HARNESSING solar energy is the topic of a major international conference at Staffordshire University.
It is hoped the conference will influence key policy makers into taking further advantage of green energy sources.
They will be shown how photovoltaic energy is not only environmentally friendly but that it is also a great investment opportunity.
The topic is the first in a series of seminars over three days, called The Renewable Energies Transfer System (RETS) seminars, funded by the European Union (EU) funding body INTERREG IVC.
It will be attended by leading experts on environmentally friendly energy sources, energy and housing company representatives, councillors and other officials from around Europe.
Jon Fairburn, of Staffordshire University’s Business School, is chairing the conference.
He said: “The key issue under discussion is the Government’s Feed in Tariff Policy which has completely changed the economics of the situation.
“If you have a solar photovoltaic panel on your house you will get 41p for every kilowatt hour generated. And if you also export power to the national grid you will get paid for that as well.
“So what we’re saying is that the Government will pay you an equivalent interest rate of six to eight percent of your investment per year for 25 years and it is inflation guaranteed.”
A scheme that Jon identifies as good practice is Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s recent project to install solar panels on 1,000 council houses to improve energy efficiency and cut electricity bills for tenants.
He said: “The financial benefits of schemes such as the partnership between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Eon, the power company, to install solar panels on houses in the area are great.
“Schemes like this could also help revive the local economy because it can bring new manufacturing areas for us to move into as well as generating service industry jobs.”
The conference will also hear from Markus Bauer, project consultant for IHK Zetis GmbH, a leading European centre for renewable energy technology.
He will be discussing the successful development of the German photovoltaic market, which has allowed Germany to create a large renewable energy business sector that operates worldwide.
Markus said: “Photovoltaic systems have some great advantages. They enjoy high public acceptance, because you can put them onto roofs – you don’t need any permission in Germany – and you don’t see them so much, whereas a windmill could be perceived as a foreign body in the landscape.”
Other successful EU projects under discussion include Spain’s policy to make the installation of solar panels compulsory on all new and renovated buildings since 2007.
The RETS conference takes place on February 22-25, at Staffordshire University’s Leek Road Campus, Stoke-on-Trent.
As well as photovoltaic policy and practice, the other areas under discussion over the three-day conference include renewable energy community projects and business support, funding for research and implementation, and the advantages of wind energy.
Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, is supporting the conference. She said: “Residents, community groups, councils and social housing organisations can all take advantage of the new opportunities on offer at this conference.
“I would like to see growth of the whole supply chain for renewable energy in the region including training for installers, market research to help our businesses grow as well as export to new markets. By embracing this growth area we can bring much needed jobs to the region as well as improve our environment.”
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