News & Press

Feed-in Tariff changes aim to strike the right balance – says consumer watchdog

Published: 31 October 2011

Responding to Government proposals announced today to reduce the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) paid for renewable electricity produced by solar panels at consumers’ homes, Mike O’Connor Chief Executive of Consumer Focus, said: 

‘The Government is taking a sensible approach to protect energy bill-payers with the proposed changes to Feed-in Tariffs. Incentives to overcome the high set-up cost of solar panels and help make our energy supply greener are necessary. But the cost for this is passed onto bills of energy customers and we need to strike a balance.  

‘Consumers thinking about installing solar panels should still see returns of about five percent. However, the speed of the changes, with the 12 December deadline, will mean that some people who have already signed contracts could end up getting a lower return than they bargained for. This is a particular concern as we know installers have been slow to process the paperwork needed.  

‘We would urge consumers to make sure they ask the right questions when looking into solar panels and base their decision on whether the new tariff rates will benefit them.’ 

Consumer Focus has asked the Government to give better protection to consumers who have already signed-up to have panels installed. They have made an investment in good faith and have no control over installers and energy suppliers in meeting the deadline.

Top tips consumers should consider when thinking about installing solar panels:

  • Calculate the benefit to you on the basis of the new tariffs, don’t sign up based on an installer’s promise to ‘beat the deadline’. Use the Energy Saving Trust’s Solar Energy Calculator to see how much you could earn under the old and proposed new rates. 
  • Shop around: Get at least 3 quotes whether you are looking to pay for panels upfront or join a ‘rent a roof’ scheme 
  • Only use companies who are members of the REAL Assurance Scheme (the Consumer Code for the industry) and certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)
  • Do not sign a contract until you are sure you want to go ahead. There is a 7 day cooling off period but you may need longer to shop around and check testimonials. If you feel pressured to sign, walk away. That is not the way a trustworthy company does business
  • If you are considering a free solar panel deal make sure you ask the right questions using Consumer Focus’s factsheet
  • Make sure you look into making your home as energy efficient as possible – making the most of loft and cavity wall insulation. Whether you decide to install solar panels or not this would be likely to save you at least £100 off your energy bills each year. 

See Consumer Focus’s solar panels information page for further advice  

ENDS

Based on 2.9kWp system, install cost of £11,500

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