Can solar on housing associations prevent fuel poverty? 

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A typical council can save their social housing residents up to 60% of their annual energy costs by switching to renewable. 

12 October 2022

4 Min Read

A typical council can save their social housing residents up to 60% of their annual energy costs by switching to renewable. 

As fuel bills rise, solar software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology start-up PowerMarket has revealed that a typical council can save residents up to 60% of their annual energy costs and accelerate their efforts to hit their net-zero targets, by investing in solar energy. 

Over 12 million households (42%) across the UK face fuel poverty this winter, according to predictions from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, and more than 75% of councils have declared a climate emergency status, yet are still behind on their net-zero targets. 

Facing fuel poverty this winter 

PowerMarket’s clean technology, SaaS start-up not only helps organisations assess the viability of solar and calculate an accurate investment payback time but also brings a new standard to solar energy lifecycle management.  

Together, these form the basis for a compelling investment case to back their transition to renewable energy. By using advanced satellite data, generated using technology developed in partnership with The European Space Agency, PowerMarket’s analysis shows that the median payback timeline for a residential installation is now under six years, dropping to under four years when factoring in expected 2023 energy price increases. 

Following PowerMarket’s recent study of 3,400 social housing households in one UK county council, they were able to show an average lifetime energy cost saving of £58,800 per household.  

The saving includes an attractive and immediate annual £1,600 energy bill reduction and an annual carbon saving impact of 6.8 tonnes per year – the equivalent of removing 3,400 cars from the roads.  

Plans won’t reduce consumer pain 

This vastly improved ROI provides the ‘risk’ comfort for governments and other private financial institutions that are backing local councils and housing associations.  

The finance and grants they provide, combined with PowerMarket’s advanced solar analysis, make retrofit insulation and energy efficiency achievable at scale to meet the current energy cost crisis and future climate change challenges.  

Abhinav Jain, co-founder and CEO of PowerMarket said: “The Government has made clear that we need to increase home-grown energy production, but the proposals thus far – fracking, nuclear and gas plants – are all ten-year plans that will not reduce consumer pain in the short term.  

“By adding solar panels to rooftops, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to cut down on energy costs, we can reduce risk to market volatility, and lower our collective carbon footprint. Solar is the cheapest form of new energy production and is well positioned to help the UK’s public sector to meet challenging 2030 net-zero commitments.  

Helping them on their solar journey 

“As an example, in a recent project with one local council, we calculated that rooftop solar could save them £200 million in electricity costs for their residents, reducing bills and their household carbon emissions.” 

Schools, hospitals, and universities are all potential locations for community solar sites too, alongside regional and local government authorities. Both own a lot of land and buildings, so, with their net-zero ESG policy commitments and rising energy prices, it makes good sense for them to consider solar’s combined cost-benefit and decarbonisation impacts, and we can help them on their solar journey – from making a business case to planning to execution, to ongoing maintenance and optimised system performance.” 

Renewables are the only feasible medium-term answer, and solar is the fastest and most cost-effective form of renewable energy. Local councils, regional governments and social housing associations have a unique opportunity to lead the way in clean energy by adopting solar at scale, between them currently managing circa 5 million+ social housing stock in the UK and their equivalent 28 million dwellings across the OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The even better news for taxpayers and the Council’s and association’s finance teams is that major Finance companies are keen to fund both the CAPEX and OPEX costs in return for the long-term energy supply contracts which will also protect residents from future price volatility. 

Uptake of UK solar – a bumpy ride 

The historical context shows that the uptake of solar has been a bumpy ride in the UK with a boom period between 2010 and 2019 (when grants ended). Consumer confidence was mixed due to an unattractive return on investment, and an immature installer ecosystem beset by company failures. However, the picture has changed for the better in recent years and, in the first half of this year, solar installations outstrip those for the whole of 2019 in the UK with the annualised growth rate prediction of 5% (CAGR) being further supported by three key factors: 

90% cost reduction in solar installation and components over the past two decades with a more stable contemporary installer ecosystem – this has reduced the median residential install cost payback timeline to circa six years, reducing to four years when factoring in higher future energy costs.  

The UK’s £800m Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund due to launch in September 2022, aims to improve energy efficiency and insulation for 4 million+ homes. 

Increased government funding across Europe for energy efficiency upgrades with insulation and solar at the top of the agenda especially with aged, urban social housing stock. 

Jain added: “We envision a future where solar is democratised to empower everyone with access to the world’s best solar data and resources. We’re in an energy crisis and renewables are the only answer. At PowerMarket we help organisations, and in turn, the planet, find, secure and manage the best opportunities for solar.  

“We provide the only solution for end-to-end distributed solar management at scale, saving customers time and resources, centralising everything in a single platform to plan, analyse and filter solar sites based on ROI and CO2 impact and then provide the ongoing lifecycle monitoring management.” 

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