So we have our response...

Back in August, the government released a consultation on changes to support for small to medium renewable energy. The severity of their cuts shocked even the most hardened policy watchers.

Trade bodies warned of devastating job losses, the international community was puzzled, even conservative MP’s (Boris Johnson among them) questioned the rationale. And thousands of you responded - giving voice to the vast majority of the British public who want to see more, not less, clean renewable energy in the UK.

Early yesterday morning, before sunlight even hit countless solar panels across the UK, the government finally snuck out their response to the outcry. We were never expecting a full U-turn. What we did want was evidence that they'd acknowledged  the huge public support and collective might behind renewable energy. And we got that. Concessions have been made. It’s a long way off what we need, but the wide reporting of a scale back in the face of “a storm of criticism” speaks to the strength of our response and the potential for us to build from here.

The cuts have been softened following a storm of criticism.

So, In the spirit of festive over-eating, here’s  good news/bad news sandwich summary of the government response to the Feed-in tariff consultation.

Good news!

Pupils from Fox Primary show their support for solar in a suitably artistic fashion. 

Pupils from Fox Primary show their support for solar in a suitably artistic fashion. 

  • The cuts have been reduced for solar and wind. A home owner installing solar will now receive 4.39p for every kWh of energy they produce, well up from the 1.63p/kWh originally proposed.

  • Wind did better than expected. Having taken a battering recently, tariffs were unexpectedly increased for all wind projects over 50kWp and even re-introduced all together for projects over 1500kWp.

  • Pre-accreditation is back. That means that with certain conditions in place, renewable energy projects over 50kWp can ‘lock in’ rates of support in advance of an installation (and before the support levels drop each quarter). That makes a big difference if you’re trying to raise money through shares or borrowing, or if your project is a bit more complicated to get off the ground.

  • Fox Primary School got a shout out! Having carted their incredible papier mache sun petition down to government officials, their contribution was formally acknowledged in the response. Hello pupil power.

  • Community energy got some recognition. Perhaps in acknowledgement that energy policy doesn’t have to be boring after all (or because no can resist a picture of kids hugging a wind turbine), community energy groups will be given longer to get their projects installed under pre-accreditation. And there’s mention of bringing back pre-registration for community groups too - basically the same allowances but for smaller projects (like lots of our Solar Schools).

Bad news…

  • Rates are higher but they’re not enough. While homeowners installing solar will now receive 4.39p/kWh of clean energy they produce, that’s a long way off the 8p called for by the Solar Trade Association to put solar on a steady path to being subsidy free in a couple of years. Previously the government assumed they’d need to offer homeowners a return of 6-8% to encourage installations (bearing in mind the relatively long pay back periods). They’re now working to 4.8% at best. Fair enough in these times of tightened belts you might say, but it's rather a long way off the 11.5% being promised to Hinkley C investors…

  • There’s still an overall cap on the budget. That means that for every winner, there has to be a loser. And it’s likely that those losers will be hydro projects and non-professions less familiar with the process. Plus, extremely tight deployment caps on solar will see rapid falls in support - effectively punishing success. 

  • Job losses are still staggering high. Industry bodies say 6,500 jobs have already been lost. The government's own impact assessment predicts that 9,700 and 18,700 will go.

  • The priority is explicitly “cost control”. It’s referenced throughout and used as the rationale for all of the damage that will be inflicted. Even if you question whether the Department of Energy and Climate Change should be guided purely by short term cost, the numbers don’t seem to stack up when you compare them to support for fossil fuels and nuclear.

  • Meanwhile in other news... A response to a consultation on changes to another renewables support scheme - the renewables obligation - was also released today. Large solar didn't fare well.  

  • Post climate negotiations in Paris the contrast feels stark. While David Cameron made promises to our children on the international stage, today’s combination of renewable energy cuts with new fracking licences read from a different hymn sheet...  

Good news!

This is just the start. Based on the numbers alone, it’s hard to call this a win. If we’d been presented with these figures right at the outset we’d have been less than impressed. But what’s vitally important is that we came together and made some serious noise. And that noise was undoubtedly heard. Working alongside everyone from Ben and Jerry’s to the NFU to a bunch of skaters from Wadebridge, we changed energy policy. And we’ll do it again.

Want to keep backing clean energy in 2016? Sign up in the yellow box below to join us.

Over 55,000 of you had your say. Now what?

A phantom solar farm haunts the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

A phantom solar farm haunts the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Keep Fits was launched to give the British public a voice in their own energy future. Not too much to ask, right? Well, when government launched their consultation on changes to support for renewable energy, you'd be forgiven for thinking they weren't that keen on hearing from you. Weighing in at a sizable 62 pages and featuring questions such as...

Do you consider it appropriate to harmonise the triggers for contingent degression?

it's fair to say the consultation document was somewhat impenetrable to all but experts. Given that we're talking about the energy used to power our homes, offices, schools and more, it seems only fair that we all have a chance to get in on the conversation. 

So, along with our friends at the Guardian, 38Degrees, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and many more, we tried to make it as simple as possible for you to respond directly to the government and have your voices heard. 

Turns out you had some stuff to say. Over 55,000 of you made submissions directly to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. That's a staggering amount and one that demands to be listened to. 

Because emailing in a submission is not nearly as fun as A GIANT PAPER MACHE SUN. 

Because emailing in a submission is not nearly as fun as A GIANT PAPER MACHE SUN. 

It's now the responsibility of officials to review all of your input and while they're promising a response before the end of the year, we could be in for a wait. In the meantime, it's really important we don't let this slip of the radar. 

So, here's what you can do:

  1. Share the Stories - as the ministers make their decision, we need to make sure support for clean energy is in their faces all the time!
  2. Contact your MP - On the 19th November, Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd will appear before parliament to answer questions. Write to your MP asking them to put feed-in tariffs on the agenda. The deadline for submitting questions is the 16th of November.
  3. Keep an eye on 10:10 - we’ve got a few things up our sleeves...

We've raised the volume on this conversation to unprecedented levels. Let's keep the pressure on. 

We asked you if you cared about clean energy. You do.

On the 27th August, the government released proposals for changes to the feed-in tariff - a popular subsidy scheme which has underpinned huge growth in small to medium scale renewable energy in the UK. The proposed changes were expected. The extent of them was not. 

In good faith, we’ve been supporting groups for 6 years, I’ve been going along to church halls on Thursday nights to talk to people about community energy schemes and they’ve done feasibility studies and talked to landowners and got projects together, and then, in a flash, in an instance of having won the election they do a complete policy reversal. I think that’s worse than a slap in the face.

Right across all renewable energy technologies, the drops in support were sizable - up to 87% for solar at the scale often installed on schools and community buildings. After years of falling prices, and with clear trajectories to becoming subsidy free, it's fair to say people were a little taken a back. Community groups and local authorities who had invested huge amounts of money and time into developing projects suddenly found themselves facing a future that looked hugely uncertain, largely unviable. Businesses and workers spoke of their inability to carry on, some got out of the industry immediately.

But the proposals were just that, proposals. The government are obliged to give the British public a chance to have their say - particularly the huge numbers of investors, installers and innovative communities who's own plans would be thwarted. Given that the government's own polling shows people love clean energy, it seems only fair that that majority were allowed an input. 

Except the consultation process was far from friendly. Featuring such gems as

"Do you consider it appropriate to harmonise the triggers for contingent degression across all technologies"

At 10:10 we think everyone deserves a stake in our transition to a low carbon world. You shouldn't need to be an expert to know how you'd like your lights to be powered, or what kind of energy generator you'd rather live next to. So, we launched Keep Fits - our campaign to give a voice to the many people across the UK who love clean energy and make sure they were heard.

We created a simple portal that made it incredibly easy to tell government what you thought of their plans - and keep your MP in the loop. We gathered stories of clean energy from around the UK. We ran some fun, slightly ridiculous stunts. And, we produced infographics to ensure the facts were heard.

But it's not about what we did. It's about what you did. You told us your tales of renewable energy in your area. You shared the stories of others through Facebook and Twitter. You ate our free ice cream, photographed our sunshine balloon, worked out with us on the steps of Treasury and ran to Whitehall every day for a week. Plus, you spoke up. You made your voices heard. Over 10,000 of you used our portal to make submissions to government asking them to save clean energy, joining with thousands more across the country. 

Do not slash support for clean energy. Our kids will not thank us for it. It feels like an absolutely no-brainer to continue supporting clean, green technolgy - we should be a world-leader in this.

 

Now we wait to see if the government listened.

Thank you.  

Real Britain: KeepFits in the Daily Mirror

If you pick up a copy of the Daily Mirror today, make sure you flip to the Real Britain section. 

They've profiled a brilliant solar project in Warrington, which is putting panels on social housing and channeling the benefits to the people who need them most.

It's exactly the kind of thing we need to see more of, and exactly the kind of thing the government's planned renewable energy cuts will make impossible to replicate in future.

It's well worth reading the full piece over on the Mirror website, but I've pulled out a few choice quotes below.

Big numbers

By harnessing the power of the sun, Warrington Borough Council has pulled 488 families out of fuel poverty. It has installed solar panels on 2,000 homes, as well as on sheltered housing for elderly people. This saves residents £435,000, or around £145 a household per year, and the planet an annual total of 2,724 tonnes of C02.

Solar apprenticeships

Solar apprentice Anthony Whelan

Solar apprentice Anthony Whelan

“I love my job,” says Anthony Whelan, 23, who joined as an apprentice ­electrician four years ago and has just been taken on permanently by Golden Gates Housing. 
“Before this, I was stacking shelves in a supermarket. Now, I’m learning a trade and I’ve got a qualification for life. 
I really enjoy helping the families as well, knowing they can save £100 to £200 a year on their electric. And I want my kids to have a planet left.” Anthony doesn’t know whether his job will survive the cuts.

Staying warm

Retired builder Derek Lightfoot

Retired builder Derek Lightfoot

On a bungalow estate on the edge of Warrington, 73-year-old Derek Lightfoot, a former builder, tells us he loves his panels. 
“I need to keep my home warm because my wife ­Christine is recovering from a heart operation,” he says.

Tackling fuel poverty

David Cowley, the council’s head of housing services, explains: “We’re happy to be saving the planet, but our first aim was to reduce fuel poverty. [...] 
“There was a woman last year who told me that thanks to the solar panels she could now buy Christmas presents for her kids. That made me think everything we’ve been doing is worthwhile.”

Read the full article at mirror.co.uk

Dan the running man - keeping fit to Keep Fits!

With the consultation ending this Friday, time is ticking and Dan from Hoxton Community Energy in East London is making the most of it. Last week he hatched a crazy plan to Keep Fits by keeping fit - hand delivering letters to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd letting her know what people think of the proposed cuts. 

Things kicked off yesterday with a three mile jog from Arcola Theatre in Dalston to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc). Not only do Arcola have solar PV panels on their roof - made possible by the feed-in tariff - they've got solar thermal, a DC micro grid and an in-house lab making hydrogen fuel cells. Cutting edge theatre alongside cutting edge tech - we love it.  All this energy brilliance is designed to inspire others but they're worried that the Fit changes will stop people being able to follow in their footsteps.  

Dan made sure their message got to Decc and Amber Rudd safely.  

Fancy running alongside Dan or giving him a letter to deliver? Here's his schedule..

Tuesday 20th - Brixton to Decc with messages from Repowering London, Brixton Energy 1, 2 & 3 and South East London Community Energy. 

Wednesday 21st  - Hoxton to Decc with a message from Hoxton Community Energy. 

Thursday 22nd - School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to Decc with message from Solar SOAS

Friday 23rd - Tate Modern to Decc with a message from Solar Century. 

Contact Jesse (Dan's personal trainer/Keep Fits campaigner) at jesse.scharf@1010uk.org to get more details and help Dan Keep Fits/keep fit!