20 Feb 2012, Thanks to Jessica Shankleman , BusinessGreen
Under recent changes to the solar feed-in tariff scheme, anyone wishing to register for the solar electricity feed-in tariff from 1 April must obtain a Level D Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) on their property.
The change received a cautious welcome from the solar industry, as it marks a significant improvement on the government’s original plan for limiting solar feed-in tariffs to properties that achieve the stricter Level C rating or above.
Solar companies had warned a Level C requirement would “kill off” the industry, as many businesses and households would not be prepared to pay thousands of pounds for the energy-efficiency measures required to ensure they qualified for solar incentives.
Currently, just over half of all residential properties meet EPC Band D requirements, a significant increase on the 13 per cent that meet Band C criteria. Meanwhile, 65 per cent of those non-domestic buildings that carry EPCs have obtained Band D or above.
Now the government has provided a further boost to the solar sector by confirming that solar PV installations will themselves contribute towards to EPC certificates. This means that some Band E properties will be able to upgrade themselves to Band D by installing a solar panel, making them eligible for the feed-in tariff incentives without the need for additional energy-efficiency improvements.
A spokeswoman for the Renewable Energy Association (REA) welcomed the news and said it will offer a major boost for solar PV sales teams.
“If installing PV tips you over the edge into securing Band D, that’s very reassuring,” she told BusinessGreen. “We didn’t have clarity before that this would be the case, but now we have.”
However, she said some members of the industry remain concerned that the government could ratchet up the energy-efficiency requirement in future. This is due to the fact that the door has been left open for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to link the feed-in tariff to its energy-efficiency Green Deal scheme, to be launched in October.
A DECC spokeswoman confirmed that PV installations will inform EPC certificates, but maintained that any property will need to achieve a Band D rating before securing the feed-in tariff.
“People would need to have the EPC certificate before they apply for support under the feed-in tariff, but they could decide installing solar panels forms part of the property reaching Band D,” she said.
She added that different properties may require varying amounts of energy-efficiency measures to reach Band D. While some will require insulation or a new boiler, others may only require solar PV to gain a Band D certificate.
The reforms are part of a wider push by the government to protect the budget for the feed-in tariff scheme, while also encouraging solar installation firms to diversify into offering energy efficiency, as well as renewable energy services.
Industry insiders have said that the sector is likely to see a contraction in demand this year, as the government proposes deep cuts to solar feed-in tariff incentives from the summer. This will force many firms to diversify the range of services they offer or partner with companies specialising in energy efficiency.