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36% of Solar PV owners have had problems with FiTs

By Katie Anderson on December 24, 2012

A survey has revealed that 36 per cent of people in the UK who own solar photovoltaic panels struggle to receive subsidies on time.

Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) were introduced by the UK government on the 1st April 2010. Launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the scheme was intended to lower the cost of installing solar panels on domestic and commercial properties.

Government hoped that subsidies paid to households for generating low-carbon energy would provide sufficient incentive to increase the number of units installed throughout the country. If more people relied on solar energy, the government reasoned, carbon emissions would fall dramatically.

One problem with FITs is that the scheme quickly became too expensive for the government. Early adopters were offered 43.3p/kWh, but shortly after taking office the Coalition reduced the rate to 21p/kWh. Britain’s ‘greenest ever government’ then slashed the tariff to 15.44p/kWh. Although the cost of solar technology has decreased since 2010, the reduction in FITs has resulted in far fewer small-scale domestic installations.

The solar industry feared the worst when government reduced FITs, but the renewables sector has managed to survive thus far. Thousands of households are continuing to be paid for generating clean, renewable energy through solar PV. The problem is that energy companies are not always paying their customers on time.

According to a survey published by Which?, 36 per cent of small-scale solar producers claimed to have experienced problems with FITs. Delayed payments affected 82 per cent of respondents who reported difficulties, of whom 20 per cent cited delays of up to three months.

The survey revealed that 72 per cent of E.ON customers failed to receive solar subsidies on time, compared to 46 per cent of SSE customers and 36 per cent of EDF Energy customers. Results for the other leading energy companies were not quite as bad, with 29 per cent of British Gas customers, 20 per cent of npower customers and 19 per cent of Scottish Power customers experiencing payment delays.

A spokesperson for Which? said: “We want suppliers to pay people the money they’re owed within the agreed time limit and for E.ON and SSE to actually state the maximum time limit in their contracts”.