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91% of UK households would consider installing solar power 11.03.09

According to a new survey to be published by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) 91% of the UK population have considered or would consider buying solar photovoltaics (PV) to generate electricity at home

However, the survey also found that a purchase would most likely be made with the introduction of a good European style Feed-in tariff (FIT), where the clean energy payment price exceeds that of grid electricity purchase price. These findings come at a crucial time in renewable energy policy making as the government has committed to introduce a FIT for the UK in 2010, but the price for solar electricity is still to be determined.

Surveying over 750 households, the CAT research showed that 90% surveyed would consider and over 23% definitely buy PV if the FIT was 50p per unit of electricity or above. The current purchase price for grid electricity is 15p per unit, with some energy suppliers paying solar owners up to 20p per unit for their exported electricity including the value of green certificates. The FIT incentive was considered of far greater significance than a grant, and could be teamed with a tax break or low interest loan similar to a student loan.

Of those surveyed, only 2% owned solar photovoltaics; with 92% believing that the government has not done enough to promote the technology. The majority put off by perceptions of a long payback, 63% wanted this period to be around seven years, with a good FIT determined as the best mechanism.

Interestingly, the research found knowledge of PV to be high although 75% of respondents didn’t think PV could generate sufficient electricity despite having an annual electricity consumption of between 3,000 to 4,000 units a year, and understanding that PV requires only daylight to create electricity.

Mark Watson, who conducted the research at the Graduate school for the environment at CAT, says: “Photovoltaic systems are one of the easiest renewable energy technologies to integrate in towns and cities, as they can be installed on roofs and building facades with minimal intrusion. And as the survey results show, they are generally liked by the general public. Despite this, PV uptake in the UK is still very low compared to countries such as Germany. I was determined to investigate why. It’s now clear that setting the FIT at the right level could really tip the balance of demand.”

Seb Berry of the UK PV Manufacturers group says: “There is clearly a very high level of demand for solar power in the UK. Householders see it as a proven, reliable, effective and easy to install technology. “We Support Solar" has been launched to reflect this demand, raise the profile of solar power in the UK, and ensure that the need for solar is met with appropriate action. The Government’s own modelling suggests that it can make a significant contribution to the UK’s 2020 renewable energy targets and at domestic level solar power is a highly effective solution for delivering low carbon homes."

Solar PV has proven to be a very effective way of generating clean electricity in the UK as it relies on daylight not heat, requires little or no maintenance and will generate power for forty years plus. Many new homes are now being built across the country with solar electric roof tiles; a new and innovative way of replacing traditional roof tiles with solar power that can be installed by local roofers with minimal training and are virtually unnoticeable on buildings. Many thousands of new green jobs will be created in the solar power and roofing sectors in the UK if the feed-in tariff is set at an effective rate to encourage greater take-up of the technology.

Peter Shield

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