by Patricia Montgomery, LincsMag Writer.
Date: 01 September 2010
Go into free solar panel deals with your eyes open – warn campaigners...
Following an announcement from a company who say they intend to provide free solar panels to 100,000 households, Consumer Focus and the Centre for Sustainable Energy are warning consumers to investigate the details of such schemes to avoid future problems.
The service offered by companies providing free solar panels is a legitimate business model which could provide a way for consumers to save money and produce green energy, without having to pay for the solar panel kit. The companies benefit by getting money for the electricity that is produced by the solar panels, and the homeowner gets free electricity when the panels are working.
However, campaigners have concerns over consumers being tied into a long-term contract which can last 25 years and are urging consumers to do their research and get legal advice before signing up. To help consumers to understand the implications and risks of these schemes the organisations have put together a list of questions consumers should ask before signing up and a factsheet explaining how microgeneration of electricity works.
Top questions to ask include;
Liz Laine, energy expert at Consumer Focus, said: "Free solar panels could cut consumers electricity bills and allow them to produce green energy at no cost, but customers need to go into these deals with their eyes open. These long-term contracts need to be considered carefully. Asking the right questions and getting legal advice could help customers avoid the potential pitfalls of these schemes."
Simon Roberts, Chief Executive at CSE, suggests that you should be asking the right questions, as he says, "We’re sure there are perfectly reasonable deals out there, but before agreeing to let someone install a small electricity generating station on the roof of your home, householders and community organisations should be asking the right questions about the risks and liabilities."
Solar panel companies could generate income through a Government programme which incentivizes the production of renewable electricity by domestic households. Since April 2010, electricity companies must offer ‘feed-in tariffs’ to consumers who generate their own renewable electricity through solar panels or other renewable means.
‘Feed-in tariffs’ – known as ‘clean energy cash back’ – give consumers a fixed price for each unit of energy generated, plus a further payment for each unit of energy exported to the electricity grid.
Payments from the feed-in tariff will be made to householders with PV solar panels for a period of 25 years. See Ofgem’s feed-in tariff guide for further information.