Consumer confidence in solar ‘key’ to FITs survival

Government is wrong to cut the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) in the way it did but bad practice in the solar industry needs addressing, according to a new report.

Released today (December 12) the Consumer Focus report Keeping FIT is published on the day the subsidies are cut by about 50%.

While the report finds many problems with the way the Government has cut FITs it also voices concerns about ‘misleading’ sales practices, a ‘lack’ of information from some solar panel installers and raises issues about the difficulties it found in registering and payment process for the tariff itself.

The report, while recognising the case for a reduction in the level of the subsidy, states that Consumer Focus is ‘concerned at the speed’ of the changes.

Using this new evidence that consumers are finding it difficult to register for the FIT, Consumer Focus has asked Government to at the least apply changes to the tariff on the basis of contract date, not registration date.

This, the group argues, would help prevent consumers who signed contracts before the review, failing to get the returns they expected due to reasons beyond their control such as delays in paperwork or installation.

The watchdog also urged the Government to learn lessons from the scheme and apply them to the development of other plans to help people cut their energy use, such as the Green Deal and a domestic Renewable Heat Incentive.

Consumer Focus energy expert, Liz Lainé, said: “People seem generally very satisfied with the FIT scheme, however our research shows there are some worrying flaws that need to be ironed out.

“Consumer confidence, trust and good word of mouth is key to the on-going success of this scheme.

“Consumers will get a lower FIT from now so it is even more important industry and government improves the non-financial aspects such as stopping misselling and improving the tariff registration process.

“People also need help to maximise the amount of money they get back into their pockets through better advice on the system, energy efficiency and energy use from installers.”

Luke Walsh

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