Solar Panels on Council houses offer opportunity to make significant carbon reductions and tackle fuel poverty

Adding solar panels to Winchester district’s council houses could save over 2000 tonnes of CO2 a year and save some tenants around £100 off their energy bills. Winchester City Council is pushing forward with this significant project which will raise the profile of renewable energy in the District, attract a multi-million pound investment and possibly create new ‘green jobs’.  

The Council has the opportunity to install solar Photo Voltaic  (PV)  panels, which turn sunlight into electricity, onto its Council-owned residential properties but without the need to fund the capital costs. This has arisen out the Government’s new feed-in-tariff (FIT) incentive scheme which they introduced in April 2010. The scheme was designed to speed up the use of on-site renewable electricity.  

Solar PV installation companies, together with the backing of private investment companies, have used these incentives to create a unique product for social housing landlords. Companies are now willing to pay for the capital costs to install solar PV panels onto the roofs of homes if they receive the FIT incentive over a 25-year period. In addition, it should be possible for the Council to generate additional income, by some form of “profit share” agreement. The Council is asked to retain the panels on roofs for a 25 year period.  In return, the PV panels are installed and maintained at no cost to the Council or Tenant.    

The proposal will help to tackle fuel poverty by reducing residents’ electricity bills as Tenants of houses with installed PV can use electricity that is being generated by the panels during the day free of charge, with a minimal need then to draw upon the national grid electricity from a traditional supplier. This could result in an estimated saving of between £80 and £125 per year. This will also help the District to reduce its carbon footprint, as a number of residents will directly be using renewable energy to meet some of their electricity needs. Surplus electricity generated is fed back to the national grid thereby helping to reduce the need for electricity production from fossil fuels.  

Cllr Kelsie Learney, Leader of Winchester City Council said, “The Solar PV project is such an exciting opportunity for the Council. We have the chance to help make lower our carbon emissions, as well as enable some of our tenants to benefit from lower fuel bills, and all at almost no cost to our residents.  We've  been working hard to make this incredibly beneficial project a reality and I am so pleased that we can now push forward to the next stage.”  

If the report is approved by Cabinet the Council will go out to tender for the works that could see around £14m of investment in the district. Early assessments indicate that around 2000 of our 5000 dwellings have the right pitch and orientation to make the panels effective. Based on an estimate of 2,000 roofs being suitable, any PV proposal could create a reduction in CO2 emissions in excess of 2,000 tonnes per year.