Large Scale Solar UK Conference

Solar in the UK is more compelling than ever

Solar Street

Image credit: Sharp Solar

This week British Gas reported an 11% rise in profits. A particularly cold snap was to thank for a 12% increase in gas consumption that was worth £606 million to the energy giant.

British Gas’s profit announcement comes less than four months after the supplier upped its tariffs by 6.5%. According to the Express, the average annual British Gas energy bill has risen from £543 in 2004, to £821 in 2008, and now stands at £1,336.

What’s more concerning is that energy bills in the UK are only going one way – up. Outgoing Ofgem Chief Executive, Alistair Buchanan, said that he expects the impending closure of around 10% of the UK’s generation capacity within the next month to lead to an over-reliance on imported energy. He said: “Ofgem estimates that, by 2020, 60% to 70% of our generation may have to come from gas to fill the gap. That’s up from about 30% today.”

The UK’s over-reliance on volatile global gas markets means that more energy bill price rises are inevitable. But there is another way.  

A large 4kW domestic solar PV system can now be purchased for around £7,000 (the same amount of money the average British Gas customer spends in five years).

Forget the feed-in tariff for now. What that £7,000 buys you is a way out – an escape from the Big Six’s stranglehold. For the next 20 years (absolute minimum) not only will your consumption of grid electricity drop dramatically, but you will also be insulated from any future energy bill hikes passed down from suppliers. As an added benefit, the feed-in tariff scheme will allow you to earn returns in the region of 8-12% by paying you for every unit of electricity you generate.

Ben Hill, Head of Europe at Trina Solar, is keen to stress that consumers can be proactive in fighting rising energy bills, he said: “Consumer choice in where we source our energy from is still in its infancy, so the public can be forgiven for not realising that they don’t have to just accept whatever their energy provider puts in their bill. Installing solar PV is a real alternative and will help residential and commercial consumers insulate themselves from the impact of the UK’s growing reliance on foreign gas,” he said.

 “The current level of feed-in tariff continues to represent good value for residential consumers, and with balance-of-system costs coming right down, rooftop panels can yield the same return on investment in percentage terms as they did before the cuts. And when you factor in the likelihood of increases to wholesale electricity prices, self-generation can offer a good deal of financial security. Untapping the full potential of the residential sector will be crucial to sustaining the upward trend of the UK market, and official recognition like this is an invaluable proof point of the importance of solar PV that will help the industry do just that,” he concluded.

In one of my previous blogs I argued that solar companies need to start selling the emotional benefits of solar. Now more than ever, the emotions of empowerment and independence are extremely relevant and compelling.

The domestic solar market is continuing to flatline and consumer confusion is rife. Now is the time for clear messages: every solar PV-owner is independent and in control of their energy bills for the next 20 years. 

With no degression for <50kW size installations until August, the UK solar industry has a wonderful platform and opportunity to underline just why it forced itself into the government’s reckoning and the renewables roadmap.

Peter Bennett

Solar Power Portal, News Editor

Peter Bennett joined Solar Media in December 2011 as Junior Editor of Solar Power Portal. Read more about Peter Bennett →

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