIT's are...
Why do we need RE?
If you subscribe to the basic principle that we have no option but to replace our current use of polluting fossil fuel with sustainable non-polluting alternatives (whether it be for reducing greenhouse gases and/or because of our pending energy crisis), then energy from renewables is the inevitable solution.
How can we support renewable energy?
For specific RE technologies to succeed, well-conceived government intervention is required. The simple fact is that without appropriate legislative assistance, RE systems are unable to compete. We are afterall dealing with a historical energy system predicated on the use of fossil fuel. New mechanisms are need to be implemented to open the door to RE being included and indeed, in time, fully replacing fossil fuel.
What legislation is required to make this work?
A FIT law. FIT's are a specific market mechanism to facilitate non-commercial RE technology to become commercialised in as fast as time as possible. In other words, it will take RE technology to mass production levels where it can stand alone. They do this by guaranteeing a favourable price (the tariff) for the electricity produced (feeding-in to the grid) over a set period of time (usually 20 years).
It is well established that FIT's are the most effective, cost efficient and transparent system to facilitate not only introduction of RE into the marketplace, but also to promote homegrown industry in the sector. Just look at all countries that have successful FITs, eg Germany, Spain. One aspect of FIT's that is often overlooked but is so vital is that they place a legal obligation on the utility to buy-in the renewable electricity (at a set price); thus no queueing until some ageing dirty coal plant falls off the radar to finally be accepted ongrid. Priority access for RE is a vital mandatory tool.
In a nutshell:
• work on a tariff rate for specific RE technologies that is guaranteed for a set period (usually 20 years). For instance, Germany has FIT's for small hydro, onshore wind, offshore wind, biomass, biogas, PV and geothermal (each RES set at different levels) but not one for CSP because they do not generate CSP on home turf;
• place a legal obligation on the utility companies to purchase electricity at set pricing levels from RES installations which are produced nationally;
• do not apply to buying in of RES from other EU countries or third party countries;
• are not trans-boundary, nor are they ever likely to be. It is the EC's intention that they remain voluntary as a mechanism for each country to implement as they see fit to promote home-grown RE;
• so far 19 out of 27 EU countries have implemented FIT's under their national legislation. Another 12 countries world-wide have adopted this system, and there also exists the use of FIT's at state level in 10 further countries.
[map of EU countries with FIT's]
• proven to be the most successful mechanism to develop RE markets and domestic industries, and achieving the associated social, economic, environmental and security benefits;
• easy to implement and administer, FIT’s are transparent and cost-effective;
• greater flexibility can be designed into the scheme to account for changes in technology and the marketplace;
• encourage steady growth of small- and medium-scale producers;
• low transaction costs;
• ease of financing;
• investor security;
• ease of entry.
Benefit to you
+ You get to buy your own solar panel, wind-turbine etc at good price;
+ You generate your own clean energy (and sell the excess onto the grid, thus helping others too)
+ You get to keep your bills down whilst helping the planet.
There are various books on RE and potential policy, but the best of the lot is: Feed-in Tariffs, Accelerating the Deployment of Renewable Energy,2007, written by one of the foremost experts in this area, Miguel Mendoca. Amazingly, he makes a very dry subject utterly fascinating.
Even better, FIT's are so easy to adopt as national policy that there are now two websites that shows policy makers how to implement the requisite legislation:
Policy Action on Climate Toolkit - everything you need for implementing a FIT (and a nifty 5 min video too)
World Future Council - comprehensive documentation in support.
So, no reason not to get FIT, Mr Brown. Oh and one other thing - that Permitted Development Order that was shelved back on 10th October last year will need dusting off and implementing too, so that we shan't have the whole thing stymied for microgeneration installers by having to apply for planning permission. And while you are at it, could you overhaul the Low Carbon Buildings Programme too? Easy to apply for grants would be much appreciated also. That really would be a pollution solution package to shout about.
Desktop Direct Action: You can email your local MP to ask them to support the FIT EDM. Not sure who your MP is, or what their email address is? Go to TheyWorkForYou.com Easy - and effective.