The nation’s roofs are coming under attack. Not (thankfully so far) from the wrath of another particularly vicious winter but from a more conspicuous source – the solar panel.
The solar panel industry has seen huge growth in commercial and domestic markets recently, in large part due to the government feed-in-tarrifs (FITs) subsidy which allows investors in small scale renewables to sell units of the electricity produced to a supplier of their choice. Introduced in April 2010, FITs have played an important role in the expansion of solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, creating new commercial businesses to turn FITs into profits, but more significantly, encouraging councils and housing associations to sign up to PV installation projects. FITs have been a major success, with a number of new companies actually offering free solar panel installation to customers in return for the annual FITs payment by the government – a great way to get UK homeowners on the road to solar panel use.
But in October 2011, the government announced they were cutting the FITs payment due to the rising numbers of households installing solar panels and lower technology costs. Although a major blow to the renewables industry, many plans by housing associations to undertake large scale PV installation programmes have been put on hold or scaled back to accommodate the lower than expected FITs payments and their impact on the financial viability of many schemes.
But could pushing the stop button so quickly on an advancing industry be just a case of throwing the toys out of the pram? Modern solar panel technology is now so advanced that in terms of energy production they present a significant step forward in lowering fuel poverty and contributing to broader carbon reduction targets. With fuel poverty one of the key concerns of most social housing tenants, the innovation offered by solar panel technology should be a key priority for many housing associations keen on delivering real value for their tenants with potential savings of up to £250 a year on energy bills.
With the reduction of FITs looming, the installation of new solar panel schemes under the new lower tariff makes many projects look unlikely due to lack of financial support, in spite of the many obvious benefits to both tenants and housing associations. This of course entirely goes against the reason FITs were introduced in the first place, to kick-start an industry rather than prop it up entirely.
Housing associations and councils shouldn’t be too rash in dumping energy-efficient projects because of the immediate financial barriers, kykloud makes viewing the long-term picture more accessible in terms of actual returns on investment. Kykloud is able to track FITs across built assets to allow a housing association to either make a business case for solar panel installation or alternatively to track FIT payments against energy savings for tenants five or even 30 years into the future, helping to provide a more rounded picture of installation cost vs savings. More importantly, if any future legislative changes are made in relation to FITs, these changes can be applied through kykloud immediately, creating an instant model indicating how changes could impact on housing stock or other built assets. This is also true of the government’s green deal, kykloud technology can be used in support of all aspects of the green deal to track energy efficiency against structural or other improvements made within a housing or built asset portfolio.
The government cannot be expected to subsidise green energy projects forever but with a product like kykloud, housing associations can make a valid and researched business case for any new green initiative against actual costs and long-term value, balanced by potential impact from government subsidies. Kykloud most definitely has green credentials but perhaps more importantly, it gives housing associations and councils the power to view their own green credentials based on their built assets through simple to use real time reporting and life cycle costing strategies.