UK: solar still makes economic sense in reduced-FIT landscape, says STA

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The reduced solar feed-in tariff (FIT) for U.K. residential customers is set to click into action at midnight GMT tonight, meaning any homeowner who now decides to install a rooftop solar array will receive a rate of 4.39p/kWh for their system when the scheme is ‘unpaused’ on February 8.

Despite this new reduced rate representing a 64% cut on the previous rate for systems of 4kW and under, solar in the U.K. can still represent a good investment for householders, says the Solar Trade Association (STA).

According to the STA, the new FIT rate will deliver a tax-free return of investment of around 5% provided homeowners install a competitively priced solar array. Compared to savings accounts – bedeviled by record low interest rates – solar represents an attractive investment that could be paid off fully in 13 years through intelligent use of their system.

Such ‘intelligent use’ includes using timer functions and running appliances during the day to improve the solar payback. Other suggestions include the use of power diverters and, increasingly, storage solutions to boost levels of self-consumption.

A recent survey by Barclays bank also showed that people looking to buy a property in the U.K. look on rooftop solar arrays favorably, with a typical installation adding an estimated $3,000 to the value of a home.

"Let’s be clear, solar is still a good investment for householders and an essential investment for the planet," said STA CEO Paul Barwell. "Costs have come down so fast that solar is much more affordable today than five years ago – around half the price of a new car. There has never been a greater need to go solar because acting on climate change is more urgent than ever.

"Solar will save on your energy bills, and potentially add value to your home."

In finding ways to adapt to a new solar landscape in the U.K. shaped by drastically scaled-back levels of support, the STA is following in the footsteps of leading British developer Lightsource, which announced earlier this month that it is to begin offering merchant solar contracts on new large-scale solar installations that ‘hard-wire’ power directly to large electricity users. In cutting out the middle man – the national grid – energy costs for the end-user are some way below retail rates, Lightsource has claimed.