With the solar Feed-in Tariff coming to an end over two years ago, social landlords have struggled to make the financial case for installing solar PV on their housing stock. Despite there being clear carbon reduction benefits from installing PV, the tenant is the beneficiary of the free electricity generated, leaving landlords two possible options to recoup their investment cost; metering and selling the electricity (which brings with it a raft of licensing issues) or adding charges to the rents (which falls foul of the social housing rent cap). Neither option is popular with tenants.
But now, thanks to a new partnership with energy saving specialists Happy Energy Solutions, low carbon energy supplier EDF and Buckinghamshire-based solar company UKSOL, social landlords have access to a significant new grant through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), which could allow them to roll out solar PV across their stock with up to 80% of the costs covered. This means that they can invest in solar without having to consider complex options to recover costs, significantly boosting EPC ratings and reducing tenants’ energy bills.
A major opportunity for heat pumps
To be eligible for the ECO solar PV grant, properties must have an EPC of band D or below and be electrically heated. These criteria create a major opportunity and a solution for social landlords who have been looking to replace gas boilers with heat pumps, or hybrid heat pumps, to reduce their stock’s CO2 emissions as, once the heat pump is installed, subject to the home being an EPC band D or below, it is then eligible for the solar PV grant, creating a combination of two upgrades that offer both low CO2 emissions and lower bills for tenants.
This new grant has been made possible through a successful application to Ofgem, made by Happy Energy, in partnership with EDF, to obtain special status for the UKSOL optimised solar panel. This innovative panel, developed and manufactured by UKSOL in Spain, has a built-in optimiser, which not only negates the majority of any shading issues, but also provides a raft of safety benefits, helping to prevent both panel fires and offering electrical safety for solar operatives working on the roof.
Adrian Wright, CEO of Happy Energy Solutions said: “We were delighted to work with EDF and UKSOL on this joint project, to create an innovative solar panel and to open up a new grant opportunity for social landlords. There is a huge push for CO2 reductions to be made but, whilst heat pumps will achieve this, they could see more low-income social tenants pushed deeper into fuel poverty, so this new solar PV grant opportunity will help to overcome this dichotomy by generating up to £500 of free electricity for the tenant a year”.
Mark Dallen, consortium and stakeholder manager for EDF said: “As a low carbon producer energy supplier, EDF was proud to support Happy Energy’s ECO Innovation application for the UKSOL PV panel and we hope to offer funding to help landlords to roll out solar PV across their eligible housing stock.”
Andrew Moore, president of UKSOL said: “The grant scheme is an excellent opportunity for social landlords to reduce grid electricity consumption, cut bills and shrink carbon emissions without the burden of increased capital outlay associated with deploying solar power. UKSOL welcomes the opportunity to supply the initiative with UKSOL’s British brand of European-made optimised solar PV modules.
“Well done to Happy Energy Solutions and EDF Energy for making this valuable grant scheme a reality.”