Reported by Stella Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Do you see PV as the best solution for meeting our ever growing energy demands?
Let’s be realistic; we’re running out of oil and we’re quickly arriving at a point where we will expend more energy removing this resource from the ground than we’ll recoup, which is forcing us to seek a credible alternative. A further issue is that as stocks dwindle, the price of crude oil continues to rise and duty figures soar. If we consider the alternatives, there is coal, nuclear and renewable energy. Coal is a finite resource and its green credentials are certainly questionable. Nuclear has its place as a base load generator, but in light of the recent problems in Japan the safety of this resource is again up for debate and funding the construction of nuclear plant become incredibly difficult to secure. Finally we come to renewable energy.
As a company, we investigated many avenues before deciding to focus on PV. There’s potential for wind power to be very effective, but garnering public support for an onshore installation is often fraught with difficulty, so the chances of a mass uptake are slim. An alternative is offshore, but up front CAPEX costs can be prohibitive. The same can be said for tidal power. From our point of view, solar power provides a practical solution to provide distributed energy generation at a community level for the future.
Do you feel PV technology is truly affordable?
Due to current Feed-in Tariff rates set by the U.K. government, payback periods on the newest systems have been reduced significantly. The change has been significant in this respect, as three years ago the payback period was anything from 20 years upward, but today it can be as low as a little over 8 years when fitted in the optimum location.
Can you give an example of a typical payback?
With the Feed-in Tariff, a typical, large domestic system costing around ￡14,000 with a south facing aspect can provide an annual income of ￡1,250 and a saving on electricity of ￡400. This system would pay for itself within eight and a half years, earning a further ￡27,225 over the remainder of the lifespan of the Feed-in Tariff, assuming that there is no increase in inflation. That’s an impressive return on investment by anyone’s standards.
How reliable is the Feed-in Tariff system?
The Feed-in Tariff is very reliable as it guarantees payments from the electricity companies for the next 25 years. The Feed-in Tariff will pay for all the electricity your PV system produces and then pay you again for any you export to the grid. Couple this with the money you save from not buying electricity from a supplier and that’s a huge saving. We are seeing customers receiving a significantly greater return on their investment than if they left their money in the bank.
Surely that sounds too good to be true?
It does and we are constantly being asked what the catch is when we explain the scheme, but there truly isn’t one! One of the key issues that we at EOS Energy are trying to overcome is the lack of awareness of the tariff among the general public. I’m confident this issue will resolve itself as more people take PV on board. It will soon become the topic of conversations in offices and pubs as more and more systems pop up on rooftops around the neighborhood.
How are you assisting in educating the public?
We have produced a handy pocket-sized booklet called the ‘EOS Energy Pocket Guide to Solar Power’. The booklet provides an overview of the options available with PV, explaining what a PV system is, how it works and, more importantly, what benefits can be had from fitting a PV system. The guide can be downloaded from our website or a hard copy can be sent in the post for no charge.
Can UK products compete with foreign markets?
Unfortunately the U.K. government stalled in supporting solar power in the first instance while forward thinking green governments such as Germany’s saw the opportunity to create an industry 10 years ago.
Now there are a plethora of good quality German manufactured PV system components. These companies have the advantage of economies of scale and unfortunately there is very little chance of any British equivalent keeping up. I think the one chink of light for British manufacturing is the ability in the U.K. to manufacture high-quality mounting systems and ancillary items.
What sets EOS Energy apart from the competition?
We have the essential balance between being a large company with an established track record and being a family business that cares.
We are part of the Alumet group of companies, who have nearly 20 years of experience in construction, specializing in design, manufacturing and installation. We have an excellence team of 115 and an impressive headquarters in Warwickshire which houses a recently constructed ￡500,000 Innovation Center where we conduct research and development into the latest technologies.
Despite the growth and success of the company, we have remained family oriented. My father, Gary Summers is the Managing Director of the company. Other members of my family also work in the company including my brother, sister and cousin. There are also numerous other family units with the company including brother and sister groups as well as a husband and wife team. The fact that individuals enourage their family members to apply for jobs with us is a great testimant to the company.
What measures are in place in the industry to stop ‘cowboy’ installers?
The last thing the industry needs is ‘cowboy’ installers going door to door offering people systems that they aren’t qualified to give advice on let alone install. This was a major problem years ago when double glazing became available to the masses. Thankfully there are now standards in place to ensure the quality of the companies offering their services.
EOS Energy’s standards have been certifed with a number of accreditations including MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme), REAL (Renewable Energy Assurance scheme) and CHAS (Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme). These benchmark a range of areas including the quality of our product and services as well as our standards of health and safety.
You have won awards for your standards as well, haven’t you?
Yes, we have also been honored that we received a number of industry awards. Most recently, we received the Midlands Excellence Award for Sustainability 2011. Earlier in the year our Managing Director was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Midlands Business Awards 2011. Accolades like this are a great reward for the hard work of our team as well as providing a great marketing tool to show we truley are the best.
What are the business plans for EOS Energy for the future?
In the long term, we plan to diversify and offer a wide range of renewable technologies such as solar thermal collectors and air-source heat pumps. Our target is to reach ￡100m turnover within 5 years and to be one of the U.K.’s largest renewable technologies specialist contractor. This is an ambitious target, but one that we are really excited about and feel is achievable. We are already on track to create 100s of new jobs for local people over the coming years.
How do you see the PV market developing over the coming years?
We see an initial explosion of interest with many companies forming doing a good number of installations. I then foresee a constriction in the industry when all of the ‘quick buck’ companies disappear. There will be a few solid companies left in the U.K. that put quality and service at the top of their targets.
With the huge investments in production in China and Korea, there will only be one way that panel prices will go and that is down. Hopefully PV will get to a position in coming years where the industry and consumers alike are not reliant upon mechanisms such as the Feed-in Tariff to support it.
Stella Lee is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to email@example.com.
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