Feed-in tariff savings and earnings
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Feed-in tariff savings and earnings
Who earned money from the feed-in tariff? We calculate typical costs of installing renewable energy, plus energy savings and earnings from the feed-in tariff.
The feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme is now closed to new applicants. If you're already signed up to receive the FIT, you will continue to do so.
How much money you could earn from the FIT scheme depended on the specific renewable technology you installed, how much electricity it generated and how much of it you used.
However, with any renewable payments scheme, as a general rule of thumb, you need to offset the upfront cost of installing your system against how much money you'll earn from it and the savings you'll make on your energy bills.
Keep reading to find out whether your renewable energy will pay for itself and if you'll make a profit.
Can I make money from solar?
Without the FIT, it's likely to take solar panel owners longer to recoup the cost of their system through bill savings.
Previously, with the FIT, there were two parts of the scheme that earned you money from solar PV.
We calculated the earnings and payback time for an average solar PV panel installation (4kWp - kilowattpeak), positioned on an optimum roof (south-facing and with a 30-degree tilt) on a house in Birmingham, with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of band D or higher and registered for the FIT between 1 January and 31 March 2018.
For an electricity bill that is £49 a month, we found that the typical payback time would be about 20 years, with a net profit of about £880. Broken down, this system would give you:
- £134 yearly generation tariff income
- £89 yearly export tariff income (based on a deemed export rate of 50%)
- £85 savings on electricity bill (in first year)
- £308 total annual benefit
- £6,200 lifetime benefit
- £230 expected net profit over 25 years, taking into account £5,970 cost of system and installation
These calculations are from the Energy Saving Trust solar energy calculator and included a degradation factor to account for the solar panels' decline in efficiency. They also accounted for the FIT lasting 20 years and savings from the panels lasting 25 years. They are based on the owners being at home after 6pm.
The figures didn't include fuel price increases over time, FIT rate adjustments, inflation, net present value or discounting. Actual prices will be different based on efficiency, shading, location and FIT installations. This system will reduce carbon emissions by 34 tonnes of CO2 over 25 years.
Rates were tax-free and will rise in line with inflation. The rate was also guaranteed for as long as your system is eligible.
The duration of the feed-in tariff payments is 20 years for solar PV installed after 1 August 2012. Previously, it was 25 years.
Without the feed-in tariff, it might be worth considering a home battery so that you can store any unused electricity since there's no scheme in place yet to pay you for it.
How much could I earn from other types of renewable energy?
The scheme is closed to other types of generation besides solar panels. Previously, generation tariff rates were payable according to the type of technology you have. The most recent rates are set out in the tables below.
How much does it cost to install renewable technology?
Renewable technologies can widely differ in size, scope and complexity, so pinpointing a typical cost is tricky. However, the Energy Saving Trust has the following guidance:
- 4kWp solar PV panel system: around £5,000-£8,000.
- Roof-mounted 1kW wind turbine: around £3,000.
- Larger 6kW freestanding wind turbine: £21,000-£30,000.
- Hydroelectricity (5kW): from £25,000.
- Micro combined heat and power (micro CHP): from £5,500.
But before spending thousands on renewable technology, make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible.
You also need to make sure that the renewable technology you choose is right for your home - the Energy Saving Trust's renewables selector tool is a good first port of call to decide which, if any, are suitable.
How can I make the most of the feed-in tariff?
If you already have the feed-in tariff, here are some money-saving tips from a Which? member who has solar panels on their roof:
- 'Energy companies buy back unused electrical energy that you have surplus in your installation. Unfortunately, they have no way of measuring how much electricity you return to the grid. What the energy companies do is take a figure of 50% of the electricity produced and estimate this figure as being returned unused back to the grid. If you use more than the 50%, you gain. If you use less than 50%, you lose.'
- 'It makes sense to use as much of your free solar-generated electricity as you can, before allowing the surplus to be fed back to the energy company. Most people will find that they use more energy than they produce and still require some energy from their supplier. If you have a device in your home, as I do (a SMA Sunny Beam), that shows your energy generated live with up-to-the-minute information, you can time your electricity usage to coincide with when you are generating the most energy.'
- 'I set the "time delay" on major electricity appliances - dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, etc - so that they come on sequentially throughout the day, and not all together. Therefore, I use less extra energy bought in from my energy supplier. Normally, if you have south-facing panels, your peak PV energy production will be around midday, but if you have more east-facing panels then your peak production will be a bit sooner, and west-facing panels a bit later.'
- 'If you also have an energy monitor that you clip on your incoming electric cable, you can use that to monitor your reduced energy usage, and alter your timing as necessary.'
Find out more tips on how to maximise benefits from your solar system in our dedicated guide to making the most of your solar panels.
What about 'free' solar panel deals or 'rent a roof' schemes?
These are schemes where a company leases your roof for 20 years and, in exchange, installs and maintains solar panels on it. This means you don't have to find any cash upfront for the panels - and you benefit from the free electricity produced by the system - but the rent-a-roof firm would generally take all generation and export tariff payments.
These schemes could have been worth considering if you were unable to afford the upfront installation costs and don't want to take out a loan. Find out more about 'free' solar panel schemes.