According to Industry Experts, An Earlier Shift to Renewables Would Have Lessened the Energy Crisis

Renewables Shift

Industry experts believe that renewable energy and low-carbon heating could have done a great deal to help reduce the effect of this winter’s soaring gas prices. The government needs to expedite the move to low carbon solutions sooner rather than later to assist in alleviating the gas supply problems of the future. 

The gas supply crunch has led to a spurt of government meetings with industry and the reassurance from the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that “there is no question of the lights going out” and that the UK is “highly resilient”.

The UK is not alone in its energy crisis. Since the beginning of the year, wholesale gas prices in Europe have risen by 250%, the result of economic, natural and political forces. Globally, demand for energy has shot up, as China and other major economies bounce back from the pandemic.

According to Roger Fouquet of the London School of Economics, the supply issue shows that fossil fuels are inherently subject to wild price fluctuations, which occur at least once a decade.

He said:

“Price volatility is an inevitable part of the fossil fuel energy system. Renewables do not suffer from these market-related problems.”

Rob Gross of the UCL Energy Institute voiced the view that switching to renewable energy would mitigate the effects of fossil fuel price fluctuations but that the UK was still particularly exposed to international gas prices.

He said:

“Gas power stations set prices in the UK, particularly when demand is high and renewables output is low. Countries with a lower share of gas in their power mix experience less volatile prices and we should expect that here too.”

Dan McGrail, chief executive of RenewableUK, which represents wind energy companies, said the government should learn an important lesson from this energy crisis for future years.

He said:

The first priority for government and the sector is, of course, protecting consumers in response to this price surge. The only way to do that in the long term is to have an energy system powered by cheap renewables, with flexible storage, hydrogen and other low-carbon technologies to meet demand at lowest cost.”

He called attention to the fact that it was already cheaper to generate electricity by building a new windfarm, even before gas prices began to soar, than run an existing gas power plant. The growth of renewables has reduced the proportion of electricity the UK gets from fossil fuels from 60% to less than 40% in the last few years.


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Dan McGrail went on to say:

“The industry is working with government to accelerate investment in renewables, which is key to ending our reliance on gas for heating our homes and in heavy industries. Alongside massive investment in renewables, we need to shift the dial on electrification and green hydrogen production in the UK to meet net zero at lowest cost.”

Despite the lack of government subsidies, solar power has plummeted in cost in recent years. It is forecast to be the cheapest form of power within a few years exceeding even onshore windfarms. Chief executive of the trade body Solar Energy UK, Chris Hewett, said that solar power could continue to supply electricity during the winter months. Solar currently provides about 4.5% of the UK’s electricity but he said it was “eminently achievable” to triple this by 2030, at no cost to consumers, if the government paves the way by removing regulatory difficulties.

Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, said that even though UK electricity is partly generated by gas, domestic heat pumps that run on electricity could also reduce the UK’s dependence on gas.

He said:

“But even if all of the electricity used by heat pumps was generated by gas the much higher efficiency of heat pumps would still result in a reduction of gas use.”

However, as Fouquet notes:

“Wind and solar do suffer from intermittency problems. So, while accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources is welcome for environmental reasons, it is important to develop an energy system that is flexible to these intermittencies.”

There needs to be more investment in large scale battery storage technology which up until now the government has failed to do. Also though controversial, nuclear reactors could provide a steady stream of power to the grid to counterbalance the intermittency of some renewable energy. Plans to build a new fleet of reactors by successive governments over two decades, to replace the UK’s ageing nuclear plants have been mired in difficulties. The Trade union, Prospect, has called on the government to prioritise its strong domestic sources of electricity, including nuclear power, to ensure a safe and resilient low carbon future.

Another crucial measure that needs to be addressed is to reduce the amount of energy that is wasted. British homes are currently among the draughtiest and least efficient in Europe, but little has been done to improve this. The government introduced a scheme last year, the Green Homes Grant which was largely meant to get to grips with the issue of insulation. The grant was part of the government’s much vaunted push to Build Back Greener from the pandemic. However, due to poor administration it was scrapped by the Treasury in March this year after only 6 months, and nothing has yet replaced it. 

It will be tempting for ministers to go back to business as usual once the current crisis has passed. However, experts contacted by the Guardian warned that this crisis should be seen as a sign of things to come and that the government should introduce the package of measures needed to protect the UK’s gas supply and shift the economy to a low-carbon footing.

Rob Gross concluded:

“Ultimately, it will depend on the level of storage, interconnection and demand management to make best use of renewable resources and break the link between gas and power prices.”

What Part Will Heat Pumps Play in Achieving a Net-Zero Britain?

Heat Pump

Heat pumps are a key low carbon heating system that will be vital in helping to decarbonise heat in our homes over the next decade. It is crucial that we address the challenge of installing these systems at the pace and scale necessary for meeting the UK’s net-zero targets. Millions of homeowners will have to change the way they heat their homes. Around 15% of energy is currently being used to heat our buildings and homes. This means that there are big carbon savings to be made if we change to low carbon renewable forms of heating.

Although heat pumps have been around for a long time take up has been slow due to issues with installation costs and practicalities. Most homeowners are not familiar with the technology so need to be able to access expert, impartial advice on how to make heat pumps cost effective for them. There is an abundance of information available now to help energy consumers understand the benefits of heat pumps.

Heat pumps are becoming more popular as people look for ways to decarbonise the heating of their homes. They work by extracting energy from the ground, air or water, and transferring this heat energy from one area to another in the same way that refrigerators or air conditioning units operate. They do still consume a significant amount of electricity. For example, for three units of heat energy produced by a typical system, around one unit of electrical energy will be consumed. If renewable electricity is used the system becomes carbon neutral. Heat pumps can be installed in most property types, but many people are still unsure about their benefits. Change needs to happen because if heat pumps do not become a normal fixture in people’s homes, the UK will not meet its net-zero targets. If we were to replace all oil boilers and half of our existing gas boilers with an air source heat pump, we could reduce our national CO2 emissions by 8%, or nearly 29 million tonnes.


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An important milestone on the UK’s path to net-zero emissions by 2050 was reached on Easter weekend when the electricity system was the greenest it has ever been. Low carbon energy sources made up almost 80% of power, there was no coal generation on the grid and just 10% of power came from gas-fired power stations. Several factors contributed to this achievement. It was a sunny, windy day on a bank holiday when factories were closed and coupled with a lockdown it was the perfect day to make the most of the UK’s renewable energy sources.

However, there is still a long way to go to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Key to meeting the net-zero challenge for homes is the scaling up of the supply chain. Firm targets and long-term investment from both the government and the private sector are essential to provide the confidence in demand which will allow the supply chain to invest.  

In November 2020, one of the headline ambitions in Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution was the commitment to a new target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028. The government has committed to bringing an end to installing gas and oil boilers in new build homes by 2025. At the same time the government’s independent advisors on the climate change committee (CCC) has recommended a UK target of one million installations a year by 2030. A steeper deployment trajectory could result in 5.5 million heat pumps in homes cumulatively by 2030. The CCC also predicts that that around a fifth of heat will be distributed through heat networks by 2050. All of this is a sizeable ambition, and we will need collective action from policymakers, landlords, local authorities, businesses and homeowners to get us there. 

The government also raised the interim greenhouse gas emissions target for 2030 to a 68 per cent reduction on 1990 levels, up from 57 per cent before. This brings the interim target in line with the UK’s net-zero by 2050 goal, but this also means that the 2030 challenge is increased by 20%.

The CCC said:

“We firmly believe that we need to make the move away from fossil fuel boilers attractive, simple and fair for all.”

In order to speed up the installation of heat pumps across the UK financial incentives will be required for both social and private sector homes. Though the Green Homes Grant was blighted by problems and was closed to new applicants after only a few months it did at least raise the awareness of heat pump technology. The grant provided vouchers of up to £5,000 for primary measures including insulation and low carbon heating systems.

However, many people may not realise that there has been funding in place to help with the cost of installing heat pumps since 2011, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). To access the benefits of the RHI you need to be able to afford the upfront investment for the installation of a heat pump. If you join the RHI scheme, you receive a quarterly tariff payment for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable heat you produce. This is paid quarterly over 7 years and goes a long way towards covering your initial outlay. The RHI scheme is due to close in March 2022. This scheme does not suit everyone of course and the government is said to be looking at hugely expanding an existing scheme called Clean Heat Grants to boost the take up of low carbon alternatives to traditional heating systems. Currently the Clean Heat Grant scheme is due to be launched in April 2022, run for two years and offer grants of up to £4,000. It has been rumoured that Boris Johnson would like to quadruple the scheme’s funding to £400m, extend its duration to three years and increase its starting point to £7,000.

It has also been said that the government are preparing a big advertising campaign for the new scheme sometime in the autumn to encourage people to replace their gas boilers, in the run up to the COP26 climate change conference in November.

If the UK is to reach its net-zero target by 2050 there needs to be a clear phasing date for fossil fuel heating which is in line with the phasing date for gasoline and diesel vehicles. This will support the renewables sector as well as give individuals and markets a clear signal of direction. With the lifespan of a traditional boiler being around 15 years, it would suggest that the latest the date should be set is 2035.

At this time less than 250,000 of the 29 million UK households are equipped with heat pumps. In 2019 just 27,000 heat pumps were installed in sharp contrast to the 1.7 million replacement boilers. The CCC has said that if the UK is to meet its ambitious net-zero targets by 2035, up to 15 million homes would need to be fitted with heat pumps or hybrid heat pumps by 2035.

Decisions made by the government now will have far-reaching consequences for the UK. The government is due to publish its long-awaited Heat and Buildings strategy this year and there is no time to lose on this vital policy area. The strategy needs to provide confidence and clarity around making heat pumps available to everyone and to stimulate the market investment that will make this happen.

If we are to have a heat pump revolution, we will also need greater investment and commitment to green jobs. Thinktank, Onward, estimated in a recent study that while the need to retrofit homes and ensure low-carbon domestic heating will create around 1.1 million new jobs by 2030, only 5,700 workers a year are currently training in these areas. This indicates a serious shortfall for what is required.

Around 23% of fuel-poor households in England live in social housing and for many other householders, the expense of a heat pump is prohibitive. This has led to 20 organisations including the Energy saving Trust to call for a Fair Heat Deal that will help give people on low incomes access to heat pumps and ensure that they are affordable to install and run.

We all stand to benefit from a future where we enjoy warm, well-insulated homes heated by low-carbon heating system technology. Heat pumps can and must help to lead the way in accelerating the UK’s transition to net-zero.

Everything You Need to Know About Solar Farm Requirements

Solar Farm

Solar farming is the most popular method of harvesting sunlight in order to create energy and is an excellent way to generate an additional revenue stream. It has quickly become one of the most attractive new investments for companies and independent investors. Solar farms are made up of rows of ground mounted solar panels placed on special frames and fixed within the ground. They are simply large-scale applications of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems also referred to as utility-scale or grid-scale solar PV plants typically covering an area ranging from 1 acre to 100+ acres in the UK. These futuristic looking installations can provide a source of safe, locally produced renewable energy for many years after construction.

Solar farms help to power communities and allow utility companies to maximise their energy production capacity. Although these farms harvest the sun rather than produce agricultural crops or house livestock, they must meet specific solar farm regulations and requirements in order to be allowed to operate.

Solar Farm Requirements:

  1. The parcel of land being considered for solar farming must be big enough. Solar farms need quite a lot of space. The biggest solar farm in the UK can produce a total of 46 MW of power and is capable of powering 14,000 homes. Approximately 25 acres of land is required for every 5 megawatts (MW) of installation while 6 to 8 acres will be needed for a 1MW farm. Space isn’t just needed for the panels themselves but for essential equipment like inverters and storage batteries too. There must also be enough space between the rows of panels to allow for maintenance access.
  2. The land selected will need to have a connection to the grid in order to supply the electricity that is generated. If there is no existing connection in place, one must be set up and paid for. Being close to overhead cables and a substation is usually a good indicator that a connection application may be successful. The further away a location is from the grid, the higher the cost of interconnection for the developer.
  3. Solar farms are normally built on rural land. There needs to be careful thought given as to the suitability of the land chosen for a solar farm. The prime spots for solar farms are either on flat land or on a south facing slope. Ground mounted solar panel systems of greater than 9m sq. (4-5 large solar panels) require planning permission. This means that all solar farms require planning permission. In order to get approval for solar farms in the UK, a series of rigorous planning procedures must be passed before work can begin. Planners will encourage the development of brownfield and previously unused land wherever possible. They will also consider the potential impact on the locality looking closely at both ecological and socio-economic factors. If greenfield or agricultural land is to be used planners will push for dual usage on the selected land, such as combining solar PV with grazing animals or wildflower meadows to help with crop pollination in neighbouring fields. Biodiversity in and around the installation area will be promoted. However, approval to turn highly fertile fields into solar farms is rarely granted. Although, solar PV arrays have a long-life span, planners will also want to see that the installation area could be reinstated with as little environmental impact as possible should the PV system be decommissioned. Planners will look at how the visual impact of a solar PV installation in areas that could be described as containing heritage assets can be minimised. A heritage asset does not need to be legally protected such as a conservation area. A heritage asset could be anything of special interest, of national or local importance or offering some other value that could be adversely affected through the installation of a solar PV system. The cumulative effects of multiple solar PV systems within an area will also be considered. It’s a good idea to involve local authority planners and particularly Conservation Area officers in planning permission decisions in sensitive areas as early as possible.
  4. Due to the size of sites used for ground mounted Solar PV arrays there is often a requirement as part of the planning process to understand the impact of a site on changing the flood risk to the surrounding area and drainage. The flood risk assessment will assess the most common concerns raised by the Environment Agency and Local Planning Authority which include:
  5. Location of transformer, inverter, substations units etc. within the floodplain
  6. Location of solar panels within the floodplain
  7. Fencing and solar panels interrupting conveyance of floodwaters freely across the site
  8. Safe site access / egress
  9. Location of development within statutory buffer zones for rivers and watercourses
  10. Land raising / built construction reducing the flood storage capacity of the site
  11. Potential for increased surface-water runoff and erosion from the site.
  12. Increase in impermeable surfaces


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Solar Farm Costs

Over the years solar farms have had a reputation for incurring eye-watering start-up costs. Though they are still not cheap the last decade has seen a huge decrease in cost. Amazingly, solar farms can now be set up for over 80% less than in 2010.

This is largely due to their increasing popularity which has meant that solar panel manufacturers have been able to develop more cost-effective components. The average price of solar panel modules was around £200,000 per megawatt produced, or 20p per watt, in 2019. Economy of scale has a part to play here as larger capacity solar farms work out costing less per watt than smaller ones.

However, this isn’t the full cost of the development and while the price of solar panels might be going down the same can’t be said for land or labour. In 2020, the average value for an acre of UK farmland was between £12,000 and £15,000, although plots can easily exceed this depending on location and accessibility.

Every project will be different, but the overall cost of an individual solar farm will be determined by several factors some of which we have already mentioned, including:

  • Size/capacity of the site
  • Location
  • The solar technology and other components used
  • Whether there’s an existing grid connection
  • Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor used (A form of building contract used for a large or otherwise complex project under which the builder, the EPC contractor, will deliver a completed project on a turnkey basis)
  • Type of Operations & Maintenance contract (Full asset management, protection and optimisation for your renewable assets) put in place
  • Ongoing security measures implemented

While solar projects still have quite high start-up costs, they are somewhat offset by much lower ongoing costs. Solar farms have minimal demands in terms of operation and maintenance and there are no waste products to deal with either. After the initial investment, there shouldn’t be a need for any large operating costs in order to keep a solar farm running.

There continues to be a constant flow of new planning applications for solar farms in the UK. New sites totalling 2.6GW were added to the pipeline in the first 6 months of 2020 alone.

For every 5MW of capacity installed, a solar farm will typically produce enough energy to power more than 1,350 homes while saving 1,200 tonnes of carbon annually. This is based on an average annual consumption of 3,600 kWh of electricity per home.

The biggest benefit to solar farms is their role in meeting the National Grid’s renewable energy needs. They provide green electricity and reduce reliance on fossil fuels which produce harmful greenhouse gases. Solar technology is a proven source of safe, locally produced and sustainable power.

New £450m Fund launched by Ofgem to Support Green Innovation in the UK

The UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem has announced a £450 million fund for green energy projects. The money will be made available to energy network companies to come up with innovative ideas that will help the UK meet its net zero climate targets and turn the UK into the “Silicon Valley” of energy. It is anticipated that the fund will support the UK’s ambition to slash 68% of emissions by 2030, and 78% by 2035, with the goal being to reach net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.

In 2019, the UK committed to becoming ‘net zero’ by 2050, which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions so much that the country absorbs as much as it emits. Large-scale changes, to how the UK’s economy is powered, including new ways of heating homes and transporting people and goods, will be required to achieve this.

To apply for the first round of funding the energy network companies will need to address the four major challenges that Ofgem has identified.

The challenges are heat, transport, data and digitalisation and “whole system integration” which joins up the entire journey of electricity from plant to plug.


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The hope is that the fund will inspire network companies, system operators and the world’s leading businesses and researchers to find creative new ways to unlock greener modes of travel and to heat and power homes and businesses. The fund will be approved by Ofgem and managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

Indro Mukerjee, chief executive of Innovate UK, commented: 

“The ideas of the UK’s world-leading innovative businesses and researchers have the potential to reshape the gas and electricity networks for net zero, while generating commercial growth. We are delighted to be working with Ofgem to make sure the Strategic Innovation Fund brings maximum impact over the coming years.”

Ofgem has stated that the fund which opened for application on the 31st of August will be available for the next five years but could be extended if strong plans are presented to them.

Ofgem said the ideas put forward would need to be “bold and ambitious” and have the potential to be rolled out at scale across the UK. These ideas could be applied to a range of technologies from heat pump installations to developing battery storage technology.

Projects could include ensuring the networks are ready to roll out clean heating solutions such as heat pumps to the UK’s homes as well as developing ways for network companies to work together across transmission, distribution, system operation, gas and electricity.

Other projects could focus on developing new technologies for networks to support flexible energy solutions, such as battery storage technology, to ensure electricity is used and stored more effectively, thereby bringing down bills and emissions. Ideas need to be big, bold and ambitious with potential to scale across the networks upon completion. It is vital that ways are found to keep bills as low possible. As recently as last month Ofgem announced a 12% increase to wholesale prices which will feed through as a significant rise to energy bills.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s chief executive said:

“What we need, more than ever, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero, is innovation. The strategic innovation fund means cutting-edge ideas and new technologies become a reality, helping us find greener ways to travel, and to heat and power Britain at low cost. Britain’s energy infrastructure will play a pivotal role in cutting net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and this fund will help make sure our energy system is ready to deliver that.”

In a separate announcement the government has declared that it will start offering carbon reduction workshops and “practical net zero advice” to thousands of businesses this month.

Interestingly, researchers tracked a 12.4% drop in carbon emissions from global businesses in 30 countries during Covid lockdowns when people were kept out of energy-intensive offices and shops. However, the ULI Greenprint Center for Building Performance said that carbon emissions dipped briefly during the pandemic but rebounded quickly which has put pressure on companies and households to take further steps to go green.

The net-zero certification group Planet Mark will run the workshops and will travel across the country to work with companies in an electric bus. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said it would help “raise awareness among the business community about the urgent need for firms to cut their carbon emissions”.

Energy Minister, Lord Callanan at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, said:

“The UK is leading the world in decarbonising our energy system, with our innovators playing a vital role in going further while ensuring consumers receive clean and affordable energy. The Strategic Innovation Fund will ensure the best projects and most talented minds have the grants available to reduce carbon emissions and enable bill payers to see the benefits of building back greener.”

Despite the urgent need for the carbon reduction workshops, they are only due to run until the end of the Cop26 climate conference which has sparked criticism from climate campaigners at Greenpeace who believe it is further evidence that Boris Johnson’s commitment to climate action is “wafer thin”.

Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace UK’s senior climate adviser, said:

“It’s not just the half-hearted gimmicky bus tour which will end in November before the hard work of decarbonising the British economy will really start. It is the transparent hucksterism, the blatant hypocrisy and the almost criminally limited ambition that stands out.”

He went on to say that the government was “failing to deliver real climate action and is actually undermining it by approving new oil exploration in the North Sea, withdrawing the green homes energy efficiency grant, having neither a plan or even a clue for clean building heat, and providing completely inadequate support for public transport or active travel”.

On a final more positive note, Andrew Griffith, UK net-zero business champion, said:

“UK businesses have proved time and time again that our country is home to world-leading entrepreneurial talent, innovators and disruptors. As we approach the COP26 Climate Change summit in Glasgow the Strategic Innovation Fund is an example of how business can provide the solutions that will make our energy cleaner and tackle climate change.”

How Easy Is It to Generate Your Own Energy?

There has never been a better time to consider generating your own electricity. We’re all used to seeing solar farms and towering wind turbines on our travels, but it is entirely possible to generate your own energy from renewables at home just on a smaller scale.

There are a few reasons why you might want to generate your own energy. The recent warning from the IPCC that only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent widespread devastation and extreme weather, might have persuaded you that it’s time to cut your carbon footprint. By generating your own energy, you can significantly lower your household’s carbon footprint. You may want to invest in low carbon energy, to reduce your future energy bills. Energy prices have risen exponentially in the last 20 years so reducing your reliance on the National Grid will enable you to insulate your household from the unexpected and pronounced rise of wholesale energy prices. Or it might simply be that you want to be a bit more self-sufficient.

There are more options today for generating your own energy than ever before but is it a realistic prospect for UK homeowners? Let’s look at a few of the options available to you.


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Solar panels are now a common sight on rooftops in the UK. They are the most common renewable source of energy. Known as photovoltaics (PV), solar panels capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. They generally work better on a south facing roof at a pitch angle of about 30 or 40 degrees. You can fit panels on a flat roof, or on a frame on the ground but a sloping roof is usually the easiest. Though south facing is optimum, anywhere between east and west is possible. Solar panels are improving with every passing year, with specialist PV cells able to generate power even on a cloudy day. Thankfully for those of us living in the UK, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to work. However, if your home is overshadowed by trees or other buildings it will have a negative impact on the performance of your system. Space is a key consideration. Roughly speaking, a roof area of 10-20 square metres would be enough to deliver between 20% and 45% of the typical household’s electricity needs.

PV cells convert sunlight into electricity which you can use for your household appliances and lighting. Ideally, you would be at home during the day to make the most of the electricity generated when the sun is shining. You can of course set your appliances to come on during the day even if you are out. If you’re generating more electricity than you need during the day the surplus will be fed back to the National Grid for someone else to use. If you want to avoid having to use electricity from the Grid during the night you might want to invest in a special renewable battery system in order to store any unused energy generated during the day.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) a government scheme devised so that energy suppliers pay their customers for the renewable energy that they export to the grid.

Solar energy doesn’t release any carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases. Depending on where you live a domestic solar PV system could typically save you between 1.3 – 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year.

A typical solar panel system installation with 30m2 of panels will cost between £5,000 and £8,000 and is getting cheaper. In recent years, the price of installing panels has decreased by 70%. It can take anywhere between 15 and 26 years to recoup your costs for a typical home depending on how much energy you can use during the daytime, where you live, how much electricity you use and what you’re paid under the smart export guarantee. 

Currently the cost of domestic solar electricity is around 8p per kWh which is a lot less than the 16p average domestic import cost from the grid. This cost has increased by an average 4.75% each year over the past decade. Just taking this fact into consideration will make installing solar PV extremely worthwhile as you will be protecting yourself against future increases in the cost of importing power from the grid.

Solar Thermal

The sun is an infinite renewable energy source which can also be used to heat your hot water using solar thermal systems. They work by transferring the sun’s heat within special pipes on your roof via copper wires inside. In the summer, they should provide all the hot water you require for your home. In the winter, it’s a lot less, however over the course of a whole year, roughly 60% of your hot water needs will be provided by your solar thermal install.

A typical domestic solar hot water system, with 4m2 of panels that should supply enough hot water for a family of four, could set you back between £3,000 – £5,000.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the outside air to heat your home and hot water. Amazingly, they can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C! They run on electricity which can be obtained from renewable energy sources such as national offshore wind farms. Because they are extracting renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input which makes them an energy efficient way to heat your home. Running costs are very low because air source heat pumps are super-efficient and are known for their reliability and consistency.

Air source heat pumps look very much like air-conditioning units. Their size depends on how much heat they’ll need to generate for your home, the more heat, the bigger the heat pump. They are usually positioned outdoors at the side or back of a property and they need plenty of space around them for air to circulate. Inside, you will usually have a unit containing pumps and hot water. ASHPs are normally smaller than a standard boiler.

Generating your own electricity by installing solar panels on your roof can give you more freedom and control as air source heat pumps work well with solar panels. They also work in conjunction with underfloor heating as both can operate under a low consistent temperature system.

ASHPs are also adaptable as they can double up as an air conditioning unit in the summer and even heat a swimming pool whilst not being used to heat the home.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

A ground source heat pump system harnesses natural heat from deep underground by pumping water through it in pipes. The heat pump increases the temperature and the heat produced is used to heat homes or hot water. Ground source heat pump systems are made up of a ground loop (a network of water pipes buried underground) and a heat pump at ground level. A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pumped around the ground loop and absorbs the naturally occurring heat stored in the ground.  The water mixture is compressed and goes through a heat exchanger, which extracts the heat and transfers it to the heat pump. The heat is then transferred to your home heating system. A ground source heat pump can increase the temperature from the ground to around 50°C.

You do need plenty of space for the GHSP to be installed, generally a garden that is accessible to digging machinery. The size of the ground loop will depend on big your home is and how much heat you need.

Like ASHPs they need electricity to run, and they use less electrical energy than the heat they generate. The pump carries out the same role as the boiler in a central heating system. However, rather than burning fuel to generate heat, it uses ambient heat from the ground. GHSPs are ideal for new or self-builds as the installation requires a lot of soil upheaval in the garden space or drilling deep down into the earth. As you can imagine installation isn’t cheap, but the end result is a heating system which has an extremely low running cost. There is also an attractive financial incentive which we’ll take a look at and will give you a good return on your investment over 7 years.

Financial Incentive for Renewable Heat

If you generate heat for your home via a renewable source, you may be eligible to apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. The domestic RHI was launched in 2014 to provide financial support to owners of renewable heating systems for seven years. The government scheme aimed to encourage the uptake of renewable heat technologies and covers England, Wales and Scotland. It means that the homeowner can enjoy financial returns for up to seven years after instalment meaning the end cost is minimal. The cash payments are paid quarterly and the amount you receive depends on a few factors including the technology you install, the latest tariffs available for each technology and in some cases metering. There are some limits on the amount of space heating a home can receive payments for. The heat demand limits are set at 20,000kWh for ASHPs and 30,000kWh for GSHPs. There is no limit for solar water heating systems. 

In order to apply for the RHI scheme you will need:

  • Microgeneration Certification Scheme installation certificate number for the heating system
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) number
  • Bank details

Choosing renewable energy sources to power your home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, make your home more sustainable, and potentially lower your energy costs. Renewable energy minimises carbon pollution and has a much lower impact on our environment. Stablished carbon neutral technologies have never been more affordable. With renewable energy prices dropping lower than ever and incentivesto go green still very much to play for, 2021 is the ideal time to power your home with renewable energy sources.


Could Heat Pumps Replace Our Gas Boilers?

The fossil fuels used in our homes for heating, hot water and cooking are responsible for more than a fifth of the UK’s carbon emissions and are one of the greatest contributors to pollution in our everyday life. In total 85% of homes use natural gas boilers at the present time so replacing them could be monumental for the environment.

For this reason, in the spring of 2019 the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, Philip Hammond announced that ‘fossil-fuel heating systems’ would not be installed in any domestic new build properties from 2025 as part of the Future Homes Standard. These systems include gas and oil boilers. This decision was part of the government’s plan to tackle climate change and growing carbon emissions in order to reach their net-zero emissions target by 2050.

Boris Johnson, the current British Prime Minister, further developed this plan and announced in November 2020 a ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’.

The policy which bans all fossil fuel heating systems in new builds could be extended to all new gas boilers in homes from the mid-2030s. As it stands now, only heating systems installed in new builds from 2025 will need to be low carbon. It is encouraging to see the government taking steps to reduce the number of new gas boilers installed but it’s thought to be unlikely that gas boilers will be banned altogether in the immediate future.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that the UK should ban all fossil fuel boilers from 2025. The agency has proposed 400 steps in a special report to reach net-zero and this is just one of them. The UK government is expected to reveal its own strategy in the next month, before the crucial Climate Summit in Glasgow (COP26) starting at the end of October. It is thought that the new strategy could spell the end of the great British gas boiler once and for all.

The current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, has predicted that the cost of electric-powered heat pumps will halve if the government backs them as a replacement for gas boilers which is a clear sign that the government will endorse this technology later this year.

When challenged as to whether the cost of the technology would make it a feasible solution on a large scale, the Business Secretary said:

“Once you’ve made a very clear indication as a government that that is the way you want to go, suppliers will invest in producing heat pumps and will be able to produce them at a much cheaper cost so that the retail price would be considerably lower than £10,000.”

The heat and buildings strategy is due to be published in the Autumn and is expected to lay out a detailed timeline for the removal of boilers from not only new-build homes but existing housing stock, to help decarbonise our homes. It is anticipated that this long-awaited policy paper will include a replacement for the current Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which is due to close in March 2022.

The Renewable Heat Incentive gives financial support to people who use certain renewable technologies such as heat pumps, to heat their homes. The payments help you offset the cost of installing and running your new heating system. You could cover your initial outlay with the quarterly instalments paid to you over a 7 -year period. It has been reported that ministers are considering replacing the RHI with a £400m boiler scrappage scheme, which would offer £7,000 grants to homeowners when the RHI scheme closes.

Though the government is continuing its trials on hydrogen boilers as an alternative to our current gas boilers, heat pumps have emerged as the clear choice for individual households. They are deemed to be the most viable option at this time. Heat pumps are already popular despite them being a lot more expensive than gas boilers at present. A good heat pump installation will tend to have a longer lifespan than gas boilers and many offer cooling in the summer months as well as heat during the summer.

According to the Heat Pump Association, at least 36,000 heat pumps were installed in homes and businesses across the UK last year and this number is expected to almost double this year to between 60,000 and 70,000. However, this figure will need to rise tenfold within the next 7 years to meet the target set by Boris Johnson last November to install 600,000 a year by 2028. It has been estimated that gas systems need to be replaced in an estimated 23 million homes in the UK.

Many homes need extensive insulation work before heat pumps can be installed which is an additional though necessary expense. Heat pump technology is improving all the time and the more popular they become the lower the upfront costs will be.

In simple terms, a heat pumps works like a reverse fridge, by extracting energy or warmth from the outside air, the ground or nearby water, and concentrating the heat before transferring it inside.


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Richard Lowes, a heating expert at the Regulatory Assistance Project says:

“It requires a mindset change. Rather than relying on a powerful burst of fossil fuels to quickly heat a cold house, it is more important for heat pumps to run continuously – albeit at a very low level – to gently top up the heating to an even temperature. Your fridge doesn’t blast cold air constantly. But it keeps your food cool by adjusting to very slight increases in temperatures, and only when necessary.”

There are 3 main obstacles that the government will need to overcome if heat pumps are to go mainstream; the high upfront cost; generally low levels of home insulation; and the negative word of mouth stories created by faulty installations.

Richard Lowes says:

“Heat pumps are rarely faulty. So, when you hear horror stories, it’s usually due to bad advice or poor installation. It’s a myth that heat pumps can’t work in old or terraced houses – they just might require a little more work. Even if you can’t manage to do internal wall insulation, a heat pump can still work – you just might have to get a bigger one.”

It’s not just heat pumps that work best in homes which are well-insulated, but it particularly applies to them because they provide a steady, gentle source of heat to maintain an even temperature rather than the blast of fossil fuels that draughty buildings need to warm up.

Possibly the greatest challenge faced by the the home heating revolution is the large numbers of trained installers that will be needed to carry it out.

Mark McManus, the managing director of heat pump maker Stiebel Eltron UK says:

“If there’s any problem in the industry, it’s probably the skills gap. There are a small number of well-trained installers in the UK. But once this skills gap closes there is likely to be better service and greater competition, which could cause costs to fall further.”

The Heat Pump Association has set up a new programme in order to bridge the skills gap which in theory could train up to 40,000 installers a year.

Business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng has welcomed this move which he sees as critical in turning up the heat on the government’s low-carbon ambitions and creating more jobs within the green economy.

He says:

“There is a transition, and that’s something we’re focused on, and we want to try and help people make that transition.”

There are many advantages to installing a heat pump including amongst others, lower running costs, less maintenance, better safety and most important of all lower carbon emissions. If there’s the political will to instigate a heating revolution and it’s backed by robust training programmes, we should see heat pumps becoming widespread across the UK.

REA Calls for 2021 to be a Turning Point for Renewables

2022 renewable Energy

Though the UK government has made historic climate promises in the past year, delivery on them has been too slow. New climate strategies have been shrouded in uncertainty and those that have emerged have too often not been unsuccessful. According to a new report from the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), the UK will not meet its net zero target without additional investment and policy support. Every month of inaction will make it harder for the UK to get on track.

The REA noted in its annual state of the industry report, REview21, that despite the renewable energy and clean technology sector continuing to be buoyant, it was being stifled by a lack of consistent, proactive and long-term support from the government.

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, CEO of the REA, said:

“The same goes for employment. Again, we have seen decent progress, with nearly 140,000 people now being employed by the renewable energy and clean tech industry and we believe that nearly 200,000 extra jobs could be created by 2035.”

She believes that the number of new jobs created could be even greater if the government backs the renewables industry properly and puts it at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery. She cautioned however, that these job projections are not guaranteed.


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She went on to say:

“If the sector continues to receive patchy and short-term support from the government then we could fall well short of our sector’s, and, indeed, the country’s economic potential. We need these new jobs to be fairly distributed across every region and country that makes up the United Kingdom too.”

The Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan for a green industrial revolution was an important initiative but it has yet to be backed with robust policies. So far there hasn’t been any real engagement with the public as to what changes lie ahead.

It is now critical that the new strategy is published before the COP26 climate summit due to be held in Glasgow, with clear policy plans that are backed by the Treasury. Importantly, though, the new strategy must be accompanied by a commitment to get the country ready for the serious climate risks facing the UK, as the next phase of adaptation planning starts.

According to government statistics, renewables provided a record 43% of the UK’s electricity last year, up from 37% in 2019.

The Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published that for the first time ever in 2020, increased wind generation meant that renewable energy sources generated more electricity than fossil fuels. Wind generation increased by 18% compared with 2019 which set a record in the annual quantity of power it produced, providing 75.7 terawatt hours (TWh), up from 64TWh in 2019.

Fossil fuel generation fell to a record low in 2020, providing 37.7% of electricity. Gas produced 35.7% while coal fell to just 1.8%.

The pace of growth in new renewable capacity was also thought to be slowing down with just 1GW added in 2020 which was the lowest since 2007. However, the UK’s solar sector appears to be picking up again. Research from Current± publisher Solar Media found earlier this year, that in the 12 months to 21 March 2021, 660MW of new PV was installed, and that there is now in excess of 15GW in the pipeline.

RenewableUK CEO Dan McGrail said:

“This is stellar news in the year that the UK is hosting the biggest international summit on climate change for years. It shows that this country is playing a leading role in the global energy transition, with renewables becoming the dominant source of new power generation – outstripping fossil fuels for the first year ever and setting new record highs across the board. It’s another significant step on the road to net zero emissions, but we need to move even faster and decarbonise the power sector by 2035.”

The Met Office is warning that the UK is already undergoing disruptive climate change and that it is vital that practical action is taken at scale against the biggest threat that we face to our way of life.

The REA are calling for six monthly contracts of difference (CfD) auctions to allow further renewables to come onto the UK’s grid. They want adequate budgeting with a clear rolling timetable for these auctions, as well as new support for small scale projects and the removal of VAT on domestic installations. The Treasury recently revealed that it had no plans to change the VAT levels on ‘green products such as solar panels and heat pumps despite repeated calls from the industry to use such a change to drive growth. 

The REA’s report REview21, said that support should be provided for all technologies including bioenergy, which they believe has a “vital value” the government should acknowledge, and that innovation funding should be reformed to enable more renewable and clean technologies to benefit from it.

It is essential for the grid to be reformed to ensure that the UK has an efficient grid network that facilitates renewables and clean tech and aids their growth. The REA would also like to see a definitive decarbonisation priority incorporated into Ofgem’s key performance indicators and activities.

In response to the increasing calls for the decarbonisation of heat to become a priority in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson released his ten-point plan in November 2020. The plan set out a goal of 600,000 heat pumps to be installed every year by 2028. The Green Homes Grant launched in September 2020 was designed to support the installation of energy efficiency measures as well as heat pumps and solar thermal. However, the grant was dropped after just 6 months which led to a rise again in calls for action.

The REA is asking for a coordinated, long-term policy framework to enable the decarbonisation of heat in the UK. The policy framework should support all renewable technologies, and work should be undertaken to close policy gaps for business and industry. The REA thinks that there should be tariff support for the replacement of fossil fuels, funded CfDs for industrial heat decarbonisation and tax benefits.

Impressive progress has been made in recent times to decarbonise the transport sector, according to the REA. This is thanks in part to the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid market. Now that there is a ban in place on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2030 the growth in EVs is clear to see. Between 2019 and 2020, the market share of new car registrations for EVs and hybrid cars rose from 3.17% to 10.56% the REA said.

The REA believe that the government should look to offer long-term support to the transport sector by maintaining adequate grant funding to overcome areas of market failure and by supporting local authorities to improve charging infrastructure networks.

The REA and Innovas put employment figures together for the renewable industry as part of the finance chapter of the Review21 report. They found that for the financial year 2018/2019, there were 133,977 people employed in the sector, while in 2019/2020 there were 138,264 people employed. This is an increase of 3.2% from 2018/2019.

Once again, the REA think that the right policy environment would make a big difference. They forecast that there could be 222,000 jobs in the renewable energy and clean technologies sector by 2035, more than double employment figures for 2019/2020.

Though the renewable industry is continuing to grow, the REA would like to see further support across the country to make the most of the opportunities green energy growth provides for job creation. Their findings back up a recent call to action from the Green Jobs Taskforce amongst others, for the UK government to support the ambition to create 2 million skilled jobs by 2030.

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, CEO of the REA, said:

“If the government is serious about reaching their net zero ambitions, and about ‘levelling up’, they need to back our sector, remove the barriers preventing the growth of our technologies and help us deliver new jobs and investment. 2021, the year the UK is hosting COP26, must be a watershed moment. The time for rhetoric is over, we need to see action.”

We saw UK emissions falling to nearly 50% of their 1990 levels during the 2020 lockdown, but the journey to Net Zero is far from even half completed. Emissions are expected to rebound this year which suggests that lasting progress in reducing emissions is on a very unstable footing. The relative success we have achieved in decarbonising electricity must continue, but it needs to be matched with solid commitments to decarbonise buildings, transport, industry and agriculture.

All New Prisons to be Zero-Carbon in the Future

The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. In order to achieve this target, the UK needs to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. This is more ambitious than the previous target which required at least an 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

With this aim in mind, the government is working towards tackling climate change by adopting many different strategies. In May this year, the Ministry of Justice announced plans for 4 new prisons to be built in England that would be all-electric. The prisons will use heat pumps instead of gas for heating and a range of energy efficiency measures such as smart lighting systems and solar technology in order to reduce energy demand by half. The aim is to cut energy costs by £100 million over the next 60 years and to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 85% the equivalent of 280,000 tonnes, in comparison to other prisons already under construction.

The prison buildings will use new technology and modern methods of construction that produce as much or more energy than they consume.

An all-electric design will remove the need for gas boilers which means that once the National Grid decarbonises, they will produce net-zero emissions.


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Once the grid is fully decarbonised, the prisons’ use of both the self-generated electricity and the grid for heating and electricity will mean they can run net-zero.

The Ministry of Justice said that it was looking to achieve the gold standard ‘outstanding’ rating in Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method for its four new prisons. Future prison expansions will also be built to similar standards.

The first of the four new prisons are being built adjacent to HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire. In the meantime, work is underway to identify locations for another site in the north-west of England and two more in the south-east of England.

Lessons are being learnt from the construction of other prisons in the UK, such as HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire and HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire to help cut carbon in both construction and operation. Everyone is benefiting from the reduction in CO2 emissions as both are being constructed more sustainably than existing prisons by using recycled concrete and steel as well as incorporating green energy.

Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, said:

“Our ambitious approach offers a unique opportunity to build back a safer and greener prison system. New jails will use new green technologies and modern methods of construction to ensure our prisons cut carbon emissions as well as reoffending.”

Existing prisons are also benefiting from a £15 million investment to cut their emissions. Solar modules are being installed at a further 16 locations in the UK in order to meet 20% of their power demand bringing the total number of solar panels across the government’s estate to over 20,000. Further to this, more than 200 electric vehicle charging points are also being installed across 40 prisons.

Even as far back as February this year, Gov Facility Services announced that it was planning to install solar on 2 prisons in Southern England. One of these was a rooftop installation at HMP Bure near Norwich in Norfolk and the other a ground-mounted installation at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire.

This move by the Ministry of Justice to rollout solar followed the quiet end to the government solar initiative in 2018 after only 100MW of a promised 1GW was installed across HMG property.

The latest developments are part of the government’s £4 billion programme to create 18,000 additional modern prison places that could boost rehabilitation and cut re-offending.

Is it Worth Investing in Solar Tiles?

solar tiles

Over 1 million UK households now have solar systems installed on their property according to the Solar Trade Association. Their popularity is due at least in part to the decreasing costs of solar technology. Most of these households will have on-roof solar panels but solar tiles are being recognised more and more as a viable alternative. New-build homes are increasingly being fitted with solar tiles as standard and their occupants will benefit from the savings on electricity bills that solar power has been proven to bring over the last couple of decades.

Though solar roof tiles will not be suitable for every homeowner, they are a great solution for those who are planning to build a new roof and want it to look as aesthetically pleasing as possible while incorporating solar energy.  If you don’t want to compromise the style of your house but wish to generate clean energy this may be the technology for you.


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Most solar power companies are busy improving the power and efficiency of solar panels, but there are a few who are focusing on making them look better and more natural.

Solar tiles, also known as solar shingles or solar slates work just like solar panels but they are made to look like traditional roof tiles. They are made up of photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity in the same way as solar panels. Solar roof tiles are small modules that can be attached to your existing shingles or substitute them. They are made of thin film PV or classic monocrystalline solar cells.

While solar panels are much cheaper and generally more efficient than solar tiles, the overall appearance of a home or building can sometimes be more important. This may particularly be the case when looking at investing in solar energy for a listed building. The same applies if you live in a protected area where changes to the buildings are not permitted for aesthetic reasons. Solar tiles can be useful for getting around tough building regulations as well as for retaining the original appearance of a building.

The price of solar tiles used to be much higher than it is now, and they are becoming more price-competitive and popular as time goes on. They were once considered a premium product for those who wanted a traditional roofline but are now a more common alternative to “bolt-on” solar panels.

Advantages of solar roof tiles

  • Solar roof tiles are almost invisible: This is probably the biggest advantage of this technology. Solar tiles are sleek and subtle. They look like a planned part of the structure, rather than having been tacked on as an afterthought. If you have solar panels on your roof, usually everyone will know that they are there!
  • Solar roof tiles, just like solar panels will generate clean, free energy for you:  You can save money on your electricity bills as solar tiles can generate a significant amount of the electricity that your household uses. Based on an electricity bill of £600 a year, your household could save over 50% on its annual energy charges with a 4kW solar roof tile system. The smallest option, a 1kW system, will produce savings closer to 15%.
  • You can also take advantage of the Smart Export Guarantee to export any electricity that you don’t use to the National Grid. Your energy supplier will pay you for this excess electricity.
  • Solar roof tiles are more durable than traditional, bolt-on panels: Solar panels can last up to 40 years or more, but because they are rigid modules mounted on metal, they can be damaged by extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes. In-roof solar tiles are fixed to rafters and battens which means there are no gaps for wind to get underneath and so they are extremely secure. Solar roof tiles are tough as nails and even a hurricane force wind would not be able to rip them off. Tesla’s solar tiles, for example, are up to three times tougher than traditional tiles so they can provide your roof with some serious protection.
  • Solar roof tiles are a great option for new buildings: They help to reduce wasted roof space and maximise solar efficiency. Their installation is simple, quick, and can be done by any roofer or solar installer.
  • Solar roof tiles are Ideal for listed buildings: If you live in a listed property or within a conservation area, you may not be allowed to alter the appearance of your home. Fortunately, solar tiles are a great way to keep the switch to solar inconspicuously. It’s important to always consult with your local authority before proceeding.
  • Solar roof tiles can increase the value of your property: This is due to the demand for green energy being high and growing all the time.
  • Solar roof tiles require minimal maintenance: Because there are no visible fixings or spaces under roof-integrated solar tiles, there is nowhere for debris to build up on the roof.  There is also the added benefit of not needing to disassemble a roof-integrated system if roof maintenance or repairs need to be carried out.

 Disadvantages of solar roof tiles

  • Solar roof tiles cannot be installed on an already existing roof: They are only suitable if they are being used for new buildings or if the plan is to substitute all the tiles on an already existing building. This is because solar and traditional shingles must be installed at the same time. Solar panels, on the other hand, can be installed even after your roof is finished.
  • Not all roofs can accommodate them: The roof must be pitched and angled perfectly for solar roof tiles to work. Solar panels, however, have a better chance of being positioned even on ‘difficult’ roofs.
  • The initial cost of buying solar roof tiles is higher than of traditional asphalt ones: Currently, solar roof tiles are a more expensive option than traditional bolt-on panels. If you are already planning to build a new roof, however, the added cost of installing solar tiles might not be so restrictive.
  • Solar roof tiles are slightly less efficient: The efficiency of solar tiles tends to range between 10-20%, while high-efficiency solar panels generally achieve 18-25% efficiency.
  • Solar roof tiles take longer to install: Of course, replacing a whole roof takes far longer than just installing a few solar panels which can of course add quite a bit to the total cost.

How much electricity can solar tiles generate?

There are a few factors which influence the amount of energy that solar tiles can generate including:

  • The more solar roof tiles there are, the more electricity they can generate.
  • The length of time the sun is out, as the longer the exposure to the sun the greater the amount of electricity that can be generated.
  • The pitch of your roof and the orientation of the south-facing roof in relation to the position of the sun will make a difference.
  • The efficiency of the make of solar tiles purchased will also affect the amount of energy that can be generated.

How much do solar roof tiles cost?

Solar tiles can cost more than twice as much as solar panels. To give an example, a 4kW solar tile system will typically cost between £12,000 and £16,000, while a 4kW solar panel system usually costs between £6,000 and £8,000.

They are more expensive because the tiles are a newer technology in a less competitive market and the installation process is longer and more complex.

The cost of a solar tile system is difficult to estimate as it will depend on the size of the roof and what proportion of the roof is being covered.

Though a solar tile system may seem an attractive option, solar tile technology is still in its infancy and currently expensive. There are also very few UK suppliers at present. If you are a homeowner considering converting your home to solar power, you may find solar panels the best fit for your requirements.

Why You Should Install Solar Panels On Your Home in 2021

More people than ever before are looking for environmentally friendly ways to power their homes. We live in an age when electricity has never been more important. We use electricity for almost everything from our home appliances and lighting fixtures to our computers, laptops, and mobiles. This large appetite for electricity makes it imperative to look at alternatives to using fossil fuels to generate the power we need.

Installing a solar array is most likely to be one of the green solutions you are considering. Solar panels use photovoltaic cells to harness the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. You don’t have to live in California to benefit from solar power as panels can still generate some electricity on gloomy days. If solar panels are used efficiently, the average home in the UK can generate 50-60% of the power needed to supply its electricity.

The cost of installing a solar array is certain to be a concern but despite the lack of government subsidies over the past couple of years solar panels are still a fantastic and affordable investment. The economics of solar power has changed due to the steady drop in solar prices over recent years. An increase in demand and the development of new technology has led to solar panel costs falling by 50% over the past decade.

Solar panels are becoming an increasingly attractive option for homeowners because solar panels are an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution to energy consumption in the home. They can also offer a secure return on investment and on top of that they require very little maintenance.


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Here are some of the reasons why you should install solar panels:

  • Solar panels are currently cheap to install

Solar panel costs have dropped dramatically over the past few years. The price of a typical solar panel system installation will cost between £5,000 and £8,000 and is getting cheaper. In recent years, the price of installing panels has decreased by 70%. According to government data, installing 4kW of solar panels in the first 3 months of 2020 was already £288 cheaper, on average, than it was in 2019. It can take anywhere between 15 and 26 years to recoup your costs for a typical home depending on where you live, how much electricity you use and what you’re paid under the smart export guarantee. 

  • You can save money on your utility bills

Solar energy is free to use, as sunlight is free! You can use the electricity your panels generate, to significantly reduce your electricity bills. How much you save will depend on your system size, electricity use and whether you are home during the day to use the energy that you’re producing. If you’re at home all day it will take less time to recoup your initial outlay on the installation, probably between 15 to 18 years depending on where you live as you will need to use less electricity from the grid. Using the power from your solar panels at the right time is key to saving money on your electricity bills. It’s a good idea to set appliances up to run while it’s light outside during the winter for example, staggering them to make the maximum savings. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical 4kWp system can knock between £90/year and £240/year off your utility bill (kWp stands for kilowatt peak – how the power produced by panels is measured).

Overall, the cost of domestic solar electricity is now around 8p per kWh. This is a lot less than the 16p average domestic import cost from the grid, a cost that has increased by an average 4.75% each year over the past decade. Just taking this fact into consideration will make installing solar PV extremely worthwhile as you will be protecting yourself against future increases in the cost of importing power from the grid.

  • Get paid for any excess energy you generate

Back in January 2020, the government launched a new scheme known as the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) to pay households that install solar panels. All large energy providers in England, Scotland, and Wales with at least 150,000 customers are required to pay homeowners for the renewable electricity they export back to the grid. This is electricity you generate but don’t use yourself that is then pumped back to the National Grid for use in other homes and businesses. In order to qualify for the SEG your solar panel system must be 5MW capacity or less and both your solar PV system and installation must be MCS accredited. MCS, or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is a quality assurance scheme for microgeneration technologies. Technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. You’ll also need a smart meter that’s capable of tracking how much solar electricity you’re exporting to the grid to be able to receive the SEG.

Energy suppliers offer tariffs that pay a set rate for each kilowatt (kWh) hour of energy you export. The amount you receive varies by supplier and you’re free to shop around to get the best rates. Rates currently range from just 1.5p per kWh to 11.0p per kWh. Depending on your circumstances, a 4kWp solar panel system could make around £340 per year which will go a long way to helping you recoup your original investment. The great thing about the SEG is that you no longer need to feel that your unused electricity is being wasted and SEG rates should gradually increase as energy companies compete with one another.

  • Reduce your carbon emissions

Installing solar panels is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Solar energy is a natural, renewable source because it can be replenished unlike fossil fuels which are finite. Unlike non-renewable fossil fuels like coal and oil, solar is clean and does not produce greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide or harmful pollutants. Solar panels use only the natural renewable energy of the sun to generate electricity. The Energy Saving Trust estimates the average UK home with a solar PV system installed could reduce carbon emissions by 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes per year depending on where you live in the UK.

Using solar energy contributes to a much cleaner atmosphere. There’s no doubt that this is both good for our health and for the environment. By installing a solar panel system, you’ll be taking advantage of an eco-friendly way to make your home more energy efficient.

  • Use a reliable energy source

If you install a home solar system, you will no longer have to rely on traditional power sources of electricity which can be unreliable. Non-renewable sources of energy are limited and will eventually run out. You can have peace of mind knowing that solar energy will never run out.

  • Little maintenance is required

Home solar systems are easy to maintain. In fact, solar panels are very durable, and it can be several years before they require maintenance, which means less hassle for homeowners. You simply need to ensure that the surface of the solar panels is clean, and they’re not overshadowed by trees. The inverter will need replacing after 20 years which costs about £800, but solar panels will last 20+ years with little maintenance required. If your solar system has been properly installed and well-designed you shouldn’t have to worry about maintenance very much at all. There are of course things that can go wrong. Make sure your installer warranty covers you for up to 20 years.

If the panels have been damaged by something unexpected such as a storm, you may also be covered by buildings insurance. It’s worth checking what your insurance covers before you have the solar panels installed.

  • You can still switch energy supplier

You don’t have to get your electricity supply and smart export guarantee tariff from the same company. You can even pair solar panels with a renewable energy tariff, if you want to be fully green. Just like everyone else, solar panel users can switch tariffs freely by joining a service such as Money Saving Expert’s Cheap Energy Club.

  • Planning permission should not be needed

Most of the time you will not need planning permission for solar PV systems. There are a few exceptions which include, if your property has a flat roof, is listed or in a conservation area.

You might need to get approval from your council’s building control team, so remember to check with your local authority before starting your solar project.

In England and Wales, the Government’s Planning Portal says that panels are likely to be considered as “permitted development”.

Looking at the benefits listed above I think you can safely say that home solar systems are a worthwhile investment. Despite the lack of government subsidies, as long as you use at least 50% of your solar power on site, with a sensible choice of import tariff, solar will make financial sense. The more solar energy you use on site the more you will save. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the cost of grid electricity is constantly rising. Finally, I’d like to stress the importance of making sure you find a reliable and trustworthy service provider that can provide you with a quality home solar system and handle its installation and maintenance.