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Solar Thermal Water Heating System
The government’s new subsidy system for installation of solar heating systems comes on line today.
This is completely separate from the FiT scheme, which rewards people who install solar electricity generation systems with a huge subsidy of many times the value of the energy generated.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am highly sceptical about the whole man-made global warming thing. But I will suspend my disbelief for the duration of this post. Let’s imagine that the whole thing is true, and that if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we will destroy the planet.
Now let’s look at this new scheme. There are quite a few figures here, but bear with me.
Says the BBC:
People who opt for greener methods such as biomass boilers and solar panels can apply to the £15m Premium Payment fund set up to support 25,000 installations.
But wait. £15 million divided by 25,000 installations makes just £60 per installation.
The scheme makes the following grants available:
Ground Source Heat Pump – £1,250
Biomass boiler – £950
Air source heat pump – £850
Solar thermal hot water panels – £300
Thus even if every grant application is for the cheapest type of system, the solar thermal hot water, then the real number of grants available will be not 25,000 but 5,000.
Let’s now turn to the details of each installation.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, who will run the new scheme, the average cost of a solar thermal system is £4,800, and it will reduce your gas bill by £50 a year if you heat your water with gas (as most people do).
So even after the £300 subsidy, the cost is £4,500 and the system takes a massive 90 years to pay for itself. Of course, the system will be on the local refuse tip long before then, having worn out. Indeed, it is likely that your house will have been demolished before then, since houses are designed to last just 70 years.
Thus it is extremely unlikely that anyone will be persuaded to install a system by this subsidy. The only people who might go ahead are people who would have gone ahead anyway, aiming to improve their green credentials.
But what about those green credentials? Are these systems even as green as they claim?
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that if you heat your water by electricity, you will save £80 a year and reduce your CO2 by 570 kg.
At 10p per kW-hr, a saving of £80 a year implies you should be saving about 800 kW-hr per year.
The UK produces about 400g of CO2 per kW-hr of electricity generated.
That means 800 kW-hr equates to emissions of 320 kg of carbon dioxide, not 570 kg. So it looks like the carbon emission savings are a bit more than half what they claim.
And what about the carbon emissions involved in manufacturing and installing the system? None of those emissions have been taken into account by the Energy Saving Trust. Neither have they taken into account their own carbon emissions in administering the scheme. Woops. Even a humble packet of crisps has a carbon footprint of 75g, so the footprint of a solar thermal system is likely to be quite significant.
The carbon emissions from manufacture, installation and even the scheme itself will further reduce the benefit.
A quick summary is that all their figures are absolute nonsense, even on their own terms.
They will only help at most a fifth of the number of schemes that they claim, the claimed carbon dioxide savings per installation are highly questionable, and the subsidy probably won’t add to the number of systems being installed.
This scheme is of course supported by the solar thermal system installers, who make a living out of it.
And it creates jobs in the Energy Saving Trust – who also make money out of certifying products as energy efficient – up to £1,000 per product certified.