Scramble to install green energy savers in UK, experts claim

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The cost-of-living crisis has prompted Britons across the country to consider solar panels, insulation and heat pumps in recent weeks in a bid to keep costs down in the long run. The 33,417 solar installations in the first four months of 2022 are already more than half of last year’s 61,000 total, figures from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) showed.

March 2022 “exceeded expectations” with 10,054 solar installations in the face of rising energy prices, compared to just 4,987 installations in 2021, the scheme that covers installation of renewable or green technologies said.

At least 9,764 solar panels were installed last month, compared to 5,003 in April last year.

Richard Graham, a Tory MP with the Conservative Environment Network, said: “With energy prices rising, the return for investing in green solutions is faster and can help you cut your bills.

“We’ve had solar panels since 2007, providing free hot water for at least half of the year. Home insulation can also cut your bills by keeping your house warm and allowing you to turn down your thermostat.

“Scrapping VAT on insulation, solar panels and heat pumps means more people can afford the upfront cost of green technologies.

“Local councils and energy companies have funds to help vulnerable households with their energy bills.

“But I also hope the government brings forward further support to manage energy bills before the October price rises.”

Ian Rippin, chief executive at MCS, said the demand for solar power is being driven by rising electricity prices and a national ambition to adopt green technology.

In 2021, 62 percent of MCS certified installations were solar PV, an increase of 16 percent on 2019’s figures.

Mr Rippin said “We’ve seen solar energy rolling out at pace in every region across the UK. Scotland is leading the way with over 25 percent of the 61,000 solar installations in 2021, closely followed by South-East England.

“The renewable electricity produced by solar panels is a significant foundation in the green energy revolution.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in March that homeowners having materials such as solar panels, electric heat pumps and insulation installed in the next five years would pay no VAT.

Mr Rishi said: “A family having a solar panel installed will see tax savings worth over £1,000, and savings on their energy bill of over £300 per year.

“Homeowners who have solar panels, heat pumps and insulation installed will no longer pay five percent VAT – they will pay zero.”

The Daily Express has been calling for action to help households reduce the amount of energy they use, as bills have soared due to rising global gas prices, worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Clear Climate, an installation firm based in Durham, said a rising number of people have contacted them as their bills surge.

The company’s managing director Lee Peachey, added: “You have to bear in mind it’s a fact of life that when energy bills go up they tend to stay up. How often do you hear of electricity bills going down, or gas bills going down?

“I’d advise anyone who can finance a solar system should at least look into it to see if it works for them “

Save Heat Energy, another firm in County Durham, told how they have seen a spike in enquiries as Britons strive for energy independence.

Director Danny Edward said: “We’ve seen a spike in enquiries and installs since the turn of the year – both with people seeing early the energy crisis that was coming and those who are seeing it is now upon us.

“We started off describing it as a surge for solar earlier this year, now it’s more like a stampede.

“The penny really seems to have dropped with the public and all the solar companies will tell you that the big challenge on the horizon this summer is ensuring we can get parts like batteries etc to service the demand.

“The great thing is that not only have we seen the price of solar arrays decrease over the years but we’ve also seen the technology improve and people love having an app nowadays so that they can see their panels working and the returns in real time.

Solar panels are ‘no-brainer’

A couple have installed solar panels following a warning from their energy supplier that their bills would rocket by more than £1,000 a year.

Diane Jackson and her husband Peter, from Seaton Village, County Durham, told how their bills were set to rise from £167 to £257 a month, with the prospect of more on the way.

Peter, 53, said: “That’s a lot of money per month and a lot of money per year, so I got a quote for solar as a way of cutting down my energy bills. I looked at the quote, the numbers, stacked up and I ordered an install.

“That was six months ago and I couldn’t be happier with the results, the app shows you how much energy you’re generating during daylight and the battery means you can store the surplus energy and use it at other times.”

The couple changed their energy provider to Octopus, which gives them the best return on energy that they then feed back to the grid.

Peter, who works as a project manager, added: “There’s an outlay on solar panels at the outset but they pay for themselves after a few years and I just have to think of the size of the bills I would have been paying every month if I hadn’t got them.

“The app shows I used just 12 units of electricity since getting the panels, which shows how little electricity I’ve had to pay because the system is so efficient.”

Solar panels are ‘no-brainer’

John Gracie said he and wife Anne had an impulse to do “our bit” for the environment” but the clincher for their solar install was the rising price of energy.

The plasterer, from Prudhoe in Northumberland, said: “It was about 50:50 – on the one hand we wanted to help the environment so the idea of an electric car and solar panels appealed but on the other, there’s no doubt it is going to save us an awful lot of money in the long run.”

Mr Gracie, 49, said they installed their solar panels in February and now monitor the energy generated to “see how it is bringing our bills down”.

He said: “We know we won’t get our money back straight away but we will over five years and then when you look at the savings over 10, 15, 20 years, it’s a no-brainer.

“I’ve never been an ecowarrior but I’m really pleased we’ve done it because we wouldn’t be surprised to see fossil fuel energy bills getting even higher.

“With inflation on the rise it is going to be even more expensive to buy energy from abroad in years to come whereas at least the price of sunlight never changes!”

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