The role of the small - scale feed - in tariff in electricity system transition in the UK
Aldridge, James Edward
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Carbon reduction commitments and renewable energy targets have become legal drivers of electricity policy in the UK. Meeting those targets will require a transition in the way that electricity is generated, supplied and consumed. This thesis argues that small-‐scale renewable electricity technologies (<5MW) could have an important role in driving that transition. The thesis evaluates the role of the feed-‐in tariff -‐ a policy mechanism designed to stimulate the deployment of small-‐scale renewable electricity technologies -‐ in electricity system transition in the UK. The research is based on empirical information generated from 37 industry interviews, observations of industry and government meetings and events, and secondary analysis of consultation responses, publications and statistics from government and the energy regulator, Ofgem. The analysis is structured with a framework that draws on transition theory and breaks down the findings into a niche (micro/developing) level, a regime (incumbent electricity system) level and a landscape (contextual) level. The thesis finds that the FIT has driven solar photovoltaic development and innovation at an unprecedented rate. The other renewable technologies supported under the FIT (wind, hydropower and anaerobic digestion) have not been as widely deployed. It is argued that additional policy support is required to overcome the non-‐financial barriers that these technologies face. The thesis concludes that the role of the FIT in system transition has been to drive a level and pace of activity in the solar sector that has demonstrated the potential for alternative generation options. This has informed the politicised debate around electricity policy in the UK but it is argued that continued, broader, stable support is required if small-‐scale renewable technologies are to have a positive role in electricity system transition. The research has relevance to both academic and policy circles focused on electricity policy, the decarbonisation of energy systems and socio-‐technical system transitions.
PhD in Geography