UK on track for best year ever for renewable energy and heat installations

More households are installing heat pumps and solar panels in the UK than ever before, with a 62% jump compared to last year, new data from the official standards body for renewable technologies shows.

MCS data shows that in the first six months of 2023, more than 120,000 certified solar panels, heat pumps and other renewable technologies were installed in UK homes, the highest number ever by this point in the year.

The previous record for renewable installations was more than a decade ago in 2012, when households raced to get solar panels before cuts to the Feed-In Tariff incentive scheme kicked in.

June saw 27,791 certified installations recorded on homes and businesses across the UK, bringing the total for the first half of the year to 122,155. 2023 saw more installations in the month of June and in the first half of the year than any previous year.

2023 is the first year to average more than 20,000 solar panel installations per month, and the first to see more than 3,000 heat pumps installed per month. Analysts say that with this sustained growth, nearly a quarter of a million households could install renewable energy by the end of this year.

Over 80% of the installations so far in 2023 have been electricity-generating technologies, driven mainly by the continued growth in solar PV installations. By the end of June, there were 102,797 certified installations of solar PV alone as more households turn to home-grown energy during the cost-of-living crisis. The first half of 2023 saw 82% more installations than the first half of 2022.

Small-scale renewable energy installations on homes and businesses across the UK now have a total installed capacity of 4GW. The energy demand for the entire country averaged 29.4GW a day in the last year, meaning that the solar panels and wind turbines on peoples’ homes, at peak conditions, could power over 13% of the UK at current.

The growth in solar has been mirrored by battery storage installation growth since MCS introduced the battery storage installation standard at the end of 2021. Each month of 2023 has been a record month for battery technologies, with installation figures surpassing the month before, totalling over 1,000 batteries going into homes and businesses across the UK in 2023 so far.

There has been similar success in the growth of low carbon heating, with average heat pump installations being over 3,000 per month for the first time in 2023. There were 17,920 heat pump installations in the first six months of 2023, a figure only rivalled by a rush to install heat pumps before the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive subsidy scheme in March 2022.

Heat pump installations in England and Wales have been eligible for £5,000-£6,000 government grants since May last year under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. These grants are starting to take effect as heat pump sales are steadily growing. In Scotland, consumers can claim a grant of £7,500-£9,000 towards a heat pump installation plus an additional optional loan of £7,500.

The UK Government has set clear targets to reach 70GW of solar capacity by 2035 and to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. The growth in renewable technology across the UK in the last few years is promising, but there is still much further to go.

One of the biggest barriers to overcome will be recruiting enough qualified, skilled installers to meet demand. There are now 1,500 certified heat pump installation companies in the UK – estimates are that 50,000 workers will be needed to meet government targets of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. So far in 2023, over 850 new contractors have become MCS certified. That’s more contractors than joined the scheme during the whole of 2022, showing the UK is picking up pace in recruiting installers.

MCS is calling for the government to expand the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and offer higher grant values and more vouchers per year. Further investment in skills and training is also needed to build up a workforce able to respond to the demand for heat pumps.

MCS is also calling on the government to mandate solar panels, heat pumps, and battery storage in all new homes from 2025 under the new Future Homes Standard.

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