“Our bill for electric has gone down quite a lot,” said Debra David of Ealing who had solar panels installed on the roof of her house in January.
Although her energy bills are dual fuel, she has seen her monthly costs drop by more than a third since the panels were fitted, through the Solar Together scheme backed by Ealing Council.
Heating and powering our homes are among the main causes of harmful carbon emissions in the UK. But it does not need to be so bad. A lot of energy is wasted through poor insulation and inefficient lighting; and we could power our homes with far more renewable energy. This is not just about saving the planet – it also saves us all money. And it is not hard to do.
Debra added: “From the point of efficiency it is fantastic. Even on an overcast day, they generate enough energy to power the fridge for the day. On a sunny day they can do so much more. It is so good, and we are really pleased. It has got to the point that when we are out walking my husband sometimes looks at other houses and wonders why they haven’t got them.”
A smart meter shows when the home is being powered by the panels; and when it is pulling energy from the national grid instead. And the panels are ‘optimised’, meaning that if one of them is cast in shadow, the others can still work independently. In the past, any shadow would impact all of the panels.
Debra said: “The smart meter has a pylon feature that comes on when electricity is being produced, minus what is being used. A red light comes on when we are using more than what the panels are producing. On a lovely sunny day an average of 10kw of electricity can be produced. Basically, the more panels you have the more electricity you can produce.”
Debra originally looked at having solar panels installed 10 years ago but it did not prove practical to do so. And she was pleasantly surprised to find the cost had now fallen by almost three quarters compared to a decade ago.
“We were disappointed it didn’t happen back then,” she said. “But things happen when they should and we got a great deal. It is much cheaper now.”
Climate action strategy
As we reported recently, Ealing Council has adopted a draft climate emergency strategy that will be finalised this autumn. Becoming carbon neutral by 2030 is the overarching challenge the council has set itself as it looks to take urgent climate action and support residents to lead greener lives.
One of the key areas to deal with is how we use energy, and where we get it from.
What can you do?
Like Debra, you could use Solar Together to get solar panels installed at a good price. It saves energy and money, and cuts emissions. Find out more about Solar Together – including a video and a simple breakdown of how it works – here: solartogether.co.uk/ealing/home
In addition, the government announced that, from September, it will encourage homeowners and landlords to apply for ‘vouchers’ to help them pay for measures to make their homes more energy efficient, like double glazing and insulation.
These Green Homes vouchers will cover at least two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000 per household. Low-income households might qualify for the full cost of the work, up to £10,000. To find out more, keep an eye on the council’s website’s energy efficiency pages, where all the new information will be made available and also in the winter edition of Around Ealing magazine (out in late November/early December).
Switching to a renewable energy provider can help, too. The Big London Energy Switch is a collective-buying scheme backed by Ealing Council which uses the strength of numbers to secure the best energy deals for residents. The latest chance to get involved will take place in early October.
ENERGY: What else will the council be doing?
As part of the council’s commitment to create 2,500 genuinely affordable homes, all new council homes will have to be designed to zero-carbon standards. In fact, all housing will need to be designed this way by 2025; and, by 2030, all housing will have to be built to those standards.
In addition to this, existing council homes in Ealing will be retro-fitted to improve their energy performance. This will have the added benefit of creating more ‘green’ work and jobs locally.
Councillor Mik Sabiers, the council’s cabinet member for environment and transport, explained: “Another approach we will be testing is a ‘whole house’ approach to retro-fitting, tackling everything that needs to be done, at once. The council is currently working with five other housing providers to demonstrate how this can be done quickly and cost efficiently. By improving homes, our residents will enjoy cost savings, healthier home environments and a reduction in carbon emissions.”
The council will not just stop at housing. All its other buildings will also be improved to a good level of energy efficiency and, in a further step, will be assessed for opportunities to generate solar power.
The council’s Healthy Homes Ealing service helps to show residents what they can do in their own homes to save money while also staying warm, well and independent. Vulnerable residents could qualify for a ‘green doctor’ home visit for tailored advice and support. Call 0800 083 2265 (free) or visit www.ealing.gov.uk/healthyhomesealing to find out more.