Neil Schofield: a market exists for both PV and solar-thermal.

Feed-in Tariff is distorting the solar market

Published:  15 October, 2010

THE MIDLANDS: The Feed-in Tariff is distorting the market for solar technology and urgently requires rebalancing, according to a leading industry expert.

In a speech at the Climate Clinic in Birmingham – a Conservative Party Conference fringe event – Neil Schofield, head of sustainable development at Worcester, Bosch Group, outlined the scale of distortion in the surge in sales of solar photovoltaic at the expense of solar-thermal since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff in April this year.

"The success of solar PV on the back of the Feed-in Tariff is a tremendous boost for renewables," Mr Schofield said, "but we must be careful that it does not damage the market for solar-thermal in the process.

"We need a twin-track approach that balances the relative merits of each system and favours both equally."

According to regulator of gas and electricity marketing in great Britain, OFGEM, sales of solar PV have surged in recent months with 3606 installations made in August, compared to 1736 in July and 1397 in June.

Meanwhile, figures from the Solar Trade Association highlight that the majority of solar-thermal installers have experienced a 75% drop-off in orders since the beginning of May.

"It is not the case that we have two competing systems, only one of which can emerge the winner," said Ms Schofield. "We believe there is a market for both systems, which is demonstrated by the fact that Bosch Group has acquired two solar PV companies in recent years to complement its existing solar-thermal capabilities."

He pointed out that "solar PV is a much higher capital cost solution, but it has the obvious benefit of being electricity-generating and potentially income- generating.

"My view is that the market for solar-thermal is a much a lower capital cost solution and is aimed at those whose primary concern is not income generation but energy conservation.

"It works well in combination with a high-efficiency boiler to reduce household energy usage by using solar power for the generation of hot water while the boiler takes care of domestic heat. I believe it could play a major role in the war against fuel poverty," Mr Schofield commented.

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