Since 2010, the Feed-In Tariff scheme has rewarded homeowners, landlords, businesses and organisations for producing their own “green electricity”, with financial incentives available for those that produce additional energy to the grid using their own means - this could be in the form of solar panel, wind or other forms of renewables including small hydroelectric or anaerobic digestion.
Come 31st March 2019, the Feed-In Tariff scheme will close for new applicants, however, those who can secure an approved application before the cut off date can still enjoy 20 years of Feed-In Tariff payments.
We spoke to Will Vooght, Innovation and Strategy Lead at renewable energy provider Tonik Energy, as he explains what suppliers and customers can do to best prepare for the Government changes that are set to come into effect to ensure you don’t miss out on the benefits available.
How do I get my generator accredited before the deadline?
Previously, all renewable generators of any size could get some form of ‘guaranteed’ access to Feed-In Tariff tariffs before their installation was completed. However, a few years ago, the mechanism for smaller generators (up to 50kW in capacity – think a large barn or big office roof covered in solar) called ‘preliminary accreditation’ was removed following a previous review of the scheme.
Now, only generators of above 50kW have the ability to pre-accredit. Of course, if your generator is up and running before that date, provided you submit a full and complete application you should be safe. There are some things to watch out for and exceptions to this rule, which we’ll cover later.
What is pre-accreditation in Feed-In Tariff?
Feed-In Tariff pre-accreditation is a process that lets partially completed or in-development renewable generators gain access to Feed-In Tariff rates before they’re ‘commissioned’. In short, it’s a process which is designed to deliver some security to generators which, for one reason or another, might have quite a complicated installation or have an installation which has got a longer lead time to get access to FiT rates before the technology is producing clean energy.
An example of this might be a school waiting for an out-of-term time break to allow scaffolding, installers and electrical work to be completed in the absence of inquisitive children.
How does it work?
To ensure that you’re ready to receive accreditation when your generator is up and running, you need to have created your own account on Ofgem’s ‘Renewables and CHP register’ (located here). You can set yourself up as an individual or a business – if you’re registering on the behalf of a business, you’ll need to upload a letter of authorisation on your company letterhead, just to doubly-confirm you’re registering a generator on the organisation’s behalf.
Once you’re through this stage, it’s a process of answering specific questions relating to your renewable installation. Provided the information provided is both clear and accurate, it should all go smoothly. However, appreciating that some of this is somewhat technical, your installer is likely to have provided a lot of this data before, so if you need a hand, ask!
Now that the Feed-In Tariff closing in March – how does this change things?
The guidance here is black-and-white and is a little complex, but it varies a bit depending on the technology being installed and the size of the installation.
As a rule, solar generators above 50kW will have 6 months to convert their pre-accreditation to a full accreditation following the 31st March deadline. Wind will have 12 months and hydro will have two years.
Community or school installations above 50kW will receive an additional 6 months on top of these timelines to apply. Smaller-scale community and school installations below the 50kW capacity cut-off have until 31st March 2020 to complete their application. However, the site MUST have been commissioned and all supporting documentation produced (namely their Microgeneration Certification Scheme certificate) on or before the 31st March 2019.
Some useful guidance has been published by government, which can be found here.
What do I need to watch out for?
It’s important to note that access to FIT rates isn’t guaranteed. The funding of the scheme – while paid for through everyone’s energy bills – has artificial caps placed on it via something called the Levy Control Framework. This caps the total spend on the FIT scheme, with specific spending and total capacity caps set at particular tariff levels.
If your tariff looks like it’s fast approaching full subscription, I can’t advise on a particular tactic but a good start would be to discuss with your contractor or installer. I predict some of these tariffs may fill up very soon, if they haven’t already. So if you’re sat on an application that needs to be completed – I’d advise doing it ASAP
Ofgem publish these caps on a regular basis, which can be seen here.
What happens if my tariff is fully subscribed?
If a tariff cap is oversubscribed or has the capacity “waiting in-line”, BEIS have now stated that there will be no additional funds made available or reallocated – so if a tariff is currently fully subscribed, it’s not going to be possible to either accredit or pre-accredit a generator site for FIT.