Sun shines on the richest: New study explores how to make solar PV viable for all
More government support with greater flexibility is needed to make solar panels a viable option for elderly homeowners, student renters and the disabled, new research from the University of Sussex Business School warns.
The research calls for policy initiatives such as tax incentives and grants to help lower the cost of installing solar into neighborhoods with high deprivation. The academics recommend broadening out recent interest-free loan systems for electric vehicles to incorporate the installation of photovoltaic panels as part of more flexible policies that address distinct solar challenges experienced by different households.
Expansion of shared-ownership business models, including cooperatives or council-led schemes offering solar deployment and maintenance to homes unable to pay, would help students, renters and non-homeowners to also benefit from solar PV deployment, recommends the paper published today in the journal Energy Policy. While existing schemes were welcomed by households for helping PV systems to be rolled out, the study identified subsequent issues which highlights a need for a rethink of those policies to ensure they are attentive to emerging inequities.
The study identified that households experience living with PV systems in quite different ways and did not always receive the maximum benefit. The research identified some homeowners who used their solar energy generation to justify increased use of electrical appliances such as TVs, clothes driers in the summer and hot tubs. The researchers suggest progressive energy tariffs or in-home displays, as part of a package of wider energy awareness and demand reduction measures, could help disincentivize this rebound behavior.
The authors identified the need for policies that met the challenges of maintenance, repair, removal and remanufacture of solar PV systems and not just their installation including extended producer responsibility and takeback schemes for broken or retired solar systems to tackle a growing waste issue within the industry.
In addition, the researchers advocate that measures to make PV more equitable and circular will address inequities beyond benefitting households and reaching back into supply chains. The study recommends rigorous industry standards on supply chain transparency, including amendments to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to target all low-carbon technologies, to ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy in the UK is not directly connected to poor, illegal, or inhumane labor practices within global solar supply chains.
Benjamin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, said:
Dr. Marie Claire, Senior Lecturer in Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, said:
The study centered around a novel framework looking at demographic inequities (between groups), spatial inequities (across geographic scales), interspecies inequities (between humans and non-humans), and temporal inequities (across present and future generations).
The researchers analyzed the experience of solar inequities amongst a small sample of early adopters and residents in Brighton and Hove (ranking 205th out of 391 UK local authorities reporting PV installations) to understand how their experiences compared with injustices detailed in research literature and how these experiences might inform policies for a more socially just future rollout of solar PV.
The study identified social awareness of inequities amongst hosts of solar PV systems, and outlines measures that can be taken within solar policy and strategy to improve the justness of future deployments.
- Demographic inequities, such as unfair adoption patterns within social groups often categorized by gender, income, age, or race, can be partially remedied by cheaper, smaller systems or shared ownership business models.
- Spatial inequities, such as lack of access to clean air in local environment, can be offset by targeted skills training or policy incentives that seek to even out geographic adoption patterns.
- Interspecies equity, including the destruction of ecosystems, habitats, and extinction of non-human species, can be addressed by more sustainable extraction of solar PV’s raw minerals or stronger recycling and waste requirements.
- Temporal inequities, such as shifting burdens onto future generations or issues of intergenerational equity, can be addressed through innovations in technology (especially inverters & via recycling PV materials) and extended producer responsibility.
Adrian Smith, Professor of Technology and Society in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, said:
Dr. Max Lacey-Barnacle, Research Fellow in Just Transitions in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, said: