An estimated 1.5 million homes in the UK are now powered by solar energy, with many Britons choosing to install panels onto their properties to take advantage of the government’s Feed In Tariff (FIT) scheme. Introduced in April 2010, the scheme allows households and small producers to make money by installing solar panels. The FIT pays 4p for every unit generated, with potential annual earnings of £140. You’ll also save money on your electricity bills for the energy you do use.
However, as Nick Spicer, director at Your Eco observes, the savings made by going ‘off grid’ remain substantial. Spicer says: “These days, the drivers for domestic solar are very much self-reliance and saving money by not having to buy energy from utility companies – which can be substantial over the long term. The FIT scheme is less important.” Household solar energy explained Maximum annual solar capacity allowed for small producers under FIT scheme: 50kW Average annual solar capacity of a UK household: 4kW Average units of energy created per 1kW: 900 kWh Average annual units created by a household: 3,600 kWh
The rapidly decreasing cost of solar panels has – along with the FIT scheme – been one of the driving factors behind increased installation in recent years. Your Eco estimates it now costs around £1,250 per 1 kW of capacity to install solar panels onto a UK home. With the average home requiring around 4kW’s of capacity, this brings the total cost to around £5,000. This, Spicer says, compares to around £12,000 to install a solar panel system in 2010 and is one of the justifications the government has given for reducing the FIT rate: He says: “The FIT was always designed to help people recoup the costs of installing solar. Now those costs are much lower the government has – rightly or wrongly – reduced it’s funding.”
Is solar still worth it if I can’t get FIT? As Spicer highlights, FIT is no longer the chief driver behind solar. With the cost of installation standing at £5,000 and – according to Which? research – the average UK energy bill around £1,150, over ten years each household could be looking at an estimated cost saving of £6,500. And this is not accounting for energy price hikes, which we have – in-fact – just seen. Spicer says: “Today, the attractions of domestic solar energy are no about short-term government subsidies. They are about escaping the clutches of the big six energy companies, becoming energy self sufficient and – of course – fighting climate change.”