Falling into the honey trap

06/11/2013 12:09

[under the spell of the feed-in tariff]

When you are interested in photovoltaic energy, no matter where you look, it is all about economy. Any website you find, no matter how eco friendly, any newsletter or blog you read, any suppliers or exhibitions you go to, they are all talking about investments, performance and returns. There are meter long spreadsheets, computer graphs and projections, all about peak performance, system optimization for maximum output and feed-in tariffs. Excel galore, wherever you go!

Why is that so?

There are no motor- or computer shows, no bathroom furniture shops or life style magazines, no other websites or suppliers of goods, that talk so much about the amortization of your money, - only the stock-exchange.

Everything we usually buy is only defined by what it is worth to us and if we can somehow afford it. To talk about amortization rates, write offs and tax-exceptions is what businesses do, where life is all about profit.

It is because, - by buying a photovoltaic installation today, you are forced to start your own business. You become an investor, whose only goal is a guaranteed yearly return. To run an effective photovoltaic installation, connected to the grid you have to set up your own business (at least in Germany). You become a producer and wholesaler of goods and this involves a yearly revenue-tax declaration. The big boys from the electricity companies even make you a partner, one of their energy-suppliers, almost at eye-level with them.

Now, why are they doing that?

There are most certainly no such advances, when it comes to building a nuclear power plant. No coal mining and fossil fuel burning power station ever wants you to become an investor. Even the entire wind-energy thing, can almost pass you unnoticed.

The answer is, that they need you! Because photovoltaic simply takes up too big of an area.

The power companies could not just plaster the entire landscape with panels and nobody would notice. They need your space! Your roof, your field or your big garden. If they could just go there' into the dessert and plaster it over without asking anyone, but a dictatorial ruler, they would do it. Of course given the same government subsidies.

So they had to bring you in, but what are the real rights you have got?

You are tied up in a twenty year contract, obliged to produce as specified. Sometimes less, but not more! Maintain and run the contracted installation and make sure it is in accordance with the law. You must give access to any of the production data, and in Germany the energy companies can even remote-control your production (to protect the grid from overload when there is too little demand).      

The only thing that you get out of the bargain, is the guaranteed feed-in tariff.

This is guaranteed by a government decree,  but then, governments might be changing. Even today we already have the German government discussing the 'temporary' withholding of payments. Something that is common practice in Greece. For new installations the feed-in tariff are constantly being downward adjusted, to stem the flow of the rising government payments. And while the feed-in tariff might be guaranteed, no contract protects you from paying the rising consumption fees, or excludes from increasing taxes or newly introduced eco-levies.

And still, how much or what would you want to change?

You are now an accomplice, their lobby, a silent advocate of the power companies and the Government. A supporter of an established system, to your benefit. Even the Green party in Germany is currently resisting all proposed cuts to the guaranteed feed-in tariffs, without considering any other viable options. "It would spell death, to the so called Energiewende"

Things are moving in the right direction, but is it the only way?

So many things in our countries are regulated. How we build, where we life. In Germany one has to create a fixed number of parking space when one is building. Any default results in a hefty penalty. You are allowed tinted windows on your car, or not. To be free in comfort we accept to be regulated.

This is not saying that this is the way to go and that all feed-in tariffs are evil, but if people started their own thinking about how to best cover their needs, there would be other solutions.

What is still lacking today, is a real need for self-consumption. Only when energy prices go up through the roof, and feed-in tariffs keep shrinking, will this increasing need lead to a demand to find alternative solutions.

SoLenium technology is dedicated to such solutions, and If you want to know, 'what they are not telling us openly' and what could be an alternative solution, 'read on!'