Solar panels in a countryside house

Record number of solar panels and heat pumps installed in UK homes

Image credit: Simon Collins -Shutterstock

The UK has witnessed a 62 per cent increase in the number of heat pumps and solar panels installed in the first six months of the year, official data shows.

More UK homes than ever are turning to low-carbon technology, with the country on track to install certified renewable technologies in nearly a quarter of a million homes, according to a report by MCS, the official standards body for renewable technologies. 

The body has found that, in the first half of 2023, more than 120,000 certified installations of heat pumpssolar panels and other renewable technologies occurred – a 62 per cent increase from the same period last year.

This year is also the first to average more than 20,000 solar panel installations and over 3,000 heat pump installations per month.

When looking at battery technology installations, each month has been breaking the previous month’s record, bringing the total number of batteries installed in homes and businesses across the UK to more than 1,000 in 2023 so far. At current rates, nearly 250,000 households could have renewable energy installed by the end of the year.

The previous record for renewable installations was set in 2012 when households raced to get solar panels before government subsidies were reduced. 

“As the cost of energy continues to grow, we are seeing more people turn to renewable technology to generate their own energy and heat at home,” said Ian Rippin, chief executive of MCS. “We are pleased to report that the UK is on track for its strongest year ever for certified small-scale renewable technology installations.”

The report comes as the UK government sets clear targets to reach 70GW of solar capacity by 2035 and to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.

In order to reach this target, last May the government launched the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which offered people in England £5,000-£6,000 for heat pump installations. In Scotland, people can claim £7,000-£9,000, with an additional loan option of £7,500.

However, there is still a long way to go. As part of this effort, MCS has called for the government to offer higher grant values and more vouchers per year under the scheme. In addition, the standards body has said solar panels, heat pumps and battery storage systems should be mandatory in all new homes built from 2025 under the Future Homes Standard.

MCS also identified one of the largest barriers to overcome: the recruitment of enough qualified, skilled installers to meet demand. Currently, there are 1,500 certified heat pump installation companies in the UK, but official estimates found that 50,000 workers will be needed to meet government targets of installing 600,00 heat pumps a year by 2028. 

Bean Beanland, the director of external affairs at the Heat Pump Federation, celebrated the news, but also said there was “a tremendous job to do” to ensure that heat pump technology becomes mainstream over the next seven years.

“It is essential that the lowest-carbon heat becomes the lowest-cost heat so that homeowners and landlords can justify the transition away from polluting fossil fuels,” Beanland added. “If this is coupled to a genuine affordability and future funding package, then households will be able to contribute to climate change mitigation with confidence and at a cost that is fair to all.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “These figures build on our multi-billion-pound investment to improve energy efficiency across the country.

“We’ve invested £6.6bn upgrading 2.5 million homes and 47 per cent now have a rating of C or above. Our Great British Insulation Scheme will also see an additional 300,000 homes benefit by extending the legal duty on suppliers to help customers insulate their homes.

“We are fully focused on meeting our aim of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028, having offered grants of £5,000-£6,000 towards the cost.”

Overall, small-scale renewable energy installations on homes and businesses across the UK have reached a total installed capacity of 4GW – greater than the nuclear power plant under construction at Hinkley Point. This also means that, at peak conditions, they could potentially power over 13 per cent of the country.

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