The results are in for Energy Saving Solar’s 2015 survey of UK businesses and solar power. 200 UK businesses took part in what we believe is the largest commercial solar survey conducted in the UK to date, and it unearthed some surprising results.

Respondents were surveyed about a number of aspects of commercial solar including whether they would install solar panels, the feed-in tariff, funding options, property value and what they thought the barriers to the growth of commercial solar in the UK were. 

General findings indicate that there continues to be a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to the amount of electricity that can be generated, the installation process and the different means of funding the purchase of the panels, as well as concern about the lack of transparency of the industry as a whole. 

The overwhelming majority (77%) of respondents would install solar panels on their business premises given the chance. Of those who answered that they would not install them, most cited the fact that they were too expensive or that they didn’t own the building as reasons. 

Funding options

Surprisingly, the majority of respondents didn’t know about fully- and partly-funded install options. 

Cost is a main factor that deters businesses from installing solar but this issue could be circumvented if people opted for partly- or fully-funded options. Many respondents were not even aware that these options existed, one respondent stated: “I've just had solar panels installed on my business. Nobody ever mentioned fully or partially-funded options.”

Most businesses unaware of the true savings 

75% of businesses underestimate how much money can be saved on electricity by installing solar panels – the majority putting the figure at 0-20% and several believed that it was “negligible”. Generally, commercial solar panels will save a business approximately 30% on their electricity bills.  

Lack of information

Respondents were overwhelmingly vocal about the lack of information when it comes to planning permission and installation. There were special concerns for listed buildings and from businesses that didn’t own their roofs and, in terms of installation, the length of time it takes to install and if the potential interference with day-to-day business were concerns. 

Commercial solar: An image problem? 

Domestic solar doesn’t have the most unsullied of reputations, to many it conjures up images of slimy door-to-door salespeople, shoddy installation and fly-by-night operators. 

Commercial solar has been tarred with the same brush to a large degree, one respondent singled out the salespeople describing them as being “too pushy and insistent but not giving you clear advantages and disadvantages in relation to your business. Only the advantages are mentioned”. Another questioned their integrity saying: “Solar installers tend to be one trick ponies failing to include solar as part of an overall alternative energy package.”

Few respondents surveyed actually knew of another business that had solar panels, which means businesses are less likely to talk about installing panels or try to stay abreast of their competitors. None of the respondents mentioned solar panels in terms of giving them a competitive advantage. 

Many don’t know about the feed-in tariff

35% of respondents did not know what the feed-in tariff was. The public needs to be made more aware of how it works, especially when it comes to the partly and fully-funded options. Among those who did know about it however, there were concerns about the recent cuts to the tariff and how the cuts affected the cost of installation and the savings on electricity. 

The future of commercial solar 

In conclusion, the survey gained an interesting overview of the sentiment among businesses when it comes to solar. There is much work to be done to educate the public and ensure greater uptake in future. The full results of the survey can be viewed here