Solar panel sales cowboys are - surprise! - exaggerating the benefits of the energy technology, a sting operation by consumer magazine Which? has found.
Which? invited 12 solar companies to survey a house and produce cost and benefit estimates for a solar PV system. Seven out of the 12 recommended putting the panels in the shade, and some overestimated the benefits by thousands of pounds.
“It seems extraordinary that the Government’s rules require companies to ignore whether you live in Cornwall or Scotland when working out how long it’ll take to pay for the solar panels," says Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. "It’s obvious that the more sun you get, the faster the payback. The Government has to put this right."
Evidence of pressure selling was also unearthed.
The generous feed-in tariff (FIT) - whereby the taxpayers subsidises the 'surplus' electricity for a domestic solar installation by paying several times over the market price - has seen a rush of middle-class households seeking to install solar PV units. For the well-off who can afford one, it's printing money; and has been condemned as a regressive wealth redistribution by some prominent Greens. Sort of like Robin Hood in reverse.
Strangely Which? ignores this aspect.
Estimated cost of electricity by generation source 2030; Source: Climate Change Committee
On Wednesday the Energy and Climate Change department DECC published its microgeneration strategy. It's become a political flagship for the Conservatives, as this passage notes:
Such projects can engage individuals, neighbourhoods and communities in becoming involved with generating local heat and power. This offers a powerful symbol of the move from centralism to local action – the ‘Big Society’ in the UK’s energy landscape.
Power to the people? They probably believe it, too. ®