Solar power installers installed more than 50,700 household solar panels on&nb..."> Solar power installers installed more than 50,700 household solar panels on&nb..."> Solar power installers installed more than 50,700 household solar panels on&nb..."> UK rooftop solar installations highest in over 7 years… but is it enough? | Latest News
Matt Tinkler/13th March 2023

UK rooftop solar installations highest in over 7 years… but is it enough?

Solar power installers installed more than 50,700 household solar panels on rooftops in the first quarter of 2023 as many of us turn to renewable energy to guard against high energy bills.

solar panels in field

Solar explosion

Although solar power has been around for decades, it has recently experienced a surge of interest. Figures from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) show that solar installations between January and March accounted for 265 megawatts of power and were more than double the number in the same months last year and the highest figure for seven years.

Microgeneration Certification Scheme

The MCS gathers data from certified installers of small scale renewable energy technologies like solar panels, battery storage systems, and heat pumps. 

The data also shows the highest number of home batteries for the quarter with 351 systems installed, half the total number of installations by accredited installers to date.

The actual figures for the installation of solar panels and batteries are likely to be higher than these figures, as they do not include work undertaken by unaccredited installers.

MCS logo

History of UK solar installations

The growing popularity of new rooftop solar panels was also more than double the number of installations reported during the first quarter of 2019, which marked the end of the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) subsidy scheme.

Solar installations reached a peak in late 2015 as households rushed to take advantage of lucrative government payments through the popular FiT scheme, which was cut by 65% from early 2016. National interest in solar waned after the scheme closed in 2019 until energy bills started to rise.

UK house with solar panels on roof

Solar return on investment (ROI)

Even with the government stepping in to help, high energy costs have prompted many people to consider alternative energy like solar that can provide a good long-term return on investment.

While installing solar panels require an upfront cost, with current electricity prices most solar energy systems pay for themselves in four to seven years.

The cost of solar

The cost of going solar has dropped by 82% since 2010 as the price of electricity has soared. The average cost for installing solar panels in a UK home can range between £2,000 – £18,000 (depending on the power requirement, size of the panels, and the type of solar panels (polycrystalline or monocrystalline). This estimate covers materials, labour, and the cost of a solar inverter.

Today, solar panels are 94% cheaper than in 1989. As the manufacturing and efficiency of solar panels have improved, the cost has dropped significantly and residential solar energy systems are more affordable than before.

Financial incentives for solar

Although criticised for the lack of financial incentives to install solar, the government has cut all VAT on solar panels and battery storage and introduced the Smart Export Guarantee scheme. 

Solar system owners with panels and a battery can sell surplus solar power back to the National Grid via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme.

Energy suppliers set their own Smart Export Guarantee rates per kWh for solar power and households can use a different company to their electricity provider to benefit from the best rate.

Solar panels on roof of house

What is behind the solar boom?

Lower costs, higher bills, and the potential to make money from excess solar power have contributed to the growing popularity of solar panels.

Matt Tinkler, Managing Director of Aero Renewable Solutions says “The boom in solar installations has fundamentally been prompted by the energy crisis. The war in Ukraine drove energy bills to unsustainable levels for many people and there has been greater media coverage explaining how solar panels can help to save on energy bills,”

Solar panels in sunset

Solar in UK and Europe

In spite of the recent boom, only 4.4% of the UK’s electricity is generated from solar, compared with 35.9% from gas and 23.3% from wind, according to the National Grid.

UK solar figures are significantly lower than our counterparts in Europe. In terms of capacity, Germany leads the continent with more than 24 GW installed, followed by Italy, with more than 12 GW.

Solar PV expansion in Germany jumped 28% in 2022, with 7.2 gigawatts (GW) of new installations added in the past year. By the end of 2022, Germany could boast over 2.65 million individual solar installations and solar contributed to 12% of the energy production. However, the rising number of installations is not nearly enough to reach government targets for the next few years, which would mean a tripling of annual expansion volumes to reach a total capacity of 215 GW by 2030, or 22 GW per year.

Thanks to the generous Eco SuperBonus scheme for households, Italy closed 2022 with a 164% annual increase in solar PV installations reporting 2.48 GW, and taking its cumulative installed PV capacity to 25.05 GW.

When it comes to solar power per capita, neither Germany nor Italy holds the first position. For the second year in a row, the Netherlands ranked first in 2022, reaching the remarkable milestone of more than 1,000 watts per inhabitant, 28% up from 2021.

From these figures, it is evident that even with the recent wave of interest in solar, the UK is lagging far behind other countries, and our legally-binding target to reach net zero by 2050.

The Skidmore Review

Former Energy Minister, Chris Skidmore, set out his conclusions to how we can reach these targets  in his ‘Net Zero Review’ – published in January 2023.

The report calls for the UK to increase its solar power generation five-fold by 2035 and urges the Government to offer cheap loans for households to install solar panels.

‘‘We need the full-scale deployment of solar, including through a “rooftop revolution” that removes the existing constraints and barriers to solar panel deployment across residential and commercial buildings in the UK,’

solar panels on newbuild house

Solar financing

The nation is showing increased interest in solar yet it is not enough. Last week Nationwide launched a new product to encourage their 5000 existing mortgage holders to borrow an additional £5-15.000 interest-free over 2 or 5 years to install energy-efficient home improvements including solar panels.

Will other lenders follow Nationwide's example? Is it up to the private sector to help us decarbonise our homes? 

At Aero Renewable Solutions we believe that the UK government needs to follow Italy’s example and make solar a viable option for all eligible households regardless of income. As with many things, it comes down to politics and money. 

Our team of solar panel installers cover a lot of locations, such as Peterborough, Newark, Suffolk etc.  Get in touch with us to install your solar panel.