UK: 800,000 social homes to be fitted with free solar panels
The UK government has taken the first step in a £1 billion programme to give over 800,000 poorer households across England and Wales access to cheap solar electricity.
International trade minister Greg Hands has welcomed £160 million of capital expenditure into UK renewable energy backed by Dutch investors Maas Capital which will help fund solar panels from UK firm Solarplicity to produce electricity for the homes.
The scheme will see Solarplicity partner with social housing providers to install panels on their housing stock, creating a Community Energy Scheme where tenants benefit from long-term guaranteed discounts on their bills. Around 100,000 households will receive panels in the next 18 months, and 800,000 in the next five years.
The panels will be free to social housing tenants, reducing their energy bills by an average of £240 a year, saving up to £192m in total, with 100% renewable electricity.
The deal will also create over 1,000 new jobs to install and maintain the panels. Many of these jobs will go to veterans from the armed forces, as Solarplicity helps re-train them into new maintenance careers.
Speaking from a social housing development in Ealing, West London, where new solar panels are being installed, Mr Hands said: “After a record year for new foreign investment into the UK, this initial £160m capital expenditure program will deliver massive benefits to some of the UK’s poorest households. As well as creating 1,000 jobs and delivering cheaper energy bills for up to 800,000 homes, it shows yet another vote of confidence in the UK as a place to invest and do business.”
Participating homes are spread throughout the country, with more than 40 social landlords involved including local authorities. Tenants in the North West will be the biggest beneficiaries with over 290,000 homes receiving solar panels in towns like Oldham and Bradford, followed by the North East and Midlands, with 184,000 and 154,000 homes from Leeds to Derby.
Greg Hands visited the Neville Close retirement housing site in West London, managed by the London Borough of Ealing where Solarplicity was installing solar panels. Social landlords across London who join the scheme will see up to 83,000 homes in the city benefit from cheaper energy bills.
The announcement follows a record year for foreign investment into the UK, with over 2,200 new projects in the last year including 53 from the Netherlands. UK renewable energy was a major beneficiary, with 87 new projects creating almost 3,000 new jobs.
David Elbourne, CEO, Solarplicity, said: “Today’s announcement is a reflection of our exciting growth in the energy market, backed by international capital investment through DIT. Solarplicity is committed to reducing energy bills for both solar and non-solar customers. Equipping them with the latest smart technologies, and 100% renewable energy, they are guaranteed to save with our Fair Market Price.”
Pieter Smit, investment director at Maas Capital, added: ‘This transaction is a prime example of how we support our partners in their ambitions towards creating a more sustainable future and to further accelerate the energy transition.’