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08 October 2010

Bright future for social housing solar schemes

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Projects in London and Yorkshire have cut bills and generated revenue to refurbish housing stock
A project attempting to prove that the benefits of feed-in tariffs are not restricted to wealthy households has saved more than 80 low-income families £120 each.

Feed-in tariffs have been criticised by some environmentalists, most notably green campaigner George Monbiot and Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, who feel that their benefits are accrued only by those who can afford the £12,000 typically required to install microgeneration technologies such as solar panels.

But according to new figures a recent solar project in Brent, north London, saw residents of the Brentfield Estate cut their electricity bills by up to a third after panels producing 1,062kWh a year were installed last autumn by Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) and Solarcentury.

The estate also expects to generate a pre-tax income of £64,000 a year through the feed-in tariff, with some of the money earmarked for reinvestment in energy-efficiency improvements.

Gerry Doherty, chief executive of BHP, which manages 13,000 homes across the borough, said that as budgets are cut, solar panels offer an alternative income stream for housing providers, while cushioning low-income families against rising fuel prices and cutting CO2 emissions.

He added that the sustainable income stream provided by the feed-in tariff allowed the organisation to improve its housing stock in other ways, such as the rollout of improved insulation.

"This is just the beginning of our retrofit programme," he said. "We want as many of our residents to see their bills cut using solar photovoltaics (PV) as possible. But we can only do this because the income from the feed-in tariff allows us to reinvest in energy-efficiency programmes."


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