Whoever said that being environmentally friendly was more expensive? With a new scheme for local councils, introduced by the Coalition government, going green could actually end up reducing your council tax bill! Town Halls are now being allowed to install solar panels to their roofs, and the roofs of any public buildings (schools, hospitals, etc.) as well as wind turbines on any public property. This will work in accordance with the “feed-in tariff,” generating money as well as energy.
The feed-in tariff, which has already been operating for private households, now allows public property to be used as mini power stations. As well as generating energy for themselves, any left-over energy will be fed back into the national electricity grid, for which they will be properly compensated. It is estimated that £10,000 can be made a year from an normal-sized town hall having solar panels installed on their roof. While a well-placed wind-turbine could make as much as £160,000. Taking into account all the public buildings in one area, authorities would have the potential to earn up to £100 million every year.
This is good news not only for the planet, from which we can now generate energy in a much more gentle, unobtrusive way, but also for our wallets as this could lead to reductions in council tax. The feed-in tariff has actually been around for a while, but until now only private individuals could made use of it. In fact it is such a good deal that there are companies out there that will install solar panels to your property for free, just so that they can make use of the power generating tariff, which actually more than pays back the cost of installation in quite short order. This has led a lot of experts to advise against having your solar panel installed free, but rather to pay for it yourself so that you can make use of the money it generates yourself as well.
By potentially reducing council tax bills, however, this expansion of the scheme promises to benefit everybody. The concern in the past was that it would damage the business of already existing power companies, making electricity the traditional way, if councils could make money from green energy. With the massive savings on offer, however, the new government has decided to take more of the long-view and reverse that policy.
It remains to be seen, of course, how many councils will actually take up the offer and how successful it will prove to be. However the Chairman of the Environment Board on Local Council matters, Gary Porter, claims that there is much interest in the scheme as councils are always looking for ways to generate money without relying on council tax. Especially with the economy not being in its best shape at the moment, this could turn out to be an important initiative.
There is still concern, of course, about preserving the look of certain historic places. Some people have raised the issue of whether solar panels will be allowed on listed buildings or if wind turbines will be allowed in areas which are valued for their spectacular views. Again, what the outcome of these issues will be is yet to be seen.
Overall, though there is every indication that the expansion of this scheme, which is both profitable and good for the environment, will be successful both financially and environmentally.