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The number of households installing rooftop solar panels reached its highest level in more than seven years in the first months of 2023 as energy-bill payers turned to renewable energy to guard against spiralling costs.
Industry figures show that more than 50,700 households installed arrays between January and March, more than double the number in the same months last year and the highest figure since late 2015.
The rooftop solar panels installed in the first quarter between them account for 265 megawatts of power, or half that of a typical coal-fired unit.
Gareth Simkins, a spokesman for Solar Energy UK, said the number of installations has climbed steadily in recent years as households have become increasingly aware of the benefit to household bills and concerned about the environment.
“In the last year, solar installations have been driven by the energy crisis. The war in Ukraine has driven energy bills higher and there has been a greater awareness that solar panels can help to save on costs,” he said.
The competition watchdog launched an investigation last year into the domestic green power and insulation industry over concerns that households were not being treated fairly as they scrambled to cut energy bills. The Competition and Markets Authority said it was “concerned about the potential for poor practices, such as making misleading claims about potential cost savings, product performance and suitability”.
The boom in new rooftop solar units, recorded by installers registered to the UK’s micro-generation certification scheme (MCS), 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 FiT scheme, which were cut by 65% from early 2016. The scheme was closed entirely in 2019.
The Labour party accused the government of “actively dismantling” the UK’s solar industry after its decision to close the scheme without a replacement led to a collapse in installations and caused many smaller firms to go bust.
Despite 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 figures from National Grid.
The MCS gathers data from certified installers of rooftop solar panels, home batteries and heat pumps. It recorded its 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 rooftop solar panels and batteries are likely to be higher than the MCS tally, which does not include work undertaken by unaccredited installers.