Consumer interest in solar panels has increased in recent months as Britons hunt for ways to cut huge energy bills. With UK households being rocked by a cost of living and energy crisis driven by rapidly rising gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine, growing concerns about the environment, and unprecedented heatwaves, households are looking for other provisions to protect themselves, one of which is energy independence.

Solar companies have seen enquiries for solar panels rise 830% between May and August this year alone, compared with the same period last year.

Further to that, the number of eBay searches for solar panels and solar power batteries increased by 54% and 134% respectively in June when compared with the same period last year.

Data from the consumer credit reporting company Experian also shows that about 1.9 million households intend to install solar panels or other renewable capabilities this year.

The clamour for panels is now so great that one senior industry executive says his company ran out of labour and materials to take new orders. “I tried to pass on inquiries to competitors to help out the customers only to find out they didn’t have the capacity to help them either.”

So what is driving this significant rise in interest in solar panels? We have broken it down into three main drivers:

The Global Energy Crisis

The most significant factor behind the increased interest is the trepidation about the spiralling cost of energy and warnings of rolling blackouts this winter due to shortages of gas fuelled by the war in Ukraine.

In the week of May 2022 when the news broke of Ofgems warning to MPs that the energy price cap was expected to rise from £1,971 to £2,800 in October 2022, solar enquiries increased by over 12% in that one week alone.

Since then, estimates for the October price cap have been further revised, with Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley announcing most recently that the price cap would rise to £4,279.

 A further announcement was made by the government who announced an Energy Price Guarantee that will see the cap frozen at £2,500 for six months for average use dual fuel customers from 1 October. Though the cap will still push many households into fuel poverty, with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling it “simply unaffordable for millions”.

Further to the price cap rises the Ofgem chief executive said that now, more than ever, the three priorities of affordability, security and sustainability now complement rather than contradict each other.

“The energy crisis and the war in Ukraine makes the need for our transition towards energy independence and net zero more, not less, certain.” Mr Brearley told the Future of Utilities Summit in London on Monday.

He said massive recent hikes in the price of gas have pushed down the relative costs of low carbon electricity.

“With renewables and low carbon generation becoming the cheapest form of energy, the economics has changed forever; that energy becoming not only the most sustainable but also the cheapest and most secure option,”

– Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem chief executive

This is a view also shared by the Conservative Environment Network whose members include 133 MPs and a further 17 members of the House of Lords.

The groups’ director Sam Hall said “Achieving net zero will win the UK new clean industries, create good paying jobs and help level up our industrial heartlands. While nuclear, green hydrogen and a range of other clean technologies will play a role in powering Britain, renewables like wind and solar power are the cheapest and quickest way to reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas.”

“Far from undermining the case for net zero, the energy crunch and Ukraine crisis demonstrate the need to switch to cheap, clean and homegrown renewables to lower people’s bills and defund Putin’s war machine. Together with the growing movement to restore nature across Britain, this is why more MPs have joined CEN.” he added.

For businesses, rising electricity bills – along with labour costs – have also made solar panels an attractive investment.

Uptake has been further boosted by the removal of VAT on residential installations in March. 

Heatwaves

Another factor driving the increase in solar enquiries in 2022 are the recent heatwaves, with temperatures hitting record highs of 40C this summer across the UK driven by global warming.

Though solar companies are used to seeing a spike in interest during sunny spells, the increase of interest in 2022 has been unprecedented.

During the heatwave, searches for ‘solar panels’ reached a record high. According to Google Trends on Thursday 11 August, the UK collectively reached a score of 100 for the first time searching for solar panels – an increase of over 100% from the previous two months’ average score.

The heatwave additionally showcased the potential of solar panels as a means to supply the UK with sufficient amounts of energy. During the heatwave on Tuesday 19 July, solar power output met up to a quarter of the UK’s power demand.

Generation hit a peak of 7.7GW by midday according to Sheffield Solar’s PV Live website, more than six times the capacity of the country’s largest nuclear power station, the 1.3GW Heysham 2 plant in Lancashire.

Though the heatwave showcases the capability of solar energy, it is important to note that solar panels do not require direct sunlight to work. 

Even though maximum efficiency is reached when the sun is shining, electricity is still produced on cloudy days and during winter. This is because photovoltaic (PV) panels use particles of light, called photons, to generate electricity. Photons are present in direct and indirect sunlight, so solar panels can operate in both conditions.

Environmental Impact

Concerns over the impact of the energy industry on the environment, increased awareness of global warming, and awareness of individual carbon footprints and the importance of individual choices in the fight against climate change are also a driving factor in the surge of interest in solar, with more consumers aware of climate change and understanding the environmental benefits of solar energy than ever before.

According to the Spring 2022 BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker: Net Zero and Climate Change, 84% of people said that they were concerned about climate change, with 41% saying they were “very concerned” and 43% saying they were “fairly concerned”.

Solar panels fight global warming by producing electricity that keeps us from burning greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels. This is increasingly becoming a reason that people are choosing to install solar panels.

Experts say that cutting the carbon emissions associated with powering and heating our homes, which emit a fifth of the UK’s CO2, is crucial if the country is to reach its target of being net zero by 2050.

New research from Citizens Advice reveals that two-thirds of householders are thinking about making their homes more energy-efficient in the next 12 months, while in a study from NatWest 55% of homeowners said they have plans to make eco-friendly improvements to their property over the next decade.

Conclusion

With the energy crisis expected to last until at least 2024, heatwaves expected to become longer and more frequent, and more households than ever looking to go green – solar energy is looking like a better investment for energy security and environmental impact by the day.

The demand for solar is unlikely to slow down, even when gas prices fall, having a reliable independent source of energy that will keep prices predictable is increasingly desirable.

Are you thinking about making the switch to become energy independent? Why not have a free no-obligation chat with us to see if solar would be a good investment for you, click here!

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