£1bn solar project set to power 800,000 UK homes

More than 800,000 low-income UK households will have access to cheap solar electricity in the next five years thanks to a £1bn Government-led programme.

Renewable energy provider Solarplicity will install the panels which are expected to reduce social housing tenant bills by an average of £240 a year. The project has received £160m funding from Dutch investors Maas Capital, it was announced on Saturday (2 September).

Commenting on the announcement, Department for International Trade (DIT) Minister Greg Hands said: “After a record year for new foreign investment into the UK, this initial £160m capital expenditure program will deliver massive benefits to some of the UK’s poorest households.

“As well as creating 1,000 jobs and delivering cheaper energy bills for up to 800,000 homes, it shows yet another vote of confidence in the UK as a place to invest and do business.”

‘Exciting growth’

More than 40 social landlords including local authorities will be involved across England and Wales. Almost 300,000 households in towns in the North West such as Oldham and Bradford will benefit from solar panels, while the North East and Midlands will also gain a significant proportion.

A Community Energy Scheme has been set up by Solarplicity to enable tenants to benefit from long-term guaranteed prices. Annual savings of £192m are anticipated compared to the Bix Six’s standard variable tariff.

Solarplicity chief executive David Elbourne said: “Today’s announcement is a reflection of our exciting growth in the energy market, backed by international capital investment through DIT. Solarplicity is committed to reducing energy bills for both solar and non-solar customers.”

Households are responsible for an estimated 20% of the UK’s total climate emissions. Unless this is addressed, the UK is likely to fall short of its climate change targets by as much as 30% by 2025, according to research released at the weekend by WWF. That report warned that it will take more than a century to fully decarbonise the existing UK housing stock at current home insulation rates.

George Ogleby

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