How have people responded to the Greenest Government Ever’s proposal to cut the Feed in Tariff?

Jeremy Leggett, Solar Century

There is no question that a “consultation” with an end date of 23 December slashing tariffs from 12 December is wide open to legal challenge and we now expect a very serious industry challenge to be mounted.

Friends of the Earth

The Government has cast a dark shadow over our thriving solar industry making such deep and sudden cuts to incentives could put tens of thousands out of work.
Greg Barker says he wants to make subsidies fairer but the new rates mean that unless you have significant savings, you re unlikely to be able to afford solar panels.

Solar Trade Association told the Daily Mail

We will do everything we can to challenge this. It will bankrupt us, prevent schemes which give people on low-incomes access to solar panels and 25,000 jobs will be killed off

Energy Minister Greg Barker looking at a car crash

Our response to the proposed cuts to the Feed in Tariff

The Centre for Alternative Technology expressed concern at government proposals to cut Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) in half. The new reduced rate of 21p/ kWh will affect all photovoltaic installations below 4kW after 12th December 2011.

At the current FiT rate of 43.3p/kWh, an average 2.9kW system will generate an estimated £1,190 a year. Following the introduction of the proposed 21p rate, the same system will generate £640, extending the payback period of an £11,500 installation from 10 to 18 years. Other changes include linking FiTs to the energy efficiency of housing – new FiT installations will only be considered on housing with an energy efficiency rating of C or above. CAT experts believe that the speed and unpredictability of the cuts send out a damaging message for the growth of the green economy.

Information Officer Tobi Kellner said:

There is a history of schemes running out of funds (the Low Carbon Buildings Programme), being delayed for years (the Renewable Heat Incentive) or being very suddenly and dramatically cut (FiTs). This damages the growth of any green industry in the UK. Commitment to new sustainable technologies means significant investments, especially for small or medium- sized companies. Businesses can’t afford to have the rug pulled out from under them. Furthermore, making energy efficiency a condition for receiving FiTs only makes sense if there are viable incentives for energy efficiency measures which are suitable for the large proportion of UK households who live in older buildings.

Currently any household can install solar panels and benefit from FiTs; the new measures could exclude up to two thirds of Britain’s housing.

Linking FiTs to energy efficiency is a good idea but the government must also back that up by making energy efficiency measures financially viable for the majority of UK households

We were wrong about turbines admit anti turbine protesters

This is an interesting and  encouraging story from Leicester Mercury

When they first heard there were going to be four giant wind turbines on their doorsteps, villagers feared the worst. But now even some of the most hardened protesters have admitted fears over the noise have come to nothing. John Phillips, 70, lives in Ashby Road, less than a mile from the wind farm. He said he was against the construction at first. He said: “I went to all the protest meetings and I was against them from the start.
“But now, I must say they don’t really bother me. I can’t hear them and I can barely see them.

“It’s like the industrial revolution all over again – people don’t like change until it actually happens and they get used to it.”

Read the full story.


Underwater adventures in CAT’s reservoir


This week, two staff members embarked on a scuba diving mission to inspect the state of the pipe submerged deep in the reservoir above CAT. The pipe, which transports water from the reservoir down to CAT for all the taps on site as well as for the hydro system, is essential to CAT’s day-to-day running.

Alice and Paul have both been diving for about 15 years. Rumour had it that the reservoir was rather deep, so they were surprised to find that it only descended to 4.5 metres at its deepest point. The underwater view was apparently autumnal, the bottom covered with a thick layer of leaves and silt, with long plants growing underwater near the water’s edge.

Asides from one fish, and a bucket later reunited with its owner, the reservoir didn’t contain any unexpected surprises. CAT’s intrepid dive team found the pipe in good condition, with a few photos to show to those less aquatically able what the underwater world was like.

UK onshore wind farm consent rates crash to all-time low

BuisnessGreen is reporting that onshore windfarm consent has dipped to an all time low:

the average amount of time projects wait for planning approval increased from 24 to 33 months. In England alone, approval rates fell from 33 per cent last year to what RenewableUK regards as a “critically low” level of 26 per cent in 2010/11.


This is according to RenewableUK’s ‘State of the Industry report’ which was released today. The report also has some positive findings:

The twelve months from July 2010 to June 2011 saw an additional 44 projects (985MW) go operational across the UK.  This is almost a 20% improvement on last year’s figures.

Looking ahead to the end of the calendar year 2011, deployment figures continue to look very healthy, with an additional capacity in the region of 980MW expected on line by the end of 2011


However, the low planning consent rate remains a concern. As the report states

The amount of wind capacity being approved in planning rates has continued to fall for onshore wind., for the third year in a row the amount of capacity approved in the UK declined …

Onshore the approval rates at local authority level have however seen a further decline from the historic lows of the last few years, and are now reaching a critically low level in England. Overall in the UK the approval rate fell by 11% to 42% of capacity determined.

A taster of the upcoming Sustainable Science Symposium


On the 12th and 13th of November, CAT will host its sixth sustainable science symposium, showcasing the work of current students and alumni. CAT has been teaching skills in sustainability since 2001; since then the graduate school has become an important embodiment of CAT’s ethos, encouraging innovation in creating solutions to environmental challenges. Last year’s symposium was attended by over 100 people who enjoyed a range of speakers including Erik Lombaut from Belgium, and 2011 will see another interesting selection of papers presented. Though the programme has not yet been finalised, a taster of what to look forward to at this year’s event is below.

For more information on the event, please follow this link.

Spending time at an environmental education centre – an investigation into changes in pro-environmental behaviour by Sophia Perkins
Sophia Perkins’ research looks into the effect of environmental education. As individuals tend to learn best through ‘doing’, the interactivity of CAT’s visitor’s centre makes it an effective educational facility. Perkins examined her subjects’ environmental behaviour prior to and after their time at CAT, showing that their pro-environmental behaviour increased after their visit. Her analysis considered personality types and social dynamics in her conclusions.

Fuel poverty and the failure of policy making as a driver for change by R Honeysett
The Department of Energy and Climate Change defines a household in fuel poverty as one that has to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel to heat their home to a satisfactory standard. R Honeysett’s paper evaluates the strategy developed by he Labour government which aimed to eliminate the problem for ‘vulnerable’ households by 2010 and for all households by 2016. While the strategy had some success early on, the situation has again worsened, making it likely that the 2016 target will not be reached. Honeysett’s assessment of the policy seeks to understand its failure, considering whether the definition of fuel poverty that shaped the policy has had detrimental effects on it.

How could straw bale houses become mainstream? Insights from a straw bale housing project by R Folk
Considering the growing need for affordable, energy efficient housing in the UK, R Folk’s paper looks into the capacity of straw bale building to satisfy this demand. Taking as a case study a rural district council’s decision to build straw bale council houses, Folk evaluates whether straw bale building could become a mainstream building technique by interviewing mainstream building contractors and other project stakeholders and investigating potential barriers to its movement into the mainstream.

The Potential Sustainable Contribution of Vertical Borehole Ground Source Heating Systems to London’s Heating Needs by Cathryn Symons
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in densely populated areas is difficult. Cathryn Symons investigated the possibility of using Vertical Borehole Ground Source Heating Systems to heat part of London’s central city, concluding that the technology could provide up to 17% of the renewable heat for all London from within the central area alone.

Do-it-yourself sustainability: helping current occupants meet their own needs, whilst preparing the existing housing stock for future generations’ needs by D. Beal, S. Tucker and J. Littlewood
Improving the energy efficiency of existing houses needs to happen in a more imaginative and affordable manner than the current mainstream building industry permits. Beal, Tucker and Littlewood look to DIY enthusiasts as an untapped labour force who could be encouraged and collectively organised to address environmental issues in the home and garden. Looking to DIY training programmes and initiatives, the authors consider how to harness the potential workforce of collective environmental DIY.

Utilisation of Resources along Motorways to Produce Renewable Energy by R Ferrier
English motorways are flanked by 300,000,000m squared of government land, managed by the Highways Agency. R Ferrier’s paper looks at how that land could be harnessed to produce renewable energy by the installation of small wind turbines, projecting an ecological saving of 130,000,000kgs of carbon dioxide annually.

5 resources for teachers on climate change and the environment

We’ve uploaded some of our teaching resources to the Times Educational Supplement website. They can be downloaded and used by teachers and youth leaders for free. On the TES website you can sort the activities and lesson plans by Key Stage and subject.

1. Energy Trumps
Energy Trumps is a card game which enables players to learn more about different supplies of energy (eg. fossil fuels, nuclear, renewables) and the various positives and negatives associated with each. Download.

2. Build a model of a solar water heater
An exciting activity aimed to help students understand the engineering and design of solar water heaters. Using simple materials this basic design can be used in any class to support teaching on solar energy. Download.

3. Zero Carbon Britain

Explore this innovative view on how we could reach zero carbon in the UK by 2030. Shortstepping the governments’ proposal of 80% by 2050 by several paces, this report can be used in the classroom to inspire the pupils’ ability to build sustainable solutions for our uncertain energy future. Download.

The CAT education department produces a wide range of resources, runs courses for teachers on sustainability education and provides educational visits for school groups.

4. Sustainable Food – Go Beyond Food Miles
Where do you buy your food and what impact does this have on your environment? This guide gives an overview of the issues, challenges and possibilities related to the way we produce and consume food. Download.

5. Energy Futures
Tackling climate change and energy poverty is arguably the most important current affairs debate of the 21st century. This guide explores the challenges faced and reveals possible solutions by examining energy futures in a nutshell. Download.


Why is the continued support of renewable wind energy important in the UK

Over the coming decade the world faces enormous challenges; a changing climate, dwindling fossil fuels reserves and rising energy demands are interconnected problems that demand a common solution. In the words of Bob Dylan, ‘the answer my friend are blowing in the wind’ and shining in the sun, flowing in the rivers and hitting the coast line of the UK 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the form of an infinite supply of renewabley generated energy.

The Centre for Alternative Technology has been working since 1973 to explore solutions to the environmental challenges we face. CAT supports wind power as a means of generating renewable electricity. Given the reality of diminishing fossil fuel resources and the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change, we believe that the UK should reduce and eventually stop the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible.

In our Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report ( we have outlined how the whole of the UK can be powered using renewable sources. Wind power, both on- and offshore, is the biggest single potential source of renewable energy available in the UK in the short- or medium term. The UK enjoys an enormous wind resource that is proven, cost efficient and infinite.

The UK is the windiest country in Europe, so much so that we could power our country several times over using this free fuel. A modern 2.5MW turbine at a reasonable site will generate 6.5 million units of electricity each year, enough to meet the annual needs of over 1,400 households, make 230 million cups of tea or run a computer for 2,250 years.

Wind turbines do have an impact on the local environment where they are built, and for some people they “spoil the view”. But change is coming whether we like it or not- given that we will not simply stop consuming energy, we will need to accept some form of power generation technology. Compared to the devastating effects associated with the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, renewable energy is the best option in the UK, wind power has an enormous role to play within that energy mix.

The UK has enormous potential to take a lead in renewable energy generation, bringing benefits to the economy and providing many needed jobs. Wind power could deliver more jobs and more income for local people than it currently does. This can be achieved through encouraging community ownership of wind turbines and a UK manufacturing industry. In this way, we can generate a sustainable source of income from the sale of electricity and well paid permanent qualified jobs.

Opposing this technology without suggesting alternative means of power generation that don’t just offload the negative impact on people in other countries (as with climate change) or future generations (as with nuclear) is irresponsible. We must take action now and avoid committing future generations to years of climate, energy and economic insecurity

CAT is pleased to be hosting The Future for Renewable Energy  in Wales conference on the 17th of October 2011 for further information on the conference please check out the  Renewable Wales Network website

This article is an edited version of one that appears in the Public Service Review