When we first started providing solar to domestic homes back in 2009 the technology in the UK was relatively unknown, certainly to the public for whom our product would be targeting. We knew it would be an uphill struggle to not only make people aware of the technology but to convince people how much it would reduce their bills by generating electricity.
Even though Germany had already proven the case for solar it would be difficult to change people’s view on green technology. We were faced with an opinion of solar, and indeed renewable energy in general that it was idealistic, fringe and not really practical in the real world.
Not only did we have to prove a relatively underutilised technology to the UK public but we also had to overcome their suspicion of it being free. As our business model is to provide free solar the public were naturally suspicious of being given something for nothing. We still get people today saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you don’t get something for nothing.
Solar 5 years on
A little into 2014 the 30,000 install mark was achieved which in itself is quite an accomplishment. Such a high uptake of such a relatively misunderstood technology could indicate that there are a number of factors that are affecting the public’s choice.
Free versus paid solar
Significant numbers of adults cannot afford the relatively high upfront investment and long term payback period. The growing number of retired households who may not be able to afford to invest in solar, or are not able to justify tying up their money in an investment that requires a long payback period. Instead they opt for one of our free systems.
Many working families who would never be able to afford to invest in renewable technology and see schemes like ours as a way of benefiting from the green boom the UK has experienced over the last 5 years.
The last few years have seen ridiculously high increases in the cost of energy bills, at the same time people’s real earnings are decreasing. For many this is making it difficult to afford to run a home.
The long term nature of a solar installation gives many a reassurance that they can reduce the cost of their electricity bill over the long term.
We maintain the panels for 25 years so there are no costs for our customers. The panels themselves can go on to produce energy for 40 plus years. There are grid connected photovoltaic systems installed in the early 1980’s in Sweden, Switzerland and Japan that are still producing electricity today.
The environmental benefit
Over the years the feedback we have had from customers and the general public is that the environment and climate change are something most are concerned about but it does not seem to be the overriding factor for adopting solar. After all, if we offered a free coal burning power generator many people would still take us up on our offer as the overriding concern is the worry of affording their utilities.
No matter what the motivations are, the fact is that our 40,186 customers (August 2014) are contributing to a safer less polluted environment. It is benefiting their families’ health by reducing the amount of polluting fossil fuels we burn in the UK. The more clean energy that is produced the less fossil fuels need to be burnt so our customers are offsetting a significant amount of carbon (134,000 tonnes, October 2014) and whole host of chemicals and gases that won’t need to be spewed into our atmosphere. The very same air we breathe.
How are ASG and our customers making a difference?
Aside from reducing our customer’s energy bills how are we making a difference? As we represent a significant percentage of domestic renewable energy in the UK we are playing our part in pushing renewable energy forward. Without the investment we would be left to the will of the big energy producers dominated by gas, coal and nuclear and paying twice the market rate for foreign companies to build them for us because we no longer have the skills or expertise.
By being part of the green energy market we are encouraging the development of more efficient panels and inverters. Without such a high level of interest in solar technologies the market would not be developing solar PV electric water heating, renewable energy monitors and there would not be a move forward in the development of green energy storage solutions.
Are we more aware of solar as a nation?
It seems we are still relatively in the dark when it comes to solar; Many are still not fully aware of what solar is and, more importantly, how it can benefit them. Many still do not understand how we can be providing it for free when most other companies charge for it, let alone what the feed in tariff is.
Whilst our customers don’t really have to know about solar or understand the whys and wherefores of how it works it is important that people understand the benefits. You can reduce your electricity bills for decades to come and whether you realise it or not you are playing a part in our countries sustainable energy future rather than being at the mercy of a few large energy companies.