Yorkshire-based Solar Europa has begun work on what is thought to be one of the largest free solar schemes in the UK. Under a £1.2 billion contract signed with project finance specialist AD-ECO, the scheme will see approximately 200,000 council and housing association tenants across the country benefitting from solar panel installations.

The deal, which will run over four years, is expected to create up to 3,000 jobs for installation and maintenance teams UK-wide. By cutting electricity bills the initiative will help tenants across the country as well as providing a financial lifeline for councils and housing associations, who will earn substantial rental incomes for the next 25 years.

Solar Europa is now set to open discussions with councils and social landlords, with the first installations due to start from September.

Spokesman David Hawkins said, “With spiralling electricity costs hardly ever out of the news, fuel poverty is an important issue facing every social housing provider.

“Financial constraints have, until now, meant many housing associations and local authorities have been unable to invest in much-needed renewable technologies. Installing solar photovoltaic panels as part of a wider energy efficiency programme can help alleviate the problems of high energy costs for tenants.

“The average tenant who has solar panels installed can save as much as 50% off their annual electricity bill and that saving can make a massive difference to the lives of many householders across the country. This deal will go a long way towards helping housing providers meet the requirements of the Government's White Paper on reducing fuel poverty while at the same time, help them meet carbon reduction targets – and all at no cost to the tenant or landlord.”

A spokesman for AD-ECO added, “AD-ECO bring many years of financial experience and understand the importance of being able to deliver extremely flexible solutions to the end user – something that is vital in a sector which increasingly insists on a 'one size fits all' mind-set.

“The flexibility and innovation that Solar Europa brings to the design of individual projects was key to our choice.”