We stand presently in a state of transition. At the time of writing this article, the most lucrative residential solar power incentive ever to be offered in the United Kingdom is days from being cut in half. So what does this mean for those still considering purchasing a solar energy system for their home or property? Will the new rates kill off the residential market completely, or is there some tangible evidence of the investment remaining economically worthwhile? Let’s take a look.
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The new rates have been announced and the primary one to focus on for all residential sized installations is the now reduced Generation Tariff:
- 4kW and >4kW Installations: 21 pence per kWh generated
This adds to the other two incentives that come from a) saving energy otherwise bought from the grid and b) exporting surplus when over-producing. The Export Tariff rate remains at the negligibly effective 3 pence per kWh, but exporting simply isn’t going to happen in the vast majority of households and properties. Of more importance is the savings rate will continue to reflect the price you pay per kWh from your energy retailer. This currently stands on average of 13 pence for residential properties.
So all in all, let’s conservatively say we are going to be generating solar kWh’s worth:
(21p Generation + 13p Savings) 24 Pence per kWh
Whilst this is a significant reduction in the previous tariff rates, if a few other factors come into play then solar installations will remain a worthy investment for many thousands of people.
Let’s have a look at some other factors that may determine the feasibility of solar installations for thousands of people across the UK.
Areas of Development and Promise
Reduction in Upfront Capital Outlay
The first and most immediate change that we will see in the residential solar industry is a substantial reduction in upfront cost of purchasing a solar energy system. This will involve not only less profit margins for their own businesses but better rates at which they buy components, in-house adaptations for scaffolding and accounts to avoid external expenditure, streamlining sales and marketing and essentially running as efficiently as possible.
We expect this to account for anywhere between a 15% to 35% drop in prices by the time we arrive at late January 2012. This means the most price competitive are set to get as low as £8,500 or even better. This alone would catalyse returns on investment to reach back to their 8%-12% mark, easily trumping rates achievable with bank savings accounts or ISA’s. Ultimately this in itself is enough to recreate interest from large numbers of home and residential property owners, but let’s consider some other possibilities that may work in tandem.
It is a common retail and purchasing philosophy that buying more of something results in a better price per unit. Solar power installations for residential properties are not alienable from this. Community groups that are geographically localised have a significant advantage in that they can receive discounts by purchasing a solar energy system collectively. So long as a reputable and knowledgeable organisational arm is employed to do this work, comparisons can be made across the local installers and the best possible deal brokered. This lowers the upfront capital costs for all involved on often sliding scales up to 20%. Solar Community Organisers here at Solar Selections are experts at organising and facilitating such an effort. Contact us today for more information.
Remote Power Opportunities
Whilst the majority of the population live in relative proximity to power plants and the main grid, properties that are on islands or over mountains usually pay much higher rates for their energy. In Australia, our parent company Solar Choice invented a unique approach to assisting communities in some of the more isolated regions of the land down under. Because they were paying more for their energy, their systems saved them more and the returns on investment improved. If you’re unsure about how much you’re paying for your energy, have a look at your bills or contact your energy provider.
A solar power system is a very straightforward, low maintenance and low risk investment once installed, and bank and credit institutions across Europe are warming to this slowly. At this point in the UK there are several commercial opportunities for finance from groups such as Barclays. Over time, residential markets will present another opportunity for banks to lend money and charge interest so the market is expected to open up. More information on this will become available as it comes out.
These suggestions are merely a handful of methods that the residential solar industry will utilise to adapt to the tariff changes. By watching the pricing and ensuring potential customers investigate all of the best prices available, consider organising a community group and explore finance options, residential properties will find solar a worthwhile investment as soon as January 2012. For an up to date account of all the possibilities, contact Solar Selections today and speak to a dedicated member of staff.
Written by Jarrah Harburn
T: 0844 567 9835
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