Image: Good Energy
The United Kingdom has witnessed a remarkable year in expanding its renewable energy capabilities, particularly in solar power and heat pump installations. This growth is evidenced by new data from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), which showcases a significant surge in the deployment of these clean energy technologies.
A record-breaking 220,500 MCS-certified installations have been registered this year, surpassing the previous record set in 2022. This achievement marks the most successful year for small-scale renewable installations since the inception of such records in 2008.
A critical factor in this record-setting year is the considerable increase in solar PV (photovoltaic) installations. Households and businesses have quickly adopted rooftop solar arrays, motivated by the dual benefits of reducing energy bills and cutting carbon emissions. So far, the UK has seen 183,022 certified solar PV installations, a notable jump from the 138,000 recorded in 2022, indicating a growth of one-third.
Chris Hewett, chief executive at Solar Energy UK, said the financial attractiveness of the technology was driving the soaring demand for solar technologies.
"It's no wonder that people are queuing up to go solar," he said. "Installing a solar energy system is one of the best investments available to homeowners and businesses alike.
"Electricity bills remain stubbornly high, and all expectations are that they will remain so for the foreseeable future. In contrast, solar provides cheap, decarbonized power and normally pays for itself in a few years."
Heat pump installations have also hit a new high, with over 35,000 installations registered by installers specializing in air-source and ground and water-source heat pumps. This growth means that since 2008, there have been over 200,000 certified heat pump installations.
The recent hike in heat pump grants to £7,500, part of the government's Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), has played a significant role in this demand spike. Following the grant increase, the average weekly applications for BUS vouchers jumped from 331 to 1,172, according to MCS data.
So far, over 17,500 BUS vouchers have been issued, totaling more than £90 million. However, industry-wide concern is that the current deployment rate might not suffice to meet the government's ambitious target of installing 600,000 heat pumps annually by 2028.
"It is promising to see this growth in the UK heat pump market, and we celebrate that more and more homeowners can access low-carbon technology to keep their homes warm, comfortable, and energy-efficient," said Charlotte Lee, CEO of the Heat Pump Association. "Whilst we are pleased that the BUS grant has been increased, we would encourage the government to take further steps to demonstrate the national commitment to low-carbon heating. It is vital that the overall budget for BUS is increased to support greater heat pump deployment and to ensure it does not act as an artificial cap on the market. Other vital policy enablers include reducing the price of electricity relative to the price of gas and supporting contractors to cover the costs of becoming certified to install heat pumps, akin to the support offered in Scotland."
Additionally, the deployment of battery storage technologies in the UK has seen a significant uptick, with MCS data revealing 4,400 certified installations thus far in the year. This marks a notable increase from the end of 2022 when there were only 50 contractors certified to install this technology. That number has surged to over 850, indicating a robust growth in this sector.
The expansion is not just limited to technologies but also encompasses the workforce involved in these installations. The number of companies certified by MCS to carry out these installations has crossed the 4,000 mark for the first time. Remarkably, more than 1,800 new contractors have gained MCS certification in 2023 alone, representing a 70 percent increase in the contractor base compared to the end of 2022.
Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS, said: "It's a pleasure to report on another record-breaking year for small-scale renewables, illustrating the sector's sustained upward growth. We had an incredibly busy 2023, and the data confirms the progress we've made. The future of small-scale renewable installations is becoming increasingly important, and we continue to play a crucial role in the decarbonization of the UK's homes.
"The growth we've seen in domestic renewable electricity systems over the past year may also give some insight into the growing consumer reliance on home-grown energy in the UK during the cost-of-living and energy crises. As electricity prices skyrocket, more people are turning to renewable solutions to generate their own power at home, secure energy independence, decrease their electricity bills, and reduce their carbon footprint."