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February 23, 2011

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Cold shoulder for solar power

AN ambitious plan which would have seen 100,000 city homes powered by energy from solar panels has failed to shine, with only one household still in the scheme.

Four years ago, the city expected a big take up of the green technology, but this has been stymied by installation costs, instability - plus the fact that users are expected to pay for electricity they generate for others.

Shanghai residents wanting to go green had to pay up to 200,000 yuan (US$30,384) to install the system.

But this outlay does not guarantee them a hot shower as the technology has proved temperamental.

And ironically, while households usually pay for the electricity they consume, those with solar panels were charged for generating electricity and supplying it to the power grid.

The more they generated and offered to the public, the more they were charged.

This was due to electricity meters keeping running when power was not being consumed but being generated instead. So far this problem has not been fixed yet.

Zhao Chunjiang, director of a local university's solar energy research center, is the only city householder still using the panels four years on.

He says he doesn't mind paying around 1,200 yuan each year for his electricity as it is scientific research.

Over the past four years, Zhao has generated 12,777 kilowatt hours of electricity, of which 8,500 kilowatt hours has gone to the grid.

Yet despite his altruism, Zhao has paid 5,000 yuan in electricity bills in the four years.

There are no figures on the number of consumers who tried and abandoned the technology.

Other attempts to introduce green energy to residents have also left eco-friendly householders picking up the bill.

Residents at a high-end villa complex in Pudong New Area complained to Shanghai Daily that a so-called energy-saving ground-coupled heat pump system installed at their villas was costing them 18 yuan for each kilowatt-hour of electricity - 30 times more than the standard price of 0.617 yuan per kilowatt-hour.

Officials at the complex said the system could save energy only when more than 50 percent of all the villas were using it around the clock.

And while 80 homes in Yangpu District taking part in a trial scheme using green technology showcased at the World Expo now have free hot water and solar powered street lamps, officials admit the costs are too high for wide-scale use.


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