Some of the ‘more altruistic councils’ may be prepared to install solar PV on social housing with zero rates of return or even negative returns due to the social benefit, according to Chris Jardine, technical director, Joju Solar, who was speaking at Solar Energy UK today.

At the ‘Deploying solar at scale on social housing’ session, Jardine said: “Solar PV for social housing is a very attractive proposition from the tenants point of view.

“It delivers them economic benefits in the form of fuel savings and that can result in more money floating around the local economy.”

On the other hand councils can generate a long-term income, however, proposed changes to the feed-in tariff (FiT) have put the “economics at risk”. Without FiTs, councils’ stream of revenue is decreased and Jardine demonstrated that  if the FiT moves down to around 1.5p/kWh then the returns start to become negative.

Nevertheless stakeholders are lobbying for the social housing FiT to be retained, while some altruistic councils may be prepared to accept the low returns, due to the social benefits.

Mike Harrison, project delivery at Poole County Council, explained that social housing PV reduces fuel poverty and carbon footprints and can help residents pay rent. Problems of tenant engagement are often fixed as soon as one resident or neighbour has a system installed, as this tends to produce a knock-on effect.

He added: “If some tenants don’t have suitable roofs you can give them insulation or windows or other services to support their energy costs.”

Jardine said there were 120,000 domestic property PV installations last year and estimated that 40,000 of those were on social housing.

Due to the model of rolling down one street, installers can also expect a fairly rapid deployment rate.

In a blog for Solar Power Portal earlier this month, Stuart Elmes chief executive of Viridian Solar and chair of the Thermal Working Group of the Solar Trade Association, said: “A vast quantity of solar has been installed by local authorities and social housing providers to their building stocks. Much of this has been installed with third party finance. In this situation the owner of the solar system is a third party that collects the generation and export tariffs. The householder benefits from lower electricity bills (to the extent to which they use electricity during the daytime).

“It’s hard to see how this model survives in a world without generation tariffs.”

At  the Solar Energy UK session, Harrison warned councils and businesses that flexibility with the regular changes to grants and tariffs is key.

He said: “You really need to be ready to move forward as and when the next FiT or the next RHI comes to market.”