UK unveils feed-in tariff scheme to incentivise low carbon technologies

The UK government has unveiled a feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme to incentivise low carbon electricity a

Households and communities who install generating technologies such as small wind turbines and solar panels will be entitled to claim payments for the low carbon electricity they produce from April.

According to Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the schemes are designed to bring about a significant increase in the amount of locally produced renewable energy, as a contribution to the wider shift of the energy mix to low carbon.

From April 1, householders and communities who install low carbon electricity technology such as solar photovoltaic panels and wind turbines up to 5MW will be paid for the electricity they generate, even if they use it themselves. The level of payment depends on the technology and is linked to inflation.

Ed Miliband, secretary of Energy and Climate Change, said: "The guarantee of getting an income on top of saving on energy bills will be an incentive to householders and communities wanting to make the move to low carbon living.

"The feed-in tariff will change the way householders and communities think about their future energy needs, making the payback for investment far shorter than in the past. It will also change the outlook for a range of industries, in particular those in the business of producing and installing small scale low carbon technology."

They will get a further payment for any electricity they feed into the grid. These payments will be in addition to benefiting from reduced bills as they reduce the need to buy electricity. The scheme will also apply to installations commissioned since July 2008 when the policy was announced.

The DECC also published today plans for a scheme to incentivise renewable heat generation at all scales. This will come into effect in April 2011 and guarantee payments for those who install technologies such as ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and air source heat pumps.

Under the proposed tariffs the installation of a ground source heat pump in an average semi-detached house with adequate insulation levels could be rewarded with GBP1,000 a year and lead to savings of GBP200 per year if used instead of heating oil.

The heat incentive could help thousands of consumers who are off the gas network lower their fuel bills and gain a cash reward for greening their heating supply, DECC said.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.