Advice on being green, and renewable energy


Like most companies that have invested heavily in the growth of our companies on the back of the feed in tariff, I was left reeling at the cut announced last Monday.

Having now had time to reflect I dont think that the cut is all bad and I would like to explain why.

Investors were making fortunes from free solar schemes. They need to be stopped before the energy bills of everyone get out of control to pay them the feed in tariff.

It didnt matter whether your roof was East, West, or even behind a tree, an installation could still earn you in excess of 10% ROI. The aim of solar panels should primarily be to generate electricity and reduce the bills of the householder and the carbon footprint of the nation. Therefore they should be only reccommended to people with appropriate roof tops.

At 21p, you will see a decent return – provided your rooftop is appropriate. This will ensure surveys are carried out by competent engineers and not by commission based salesman looking to make a quick buck.

Solar Panels have come down in price, but not enough – suppliers are still charging excessive prices to installers for the hardware and competition has forced installers to accept minimal margins, which cannot be squeezed any further. Suppliers will have to reduce their prices if they are expecting to sell any panels. This is good for the industry. The current prices put solar panels out of the reach of too many people.

On the back of this price reduction (which has been proven in foreign markets on the back of Feed in tariff reductions) then customers with appropriate rooftops can expect to earn 10% returns and generate attractive reductions in their rising electricity bills.

In Summary – this reduction will get rid of the bad eggs:
– Commission based salesmen
– Free solar schemes
– Inefficient installations
– Overcharging by suppliers

But… The deadline set by the government is a problem and has caused a gold rush from people who have accelerated their plans to install solar. Cancelled orders will cause job losses in the industry, more warning from the governement would have allowed people to adjust the business plans to cope.

Asking people to achieve an EPC rating of a C to recieve the Feed in Tariff is non-sensical. The EPC refers to heat efficiency, and the generation and use of solar electricity by the property is not a factor. This should be removed so that properties which do not have cavity walls and cannot achieve a C can still benefit from energy efficiency measures – otherwise we might as well knock down every house of a certain age and re-build.

The Government must:
– Reconsider the cut off point for domestic, owner occupied installations. (keep the deadline for free solar schemes)
– Remove the need to achieve an EPC rating of C.
– Put pressure on suppliers to reduce their prices.

Comments as always welcome



What will green deal be like when its actually launched?

Although still open to consultation, this is what Green Deal is expected to do:

1. A Green Deal Provider (GDP) performs an Green Deal assessment of your home.

2. The assessment identifies measures where you could cut your energy bills.

3. The GDP, designs the systems and installations that will improve the energy efficiency of the property.

4. The GDP recruits a certified installer(s) to install the energy efficiency measures.

5. The GDP sub-contracts the installation to the installer and uses Green Deal finance to pay them.

6. The repayments for the finance are re-paid by a charge on the energy bills for the property. Whoever is responsible for paying the bills is responsible for re-paying the finance, regardless of whether they lived there when the installation was put in.

Green Deal essentially hinges on the reduction in the customers energy bills being more than the charge that repays them, such that the customer sees a benefit, though doesn’t suffer any up front cost.

For this to work, the advice given by the green deal advisor (who works for the GDP) must be very clear in terms of how the installations will cut the energy bills of the household and how they can generate savings on the back of this installation. Otherwise bills will go up.

For example, if someone has their heating set to a timer, such as night time storage heat, or even gas boiler that they like to come on for a few hours in the morning then again in the evening. In many cases the householders will not amend their timers, they will notice a more comfortable, warmer home as a result of the green deal measure (e.g. insulation) however they have not reduced their energy consumption. This is why advice is crucial to the success of Green Deal.

If the advice is given correctly and is followed up on to check that the householder is getting the predicted benefit – and if not, why not, then Green Deal will work, if householders are not given good advice then green deal finance could quickly be squandered with no reduction in household energy bills.

The government announced the first part of the new renewable heat incentive – the renewable heat premium payment scheme.

This is basically a limited number of vouchers that householders can use to put towards the installation cost of a new reneable heat technology, such as biomass boiler, air or ground source heat, or solar thermal. This is not the start of a tariff paying you per unit of heat generated, like the feed in tariff. The payment of a tariff is expected to commence from October next year. Any installation put in between now and them will qualify to receive the tariff payment, but the tariff levels are yet to be decided.

If you need to upgrade or replace your boiler, you should contact the energy saving trust and apply for a voucher under the reneable heat premium payment scheme.

There is a condition on the basis of your home energy efficiency so you may need to seek independent advice from an energy assessor to ensure that the voucher will be valid. For example if you install a biomass boiler without having put adequate installation in, your renewable heat incentive will be revoked.

Energy friend can not only advise you on your efficiency rating, we can ensure the installation is carried out by a properly qualified company and that you get the best deal.


I am writing this blog because of some of the bad practice i have heard about in the solar installation industry, however i should point out that the majority of installers are reputable and will do a great job, but there are some simple checks you can do by asking the right questions to make sure your installer is one of them.

Installing solar power should be a big decision and should be carefully considered. You should get all of the information you need before making this decision and certainly before parting with any cash.

Firstly any installer or surveyor should visit you in your home before giving you a quotation. Looking on google earth is not a substitute for this.

Your surveyor should ensure that you are fully informed about the feed in tariff scheme and how it works. You can only apply for the feed in tariff scheme if your installer is microgeneration certification scheme qualified – you should ask to see their certificate to prove this. Other certificates you should ask for are: their REAL assurance scheme membership, this will ensure that they protect the deposit that you pay by insuring it, so if they go out of business you will not lose your money. You should also ask for their public liability insurance certificate. Any installers who have an excuse for not presenting any of these 3 documents should be avoided.

Your installer should also cover the following by carefully measuring – not by looking and having a guess.

Which roof: it is not always obvious which roof you should install your panels on, for example your roof may face east and west with no obvious south facing aspect. So do you use east or west? This depends on several aspects: slope, horizon, shading, geograhical location. All should be considered and your installer should be able to justify and quantify which roof is the best. Ask for their reasoning and why they. Recommending the roof.

System size: do you want the maximum size system that you can fit? If so thats fine. If your installer recommends a system larger than 3.6 kilowatts, you should question whether your district network operator will allow this and get written proof from them before proceeding.

Shading: shading is a crucial consideration and should be carefully measured and worked out for any system. Any direct shading, such as by a chimney can have a massive impact on the output of your solar array.

Returns: before paying any deposit your installer should forecast the energy generation and therefo financial returns you can expect. In this calculation they should factor in all of the measurements above, ask to see their logic and method in performing this calculation. It should make sense and the installer should sound like they know what they are talking about.

Is your installer providing any other services? What is their aftercare, maintenance? How does your warranty work? How do you get on the feed in tariff scheme? Do you need to apply for planning permission?

If your installer can answer all of these then the are probably worth their salt.

Solar panels do work, they do pay back, you will make a profit and you will be very happy that you made the decision to switch to solar. Provided a good job is done by your installer.

Good Luck

Colin Robinson
CEO Energy Friend.


I have had anpther great week here at Energy Friend, telling people the truth about solar power and how it could benefit them. Take Mr and Mrs anon for example who have just installed solar panels 1 year after their first child was born. Not only is this lovely bundle of joy going to grow up in an energy efficient house, his clever parents are ploughing all of the feed in tariff money into a savings account for him. Soon he’ll be off to University with around £30,000 of tax free, cash behind him thanks to solar panels and the feed in tariff.

This is a great thing for them and could be for many others, but unfortunately i have been frustrated this week by items in the press, here are just some of the myths i have heard this week and that just arent true.

“You get 43p per unit for pumping electricity back into the grid”

This is not true. You actually get 46p per unit for pumping it back into the grid. You get 43p for generating the unit. You will hopefully use that unit in your house, which of course means a saving on your energy bill. You are encouraged to use the energy you generate. If you do, you will have cheaper bills and get a great tax free return paid into your bank.

“If you want the feed in tariff you need to beat the August 1st deadline”

This deadline is for large systems, such as fields or warehouses. The reason for the cut to the feed in tariff for large systems is to preserve the scheme for small domestic installations.

How far are we from a truly sustainable society? It seems to me that encouraging renewable energy generation is only one piece of the puzzle but the goal of true sustainability “enough for all, forever” may not be as far away as we think.

I was encouraged by the words of an eight year old boy in a conversation I overheard recently:

Boy: “Where is the bin?”
Adult: “Just over there, by the sink.”
Boy wanders off and returns
Boy: “No, where is the recycling bin?”

Of course the boy has grown up in a society where recycling, carbon footprint, sustainability are household words, they appear on every news broadcast, street corner and package and always have done as far as an eight year old boy is concerned. In his opinion taking care of the environment is part of his everyday life. For the adult this is not the case, they are trying to change their behaviour to be sustainable, but the children growing up are having their behaviour shaped by a society striving to be green.

The technology exists in our current society to be sustainable, the ambition exists in our current society to be sustainable, but does the will exist? Do our leaders, really have the will to say “stop” to fossil fuel abuse, to say “stop” to a throw away society? I dont know if they do, but I do know that if a certain young boy grows up to be a leader then a sustainable society may be closer than we think.

Colin Robinson

CEO Energy Friend
“Working together for a sustainable future”



Sorry, I wrote a really long blog about this and then added the image and all the text disappeared!!! using ipad app to do wordpress. I will update this with the correct content when I have some free time. Apologies for the confusion here!