Surge in solar energy interest sees Leeds businesses fight to meet public demand for home installations
The £400 energy grant announced by the government earlier this year may not be enough to persuade Leeds residents to continue using big electricity suppliers, a survey conducted by Censuswide revealed.
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Over 70% of Leeds residents surveyed would look to switch to an alternative energy source such as solar panels, with 11% saying that an increase of between 41% to 50% in their energy bills would encourage them to switch energy sources.
Simon Peat, CEO of Project Solar UK, the largest retailer and installer of solar panels nationwide, said: “ A major benefit for people in Leeds who install solar energy systems in their home is that they can actually sell their electricity back to the grid – a feature only acknowledged by 37% of Leeds residents surveyed but one that many people will welcome as the cost-of-living increases.”
Exactly half of respondents to the survey in or around Leeds think the advantages of solar panels are because they create cheaper electricity, 22% say solar panels add value to a property and 35% say solar panels help to become carbon neutral.
Interestingly, 44% think one of the benefits of solar panels is they generate electricity even through winter when there is minimum sunshine.
Simon added: “From April there has been a cut in VAT on solar panels from 5% to zero which, according to the Chancellor, could see a family having solar panels installed having tax savings worth over £1,000 and savings on their energy bill of about £300 a year.
“This saving, alongside the opportunity to sell electricity generated back to the grid and the many other environmental factors, means that solar panels are being considered.”
However, despite an increased interest in solar panels now that energy bills are on the rise, many local solar businesses are struggling to meet demands, with a shortage of technicians and installers preventing them from reaping the benefits.
Gaye Wilmot, director of Leeds-based solar panel company Solec Energy Solutions, has experienced this influx and the difficulties that come with it firsthand: “The main issue we have at the moment is skill shortage, and that’s really a direct result of the lack or support for renewables in general.
“We now find ourselves where there’s not enough installers and a massive boom [in solar panel demand]† It’s come about because of Covid, with a lot more people staying at home and extending their homes, as well as homeowners looking at energy efficiency themselves with Cop 26 being [in the UK] last year.”
Google Trends shows that the volume of people searching for the term ‘solar panels’ has increased by 80% since January 2022, underlining the increasing interest in the alternative energy source.
“To put it in numbers, we used to get five inquiries a month and we’re now getting 50,” Gaye explained.
“But with the supply chain challenges, one week its panels are stuck on ships in Antwerp and the next minute there’s a shortage of roof anchors because they’re made in Ukraine. There’s so many things going on, so it’s an even harder job to try and service the demand.”
In spite of the struggles Gaye and her team are facing, she is still dedicated to the shift to solar energy and its benefits.
“It’s always been the cleanest type of renewable energy because panels themselves, there’s no moving parts and very little electricity from the grid used. We call it ‘fit and forget’ technology, because once they’re on your roof you won’t really need to maintain them.
“You’ve got clean, free energy from the sun for 20 years; that’s the lifetime of a panel before they reduce in performance.”
Solec Energy Solutions Ltd also provides a full range of energy saving services including solar PV, airsource heat pumps, storage and monitoring, lighting design and controls. For more information please head to www.solec-uk.com†