Solar Energy UK
1 December 2022
Solar energy must be central to the decarbonisation of heat – and its installation is an increasingly economic proposition, Solar Energy UK has found.
According to the new Value of Solar Heat report, combining solar power and a heat pump can save up to £3,164 a year on home energy bills. It also describes the benefits of solar thermal systems, such as using the sun’s heat directly for space heating and hot water, alongside battery storage.
Despite its benefits, not least to energy security by reducing demand for natural gas and to the climate, the decarbonisation of heating has lagged behind that of electricity generation. The report states, “For the UK to meet its zero targets, the government must place heat decarbonisation on equal footing with power decarbonisation”.
The report launched at the Solar & Storage Live exhibition at the NEC in October and has been funded principally by MCS Charitable Foundation.
An in-depth economic analysis of multiple home heating scenarios confirms the vast potential of decarbonised domestic heating to slash the cost of keeping homes warm while contributing to energy security and net zero agendas. It presents case studies from a semi-detached property in Inverness to an end-of-terrace home in London via a Belfast bungalow.
Solar power, solar thermal, combined solar power and thermal (PVT) and home storage are all analysed, combined with how they would function in combination with a gas boiler, direct electric heating, a heat pump and infrared systems.
For a typical gas-heated home, installing solar photovoltaic panels could save £1,276 a year, implying a payback period of under six years. Switching to a more modern heat pump could save £1,454. Despite a longer payback of 14 years, this scenario delivers a significantly higher net present value and a fully decarbonised home.
The figures are based on the bill capping rates applied from October. In a best-case gas-heated scenario, annual savings could reach more than £2,997, or £3,089, with a heat pump installed instead.
The results confirm the degree to which cutting carbon helps address the cost-of-living crisis.
On top of lower household running costs, a solar installation can raise the value of a home by more than £2,000.
The benefits of decarbonised heating also extend to commercial property. In one case study, Bristol’s leisure centre has eliminated its heating bill by using a rooftop solar thermal system. This saves nearly 13 tonnes of CO2 each year.
What is now needed is coordinated action across Government to deliver solar homes and buildings. Responding to the energy price crisis, underlined by the imperative to achieve a net zero economy by 2050, must be the basis for heat policy.
Westminster and the devolved governments must ensure that existing property owners and occupiers have the support they need to retrofit their property. The Future Homes Standard and Future Buildings Standard must require solar energy to come as standard on new-build properties.
The report is the third in a series demonstrating the benefits of solar and storage technologies for property owners and the nation, the first being The Value of Solar Homes, followed by last year’s The Value of Solar Property.
Solar Energy UK is available to discuss the reports in detail.
“The answer to so many challenges of our age is solar energy. Decarbonised heating, such as through powering a heat pump with a rooftop solar installation, not only slashes energy bills but also helps ween the country off dependence on frighteningly expensive natural gas, contributing to energy security,” said Chris Hewett, chief executive of the trade association Solar Energy UK.
“I urge everyone beset by high energy bills to consider putting solar power on their roof – and for the authorities to take up its policy recommendations,” he added.
David Cowdrey, Director of External Affairs at MCS Charitable Foundation, said: “This report shows clearly that the future of home heating is renewable energy: rolling out rooftop solar and installing heat pumps on a mass scale. Combining solar power and heat pumps delivers supreme efficiency for home heating, and is one of the best ways of reducing bills, improving energy security and cutting carbon.
“The Government must listen to the recommendations of this report and make installation of solar panels and heat pumps the default in new-build homes. This would provide a huge boost to the green economy and help reduce energy prices long-term, at no cost to the taxpayer, he added.”
The report will be followed next month by another, addressing the role of solar heating in meeting Scotland’s goal of reaching net zero by 2045. Making similar findings, based on robust carbon and financial modelling, it strongly encourages the Scottish Government to adopt policies to accelerate the adoption of solar-powered heating systems. This includes adding solar photovoltaics to the heat pump specification in the new Scottish Building Regulations and continuing incentives for on-site renewables.
A second supplementary report, The Value of New Build Solar, is now available covering the benefits of including solar power in new-build properties, avoiding the expense of future retrofitting. This is of critical importance considering the Government’s objective for 180,000 new and affordable homes to be built annually.
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