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The Power of Renewable Energy - Reduce your bills to £3 per month

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 1st November 2012

If you are still sceptical about the real benefits of renewble energy, then you should keep reading.

Amidst all the gloom of rising energy prices, there are increasing numbers of people who are actually paying reduced energy bills as their reliance on renewable energy strengthens.

Take Dan and Jane Fish who pay around £3 per month on energy.  They consider themselves over 90% carbon free - and they're not sitting in the cold wearing extra jumpers and they haven't resorted to candle light as yet, and chances are they never will!

So what are they doing that the rest of us aren't?  Well for a start they are embracing renewable energy.  Their whole home is heated by solar power.  They have a solar hot water system and solar panels.  The couple claim that they produce more electricity than they use.

With increasing numbers of people now getting tired of paying increasing energy costs, it won't be long before we see other households following the growing trend of renewable energy useage in the home.

The Fish couple hope to inspire other people to follow a reduced carbon lifestyle and claim there is extra satisfaction in taking a shower in water that has been heated by the sun alone.  The Fishes will be using a solar thermal hot water system in their home installed by a solar thermal professional who has undertaken solar thermal training.  The water heated by the sun by solar panels on the roof will then be stored in energy efficient hot water tanks ready for use even on a cold morning.

Their green lifestyle will continue with their solar panels - the couple will be well ahead of their game here, and already will be seeing a huge return on their investment - who wouldn't be at only £3 per month energy? (incidentially the £3 is payment for use of gas to run their stove and includes the energy use of a holiday annexe they rent out to holidaymakers.) Their panels will be Solar PV (Photovoltaic) Panels which will have been installed by a solar panel installer who has undertaken a solar pv course.  Solar is an exciting new industry which is taking the UK by storm.  Solar PV is now a common term that virtually every household in the UK has some awareness of.  It is now being taken seriously and many households are now opting for renewable energy as part of a greener, cheaper lifestyle.

So what else are Mr & Mrs Fish doing to achieve this amazing energy saving?  Well they have a solar powered car which is powered solely from electricity produced by their solar panels - impressive!  They also grow their own fruit and vegetables and have in the past reared their own animals for meat.

Mr & Mrs Fish have certainly inspired us at Trade Skills 4U to think about greener, renewable energy more than ever before but don't worry we're not going to suggest taking your next holiday on board a cargo ship or using 55 year old pans to do your cooking but we're certainly giving a huge thumbs up to solar PV and solar thermal coming soon to a house near you.....


Categories: renewable energy

Curtains close on Wimbledon offer

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 9th July 2012

In the spirit of summer and Great British sport, we have been running some offers in conjunction with the many athletic events that are taking place at the moment.

Last month we held an offer sporting England in the Euro’s, and in true Wimbledon spirit we recently ran an offer of £150 off the solar PV course due to expire once GB representative, Andy Murray, lost the battle to be the tennis court king. Much to our surprise, and that of the nations due to our poor tennis heritage, I think it’s safe to say that Murray wowed us all by making it to the final last night against veteran Roger Federer. The tense game, which was neck and neck for the majority was finally won by Wimbledon veteran Federer allowing him to retain his Wimbledon crown and make history himself by equalling Pete Sampra’s record of achieving seven Wimbledon victories over the course of his career. Federer, now having won a total of 17 grand slams, has now restored his number one ranking in world class tennis.

Obviously this means the offer has now drawn to a close but who knows…maybe as the Olympics draws closer, we may have some more offers in store!

Watch this space.


Categories: solar, company news, renewable energy, solar pv

US and China Battling for control of Solar PV Manufacturing Sector

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 5th July 2012

If you haven’t already heard, there is currently a solar PV trade war raging between the US and China. Both governments have realised the importance of this lucrative market to the future energy mix and are keen to protect their manufacturers in this sector.

In the last year a number of American and European solar PV manufacturers have folded as the market has been flooded with cheaper panels and tools imported from China. It has been suggested that the Chinese panels are unfairly subsidised by the Chinese government and as a result the US Government was lobbied by a number of American Solar PV manufacturers, calling for Anti-Dumping tariffs to be introduced. In May 2012 the US government ruled in favour of introducing these tariffs (set at roughly 31%) and are set to finalise the legislation in October 2012. However any final decisions will be applied retrospectively meaning that sales of Chinese PV panels from now could be subject to the tariffs.

US Senator Charles Schumer said: “This proposal is tough, but it’s needed to successfully counter China’s unfair trade practices. This hard-hitting plan will level the playing field for U.S. solar producers so that they can compete, create jobs and become a global leader in this rapidly-growing industry.”

Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman, Shen Danyang, said "The U.S. ruling is unfair, and the Chinese side expresses its extreme dissatisfaction,"

China denies that the industry is unfairly subsidised and will fight this ruling. We are at the start of a political war waged between the two countries which will ultimately shape the manufacturing landscape of the future PV industry for many years to come.

In terms of US and European manufacturing this is very positive as it protects the companies who have been established for a long time. It also means that both the manufacturing and installation industries can grow in a sustainable manner.

However Chinese manufacturers are already facing problems with a surplus supply of their products. The US and Europe make up around 75% of their PV exports and if Anti-Dumping tariffs are introduced in Europe too this could mean that a number of Chinese PV manufacturers could potentially fold. The European market is actually bigger than the US and generates around 44% of Chinese PV exports. In fact it appears that the European Parliament is already being lobbied by a similar consortium of PV manufacturers and tariffs could be imminent.

The Tariffs could mean slightly higher costs of installation and longer payback periods for investors and this could potentially slow the industry down. A recent report by HIS in the US looked at the potential impact of the American tariffs and found that in fact the impact of these increased costs should not deter most investors as the ROI is still attractive.

Recent FIT cuts in the UK have been made based on the current cost of solar panels. If the European Anti-Dumping tariffs are introduced, it could well mean increased costs for a standard installation and a payback period which could stretch to the length of the life of the panels.

However this is unlikely to happen. It is most likely that Chinese manufacturers will find ways around being subject to these Anti-Dumping Tariffs by sourcing their raw materials from various international sources such as Taiwan.

In fact during the last month in the US the cost of solar panels still reduced very slightly. This may well be due to the surplus supply that is currently available.

As we examine the implementation of these Anti-Dumping Tariffs further it is clear that that there is a trade-off. It is important to protect our manufacturing industry to ensure that we don’t become as reliant on the East for Solar PV production as we have on fossil fuels. However by protecting this industry we are in turn slowing down the growth of this technology, it’s implementation and ultimately the amount of energy generated. This has an impact on the installers and the consumers who want to work with solar PV.

Also and more importantly from a green perspective anything that slows the industry down could be viewed as negative, however there have been accusations of Chinese firms not properly disposing of waste products to reduce costs which could mean the current crop of Chinese solar panels could potentially have a hidden environmental cost.

At the end of the day the Anti-Dumping tariffs have been implemented for a reason, to level the playing field. This means what we should see is continued growth at a level that should be sustainable. In the long term it also means greater stability for all in this still very young industry.

It is likely that the trade dispute will continue for some time. We are also likely to see tit for tat actions from China and the US as the dispute intensifies. One such action has already started with Chinese PV manufacturers demanding that their government impose similar Tariffs on imports of Polysilicon from the USA.

Unfortunately it appears that the business of Solar PV has taken centre stage rather than it’s green benefits. This is not an industry that anyone is going to want to give up or allow to be dominated by one nation and it looks that until the battle lines are drawn the market as a whole may suffer as a result.

Categories: renewable energy, solar pv

Trade Skills 4U Renewable Centre Celebrates Its First Birthday

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 20th June 2012

Like the queen, Trade Skills 4U have two birthdays. One that marks the beginning of our very existence and the other that celebrates the launch of our renewable energy training centre – lucky us.

The latter (on Sunday 17th June) marked our Renewable Energy Centre’s first birthday. For those of you who don’t remember the birth, we celebrated the arrival with a visit from Simon Weston O.B.E and our local conservative MP Henry Smith. Together Industry experts, installers, energy bods, partners and our delightful team enjoyed a day filled with seminars, demonstrations and a lovely bit of cake.

Since the launch we have built new classrooms, added extra courses, expanded and developed our roof, which is STILL Britain’s first and only training roof of its kind by the way and trained countless renewable energy installers in the bright industry that is renewable energy.

It is our constant progression and unrivalled dedication that has led us to achieve the title of Britain’s number 1 electrical and renewable energy training provider which we learned earlier in the year.

“Renewable energy is undoubtedly the future,” says Carl Bennett, MD of Trade Skills 4U. “You only have to take a brisk walk around your neighbourhood to spot solar PV and solar thermal panels sitting happily on a variety of roofs and buildings. It’s incredible how much the industry has come along just in the past year and we are delighted to have been part of this move from fossil fuel energy to cleaner and greener source.

Mr Bennett set about building the renewable energy centre last year from a vision he had about offering the utmost practical electrical training experience the countries ever seen.

“We are very proud of what we have established here at our renewable energy training centre. We believe it sets a benchmark by which other training facilities can be measured. We have been overwhelmed over the last year with the response both in terms of numbers through our doors and customer feedback on the quality of the training and the centre itself.”

The launch also acted a platform in which to kick-start our Forgotten Heroes Bursary Scheme.

“We are happy to have helped some really deserving guys get a head start in a new career. We have learned a lot over the last year about how to manage and deliver our bursary scheme. One key thing we realised was that the people that needed the bursary the most could hardly even afford to travel to our centre. As such we have since teamed up with the British Legion and Civvy Street who have helped provide access to employment grants and other funding opportunities for our bursary applicants to travel to and from their courses,” adds Mr Bennett.

So far our notable bursary scheme has helped numerous candidates through the means of discounts and bursary places to help them achieve successful employment. Our first successful candidate Ian Lockie went on to find employment in the solar PV industry within days of completing his course.

If you know anyone who is looking to retrain who has a service serving background in the military make sure you check out www.tradeskills4u.co.uk/pages/free-training

With the expected arrival of the Green Deal and Renewable Heat Incentive, we have all sorts of goodies up our sleeve. We are unveiling new courses shortly and will be looking to offer a great range of energy assessor’s courses and green deal assessor courses as and when the course material is available – in other words watch this space!


Categories: company news, renewable energy


Posted by Chloe Bennett on 18th June 2012

Today, everyone and anyone that cares about the impact of fossil fuels on our gracious world is coming together on social networking site, Twitter, to campaign against the subsidies that encourage its existence.

During the 24 hour ‘twitterstorm’ which started at 6pm UTC in Sydney, twitter has been overwhelmed by messages from activists, green energy supporters, sustainable businesses and industry professionals to help highlight the need to end subsidies that encourage fossil fuels and encourage the need to invest in clean energy solutions. In recent weeks leading up until this twitter crusade, over 1 million signatures have been collected in support of this campaign which simply highlights the need to address this and the increasing amount of public’s interest that is associated with green energy.

According to figures compiled by Oil Change International, countries together are spending as much as $1 trillion dollars annually on fossil fuel subsidies. The International Energy Agency estimates that by cutting these subsidies, the world can cut global warming causing emissions in half and significantly contribute to preventing a 2 degree temperature rise, the number most scientist’s say we need to stay under to prevent runaway climate change.*

If you would like to get involved and show your support – tweet now and include #endfossilfuelsubsides and sign the petition today - http://endfossilfuelsubsidies.org/



Categories: renewable energy

August 1 new deadline for FIT cuts

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 24th May 2012

Last week we announced that changes to the Feed-in-Tariff had been delayed due to recent low solar installation figures. It was first proposed that new cuts would come into force 1st July 2012. However due to the 40 days’ notice required by law to protect ‘unlawful’ moves from the government, we can now expect the cuts to come into play a month later than first expected. This delay could have been caused by a number of factors but consumer confidence and news that the UK has slipped back into recession are thought to be amongst the two main reasons.

Since the revision figures have been introduced, the total installation figures for solar PV have naturally declined. The official introduction of the 21p kWh rate saw the total number of PV installs decrease from a whopping 9,009 in the last week of March 2012 to just 859 in the first week of April. Now more than ever it is important to broadcast positive message to all and try to win back consumer confidence.

The new FIT rate, now announced to come into play August 1st 2012, will be 16p kWh for domestic homeowners. Furthermore, all tariffs will decrease on a three month basis, starting on October 1 and are set to decrease at a rate of 3.5% unless a 'rapid uptake occurs.'

Barker commented, "We can now look with confidence to a future for solar which will see it go from a small cottage industry, anticipated under the previous scheme, to playing a significant part in Britain's clean energy economy."

In addition to the newly introduced lower tariff, other revisions include:

Export tariff will be increased from 3.2p to 4.5p/kWh for those installations with an eligibility date on or after August 1;

The expect FIT lifetime will be now decrease from 25 to 20 years for those installations with an eligibility date on or after August 1; and

Tariffs for installations that do not meet the energy efficiency requirements will mirror the tariffs for standalone installations.

We can now expect a small boom in this 10 week window before the new rate comes into play but it should be enough to get the market going again.


Categories: decc, renewable energy, solar pv, feed-in-tariff

May 2012: Draft Energy Bill Published

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 22nd May 2012

Today the Department of Energy and Climate Change published the long awaited Draft Energy Bill which includes details of the UK Electricity Market Reform (EMR). 


The EMR details how the government intends to plan the future of the UK’s electrical market and how we can move our traditionally sourced supply to meet our green energy targets of 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

For those who don’t want to flick through the 302 page document, we have outlined the key points from the EMR below and defined the two main revisions.

To secure the investment needed to deliver a reliable and sustainably diverse low carbon technology mix.

To help maintain the government’s long term vision of creating a market full of low carbon energy generators that perform fairly and at stable carbon price’s. This vision is at least 10-15 years away as many carbon generators are still in the midst of development.

Provide key processes that enable us to meet and enforce the long term vision.

Government hope to achieve these objectives through the following two revisions;

The government have appointed the National Grid as an independent System operator to provide analytical basis for government decisions.

The government have also asked the National grid to administer new systems of low-carbon generation revenue support known as ‘Contracts for Difference’ (CfDs) and a Capacity Market.

By announcing these two main reforms, are positives steps towards a safer future and will leave the UK less vulnerable to growing energy prices and relieving some of the stress of the 250,000 jobs in the energy sector.

The full Draft Energy Bill can be read by clicking here.



Categories: renewable energy, government

Queen Speech: How her government’s plans affect you?

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 10th May 2012

Yesterday the Queen’s speech confirmed a number of important plans for the year ahead whilst setting out her government agenda yesterday. Some of the announcements were to be expected, however there were some real positive moves as well as some controversial points which are bound to create a stir.

However the following may affect the practising electrician so they’re worth a skim:

Energy Bill

An energy bill detailing the Coalition's proposals for electricity market reform was announced yesterday. The Bill is scheduled to become law in 2013 and will ‘propose reform of the electricity market to deliver secure, clean, and affordable electricity, and ensure prices are fair’.

This bill has been on the agenda for some time so was positive news for the industry to hear it being confirmed yesterday. The bill is expected to be published on 22nd May 2012 as the ‘crucial legislation’ will be able to ‘keep the lights on and emissions down in a more cost-effective way, while reaping the economic benefits’. It is set to reform the electricity market by encouraging more investment in low carbon generation and trying to ensure that electricity is delivered securely, clean and that prices are fair.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

Ever been put off employing extra staff in fear that if it doesn’t work out you could be left liable? In a bid to give employers more confidence to hire staff, the ‘enterprise and regulatory reform bill’ aims to make it simpler to dismiss them. By giving employers more power it may encourage "settlement agreements” and the like so that workers could be paid off by consent.

A Banking Reform Bill

This bill aims to push banks to lend to more individuals and businesses rather than invest in large corporate companies. By the retails banks separating their retail arms like this we can hopefully prevent the need for future bank bailouts

Child Care

In an attempt to equalise the need to spend time with your children when they are first born, maternity and paternity leave will be made more flexible so mothers and fathers can share caring responsibilities. In addition to this the process of inter-racial adoption will be made easier along with equalising access to children when parents separate or divorce.


Categories: electrical, renewable energy, government

Third Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM3) to firm US & UK wind power agreement

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 24th April 2012

Starting tomorrow, the UK will be hosting the third ‘Clean Energy Ministerial’ (CEM3) at Lancaster House in London. During the two day event, the CEM3 aims outline how to accelerate the transition to clean energy technologies.

Even though the event covers a vast range of renewable technologies such as solar, bioenergy and hydropower; the main topic to be discussed is thought to be wind power. ‘Floating wind turbines’ as the DECC have put in in their press release, is to be the ‘initial focus of a new agreement between Britain and the United states’ and energy ministers are said to be convening at this event to begin discussing the deployment of this technology.

Commenting on the agreement, Energy Secretary Edward Davey has said:

“Britain has more wind turbines installed around its shores than any other country in the world and our market is rated year after year as the most attractive market among investors.

“Offshore wind is critical for the UK’s energy future and there is big interest around the world in what we’re doing.

“Floating wind turbines will allow us to exploit more of our wind resource, potentially more cheaply.

“Turbines will be able to locate in ever deeper waters where the wind is stronger but without the expense of foundations down to the seabed or having to undertake major repairs out at sea.

“The UK and US are both making funding available for this technology and we’re determined to work together to capitalise on this shared intent.”

Overall 23 energy ministers will be attending the two day event from some of the world’s leading economies and will it be interesting to see what the gathering will produce.





Categories: renewable energy, government

Feed-in-Tariff Announcement News

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 15th February 2012

Engineers fit solar panels to a roof at Silvertown Solar Village, Docklands, London. Photograph: Alamy

Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released ‘a written ministerial statement by Edward Davey on reforming the Feed-in-Tariffs scheme.’ These proposed changes to the Feed-in-Tariffs (FITs) were the first time Mr Davey was able to publicise his position within the DECC after Mr Chris Huhne resigned as energy secretary at the beginning of this month.

Below is a summary of the changes announced last week that will directly affect the solar feed-in-tariff rate and the way in which it operates.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) requirement to level D

The DECC have said that properties must now hold a level D EPC from April 1, 2012 to receive the full value of the FiTs. Currently until this date, there is no official requirement for an EPC prior to solar PV installation national grid connection.

For those who are unsure of what an EPC is, it’s the information on your home’s energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The certificate itself gives you information on how to make your home more energy efficient.

DECC clarified that people who want to use solar PV towards obtaining an EPC rating of D would need to “have the solar panel system installed, conduct an EPC and then apply for the FiTs scheme. The EPC must be sent with the documentation relating to registration for FiTs.”

Tariff Rates

The tariff rates are exactly as DECC confirmed on January 19, as laid out below:

*The on-going FiT legal disagreement means that an assurance for this particular rate cannot be guaranteed. However it is worth noting that 43.3p kWh will be paid for all systems that were registered between December 12 2011 an April 1, 2012 due to the government loss of the recent appeal.

This tariff level is subject to change come July 2012 and the rate will depend of the level of capacity installed during March 2012 and April 2012. The new tariff options are outlined as below:

The outcome of the appeal, although lost, has allowed the government to take the appeal to the Supreme Court. This has bought them time and allowed further uncertainly to spread across the market. Should the case reach Supreme Court, it should formalise the tariff rate for those homeowners who had PV installations during the 12 December 2011 & 1 April 2012 period. Should the government win, and this is doubtful, the homeowner would receive a rate of 21p kWh for the rest of the guarantee period which currently stands at 25 years. Should the case be thrown out and the appeal lost, the homeowner will receive the higher rate of 43.3p kWh for the rest of the guarantee period.

Either way April 1, 2012 is certainly a date for the diary for anyone interested in the outcome but hopefully the result of the Supreme Court appeal should be announced before this date.

DECC's proposed mechanism for changing tariffs after July will include an automatic baseline transgression of 10% every six months, which can be triggered early if deployment exceeds pre-determined levels. The system will be reviewed annually to ensure that it is performing well against its objectives.

Announcing the new changes, climate change minister Greg Barker said:

"Our new plans will see almost two and a half times more installations than originally projected by 2015 which is good news for the sustainable growth of the industry. We are proposing a more predictable and transparent scheme as the costs of technologies fall, ensuring a long term, predictable rate of return that will closely track changes in prices and deployment."

Some of the other changes:

The reduced tariff rate of 21p kWh will remain in effect from 1st April 2012, for domestic sized solar panels with an eligibility date on or after 3rd March 2012. Other tariff changes will apply for larger installations.

From 1st April 2012, a new ‘multi-installation’ tariff will be set at 80% of the standard tariff. This will apply to existing installations where a single individual or organisation is already receiving FiT subsidies for other solar PV installations.

Due to the ‘unlawful’ cuts that were first ruled on the cuts in December 2011, the government have said these changes should bring "transparency, longevity and certainty,” we’ll see…


Categories: renewable energy, solar pv, feed-in-tariff