Brits fitting solar and heat pumps as Government prepares to scale back bills support

Industry standards body MCS has revealed that a record 122,155 homes completed certified installations of renewable energy technologies between January and July.

It is predicting even stronger demand for the second half of the year; all in all, some 250,000 homes could complete installations before the year is out.

Home solar arrays proved particularly popular in the first half of 2023. Installation numbers were up 62% year-on-year, to more than 102,000 homes.

MCS estimates that the total installed capacity of small-scale renewable energy installations on British homes and businesses, mainly solar, now exceeds 4GW.

Most of the new solar arrays are not co-located with batteries. 1,000 homes and businesses installed batteries in the first half of 2023. Nonetheless, the battery market is growing rapidly; MCS recorded record installation figures each month between January and June.

The growth is attributed to the ongoing energy price crisis. While wholesale prices are falling, pre-crisis levels are not expected to be seen for several years yet. The Government is yet to fine-tune its plans for shielding homes from costs this winter following the expiration of the Energy Bill Support Scheme, which gave every household £400. Ministers are being urged to launch a more targeted alternative to support the most vulnerable homes.

The heat is on

Regarding low-carbon heating, previous research has shown that many homes are keen to fit heat pumps for benefits such as lower bills and lower carbon. But they often find the upfront cost of the technology options the biggest barrier.

A greater share of homes are forging ahead with installation nonetheless, with support from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. This provides grants of up to £6000 in England and Wales, rising to £9000 in Scotland. Almost 18,000 homes and businesses fitted a heat pump in the first half of the year.

MCS is warning that, while this growth is “promising”, there is “still much further to go” if the Government is to reach its target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.

In addition to working with the industry to bring down upfront costs, the body is urging Ministers to think more strategically about growing the base of workers skilled in low-carbon heat.

MCS estimates that 50,000 qualified heat pump installers will be needed by 2028. For context, fewer than 850 people trained in 2022.

Commenting on the report, the Heat Pump Federation’s director of external affairs Bean Beanland said: said “Whilst there is much to celebrate, there is a tremendous job of work to do to ensure that heat pump technology becomes mainstream over the remainder of this decade. Enhancing the collaboration with existing and future installers is critical, both to industry success and to the continued development of policy supportive of the electrification of heat and the complete cessation of combustion in due course.”

Retrofit support

In related news, the UK Government last week confirmed £20m of funding for a series of initiatives supporting homes to improve energy efficiency through retrofitting.

The funding should support schemes that will serve more than 125,000 homes across England. The focus of each scheme is on a particular hard-to-reach or hard-to-retrofit home category, with an aim of reaching the most vulnerable.

For example, one scheme in North Yorkshire and Cumbria will offer ‘green home doctors’ to the elderly and to low-income households. These specialists will provide bespoke advice on energy efficiency measures.

Elsewhere, drop-in centres are being hosted at schools, community hubs and cafes. It is hoped that this will make having a “friendly chat” about energy efficiency less daunting and more accessible.

Energy Consumers and Affordability Minister Amanda Solloway: “We want everyone to be able to get expert advice on how to make their homes more energy efficient, no matter where they live, so they can save money.

“These innovative projects will bring that expertise right to people’s doorsteps, quite literally in some cases, ensuring people are given the best advice on how to save money on their bills and heat their homes for less without needing to search for it.”

The Government has long been criticised for failing to deliver a nationwide home retrofit scheme in light of the energy price crisis and its own climate commitments. Its multi-billion-pound Green Homes Grant closed in 2021 with most of the budget unspent.

However, Ministers point to £6.6bn spent on energy efficiency to date, with a further £6bn committed for the 2025-28 period should the Conservatives win the next General Election.

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