Investing in solar doesn’t just benefit the environment, it can also add some cushion to your wallet through energy savings. For this reason, the UK government has teamed up with renewable energy provider Solarplicity to install solar panels on 800,000 low-income households over the next five years. The panels will be free to the tenants and will lower their energy bills by hundreds of pounds, according to the BBC. Roughly 1,000 jobs will also be created in the process, the majority of which will be given to military veterans.
Thanks to a £160 million investment by the Dutch firm Maas Capital, some of the poorest households in the UK will benefit from the scheme. International Trade Minister Greg Hands said, “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.”
Solarplicity has already begun working with more than 40 landlords, including local authorities across Wales and England. The company will profit from the payments received under the feed-in tariff scheme, as well as from payments for energy and from social housing customers. Reportedly, the feed-in tariff scheme will ensure cash payments to households that produce their own electricity using clean energy technologies, such as solar.
Hands also said military veterans will be targeted during the recruitment process. “Armed forces veterans are very good at doing this, actually,” he said. “They understand how to put the panels on efficiently and well.” Hopefully some of the 7,000 homeless veterans in the UK will be considered for employment.
According to David Elbourne, the chief executive of Solarplicity, the price of solar panels has dropped so fast in the past couple of years, government subsidies are no longer essential. “In the past, the feed-in tariff meant that people who could afford to have solar, benefitted from solar. But now people who can’t afford to have solar [can]- we’ll put it on the roof for free – and they will get a reduced energy bill,” he said.
While the overall response to the scheme has been positive, some remain skeptical. David Hunter, the director of market studies at energy management firm Schneider Electric, is cautious about the initiative. “Obviously any kind of investment in the transition to low carbon energy supply can be a positive thing and with any of these developments it’s always best to consider whether it’s best value for money,” he said. “But certainly the idea of upgrading our social housing stock to make it more energy efficient and lower carbon is a worthwhile aim.”