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Solar panels should be compulsory on all new-build homes say Good Energy

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New analysis released by Good Energy this week shows that the introduction of compulsory solar panels on the 1.5m new-build properties Labour has pledged to build within five years of forming a government would generate enough electricity to power an additional 1.17m homes through surplus energy shared back with the grid.

According to the data, based on smart meter readings from more than 900 of the company’s domestic solar customers over more than 12 months; if a typical 4kW solar array was installed on each of the 1.5m homes they would generate 6GW, achieving more than 10% of the 50GW of solar power Labour wishes to reach by 2030. Based on Good Energy’s findings that the average UK homeowner sends 60% of the solar electricity generated to the grid, more than 3.1TWh of this power would be available to others. 

Furthermore, a home with a 4kW solar array would save around £313 on their energy bill (based on the latest price cap unit rate) and the export would be worth a further £315 (based on the current 15p export rate), collectively earning households around £600 annually. 

As a result Good Energy say that the UK has been undervaluing the potential impact of small-scale solar generation, which could have a significant contribution to the UK’s energy mix with the implementation of relatively straightforward policies. The company is therefore calling for the next government to introduce a range of measures to boost the contribution of small-scale solar generation, of which compulsory solar panels on new-build homes would be the top priority.

Nigel Pocklington, chief executive officer of Good Energy, said:

“This study shows that small-scale solar’s contribution to cutting the country’s carbon has long been undervalued. There is a bias towards thinking only ‘big’ is beautiful in energy, and a lack of data from microgenerators hasn’t helped. But we’re looking to change that.

“Supporting people to generate their own clean power is a clear and economical way to achieving our climate targets as a country. Instigating a strong energy policy that is based on home-grown renewables should be a core priority for the incoming government, and measures such as mandating solar panels on new-build homes would be an important and highly effective component of that – as well as making a meaningful contribution to zero carbon power goals.”

Thus far data on the total electricity generation of UK homes has been available via manual meter readings, but following the roll-out of smart export metering, which Good Energy provides to over 70,000 customers, robust information on the electricity exported by the average solar home is now available.

Houses with solar have been paid for the electricity they generate since 2004 when Good Energy created its HomeGen scheme, which became the blueprint for the government’s Feed-in-Tariff (FiT), launched in 2010. The FiT scheme offers a 50% export payment for non-smart metered generators, regardless of how much a solar household shares back with the grid or uses itself. This arbitrary figure was set when the FiT originally launched, and was based on an assumption about how much power these microgenerators would use, which has likely increased since due to technology improvements increasing average install capacity.

The FiT, which closed to new registrants in 2019 and was replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), is still by far the largest scheme under which small scale solar generators can be paid for their power. Today, there remains over 870,000 FiT accredited generators in the UK with a total capacity of just under 6.5GW – about double the planned capacity of Hinkley Point C.

According to the renewable energy company, a relatively straightforward route for mandating solar panels on new homes would be through the Government’s proposed Future Homes Standard, scheduled to apply from 2025. If implemented the mandate for solar would save homeowners bills and carbon emissions while enabling them and housing associations to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

Other recommendations include the introduction of grants and/or zero-interest loans to incentivise retrofits, in line with Scotland which provides grants of up to £7,500 with an additional £7,500 interest free loan optional, and the removal of archaic rules tethering customers to the same company for both electricity and export to give them freedom of choice and access to more competitive products.

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