Government thinking on grants for renewables

It's possible to construct stand-alone power supplies based on solar or wind which are quite capable of powering an office for a small business, remote from the grid.

These systems are not cheap, but they give your business independence. You will be fully functional during power cuts, which (if present policies are continued) are likely to become much more frequent. Blackouts are relatively uncommon now, but imagine five years down the line....perhaps environmentalists have scuppered plans for a new generation of nuclear stations, Russia has turned off our gas, and our older coal fired power stations are being phased out because they don't meet the latest batch of EU emission regulations....

Photovoltaic or wind powered UPS (uninterrupted power supply) systems will set you back a significant amount.

The Government is looking at renewables as a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They are saying this is a "holistic" program. They do not want to give grants to people whose first thought is to invest in something very expensive. They will only let you have a grant when you have done all of the cheaper things.

Your roof must be insulated to a depth of 12 inches, your cavity wall must be insulated, and you must have all low energy lighting. You won't get a grant for the high-tech things unless you've done the basics first.

If you've done all that, what percentage of the expense will you get as a grant?

It varies - sometimes it's 20%, sometimes it's 30%, and photovoltaics is 50%. The government can say "up to 50%" and we all get excited, but actually the 50% is only for the photovoltaics.

Do the sums add up on these systems, in terms of what you might save on your fuel bills?

The ones which add up are the very cheap things. You pay back what you've spent extremely quickly. Let's say the average house emits 5 tonnes of CO2 in a year, and you want to save a tonne of it. If you do the cheapest measures, (draughtproofing - say 50) it will instantly make you feel warmer. If you get cavity wall insulation, or loft insulation, or change your light bulbs, you will really notice the difference in your bills. Low energy light bulbs are so much better than they used to be. Measures like this are going to cost you in the region of 10 per tonne of CO2.

If you want to invest in some of these other technologies you'll be spending a lot more than this.

But if you need an independent power supply for your business, or you already have a UPS system plus inverter running off the grid, and you want to get a turbine or photovoltaics to keep the batteries topped up, these systems are undeniably useful. They can give you a significant amount of independence. This is likely to become much more important as fossil fuels decline.

ND / Habitat21

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