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What is the future for small-scale renewables when FiT disappears?

The end of Feed-in Tariffs next year will bring both challenges and opportunities says Hannah Smith, Senior Policy Manager with Scottish Renewables.

Before 2010, the generation of electricity was the preserve of large fossil fuel power stations. 

The connection between burning a tonne of coal and the lightbulb in a consumer’s kitchen was opaque, and something to be taken for granted. 

Feed-in Tariff

The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) changed all that. The scheme, and the technologies it supports, gave consumers, at last, the opportunity to make their own power. 

The FiT was established by the Government to encourage small-scale renewable energy production. It allowed homes and businesses to install solar panels, small wind turbines, hydropower schemes and more – and paid them for the energy they used and any excess which could be exported to the grid. 

The economy of rural Scotland grew with the help of the FiT, with additional income to rural businesses, such as farms, boosting their viability and in turn creating jobs and local investment. 

An announcement by the UK Government in July confirmed the FiT is likely to close to new applicants next year. The industry has been thinking about what happens without a Feed-in Tariff for some time. So what’s next? 

The future of small-scale renewables

The best place to use renewable electricity is close to where it’s produced and that won’t stop being true. Communities across the country have benefited from the installation of renewable energy projects, with Applecross, Gigha and Eigg just the most well-known examples. And it’s not just clean energy which these projects have generated; they’ve also helped Scotland build the skills that will be vital as the world transitions to a clean energy future. Those skills stand us in good stead as the future looks less certain for schemes like the Feed-in Tariff. 

The rise in electric vehicle ownership and electricity storage technology will play a part in the future for FiT-scale technology, too. Households across the country will get ‘smarter’ and take even more control of how they generate and use energy. In future it is likely to be far better to charge an EV with local-produced clean energy – and far easier to do so if, for example, solar power produced during the day can be used to charge that EV overnight thanks to a local battery. 

Our electricity network isn’t perfect, so there’s room for local generation to help balance supply and demand too – particularly with hydropower, which can generate 24-7 for decades. 

The end of the Feed-in Tariff, then, presents a significant challenge to the small-scale renewable energy sector, but it presents opportunities too. The industry must now come together to work with government and determine how to maximise the benefits these technologies can deliver.