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A new era? The changing response to solar


Paul Hutchens is Director of Midlands based solar specialists, Eco2Solar. He is a board member of the Solar Trade Association (STA), the UK’s leading solar industry voice, and Chairman of the STA’s New Build Working Group which aims to inform governments, councils, house builders and consumers about sustainability in housing.


Here, Paul explores how homeowners’ and housebuilders’ response to solar has changed over the last decade, and how expectations and demand continue to evolve.


Eco2Solar was set up in 2007, and over the past 11 years, we’ve seen a significant change in how housebuilders and homeowners react and respond to solar. The technology and solutions available have advanced, and as solar becomes more mainstream, we’re seeing changes in how homeowners view solar, and how housebuilders are choosing to work with us.


We specialise in electrical technologies - particularly solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for new build housing, social housing and commercial scale buildings. Eco2Solar was set up just before the peak of home construction in the UK. It was boom time for the construction industry, with 223,530 new homes built in 2007/08. However, local governments and housebuilders were faced with new challenges, including how to respond to the recently introduced Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act. Over the years since then, we have adapted to the changing demands of the market and carved a niche for ourselves as specialists in new build solar installation.


What we do is mostly regulatory driven. Solar installation is driven by national building regulations and local government planning policies, and for some housebuilders, the technology has been considered a frustrating complication in an already complex construction process. Our experience working with housebuilders across the country, and getting them to understand their frustrations and concerns, has helped shape our company’s growth.


16 SIMPLIFYING SOLAR


Domestic and international demand for solar is growing. In 2017, the International Energy Agency announced that solar power was the fastest- growing source of new energy worldwide, outstripping the growth in all other forms of power generation for the first time and leading experts to hail a ‘new era’. From a national perspective, the Solar Trade Association reports a growing demand from homeowners. There are now more than a million homes in the UK with solar (4% of all homes), most of which have chosen to install solar as a retrofit.


Homeowners are increasingly looking for solar solutions so that they can benefit from the financial and environmental gains afforded by the technology. This coupled with energy requirements from Building Regulations and Local Authority planning conditions to meet on-site energy, means solar is increasingly becoming the standard for new build homes across the UK, and this looks set to continue.


Since Eco2Solar began, we have constantly developed and adapted how we work with housebuilders, to offer them straight-forward install solutions. Installation is now fast and easy to integrate with other trades. The finished product looks neat, unobtrusive, and is integrated into the roof itself. We have an experienced team of installers who come in and work with housebuilders to ensure the solar install process is as hassle-free as possible. Recent feedback from our customers indicates that housebuilders are starting to consider solar as an integral element of the construction process, and the historic frustration at incorporating the technology in new builds is waning. Housebuilders know that solar is here to stay and are looking to work with high quality, proven suppliers to deliver results that benefit local authorities, housebuilders and homeowners alike.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT’S ROLE


Over the past decade, we’ve seen various national environmental legislations introduced, redacted and changed. As noted in the Leading Lights report from the Solar Trade Association ‘Brexit, unambitious national housing standards and stop start policies mean the solar industry is looking beyond Westminster and towards local government for leadership.’


Different regions are advancing towards solar at different rates, but the trend is certainly towards standardising the technology. Scotland has different regulations to the rest of the UK, and solar panels are installed on about 60 percent of all new builds and new homes. Local governments in England and Wales are moving towards more sustainable energy models, and there are some noteworthy examples of good practice.


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