The introduction of Feed-in-Tariffs (FIT) in April 2010 led to a large number of companies offering customers free solar PV panels, which are often referred to as ‘rent-a-roof’ schemes, with the solar panel owner simply ‘renting’ the roof space from the customer.
Typically, the company installing the solar PV panels will receive the income from the generation and export tariffs for the site, while the customer will benefit from reduced energy bills through the electricity generated on the site.
It should be noted that some companies may not offer the generated electricity for free, but instead offer it at a discounted price.
If you are considering a free solar PV offer, you should look closely as what the supplier is offering you and have a clear understanding of how you will benefit by taking up the offer.
How Rent-a-roof schemes work
- The company installs the solar panels on south, south-west or south-east facing roofs.
- The company pays for the installation, connection charges and the maintenance of the panels.
- The homeowner benefits from free electricity from the panels (could be a saving worth £100 or 20% of annual usage, depending on how much of the solar energy is used on site)*
- Any electricity that is not used is exported into the local electricity network. Any income associated with this is likely to go to the company suppling the panels.
- As the owner of the solar panels, the company receives the full Feed-in-Tariffs income (approx £600 per year)*
*based on a 2kWp system which is expected to be fairly typical in size for most homes.
Questions to ask the a company offering free solar PV
- Who’s paying for the equipment? Is that in full? Who owns the equipment? (and is that all of the equipment – i.e. meter, wires inside building etc – or just equipment on the roof/in the back yard?)
- Who gets (a) the generation tariff, (b) the export tariff, (c) the ‘free’ electricity? If the company isn’t offering all the electricity for free then you should carefully consider whether it’s worth going ahead as benefits may be minimal.
- Is the electricity used onsite and/or exported going to be metered, or will it be assumed that 50% (the deeming assumption in FIT) will be used?
- Who pays for maintenance and repairs
- Who will insure the equipment? Against what?
- Who will be liable if the equipment causes damage to your or your neighbours property or electrics?
- Is the supplier in effect lending money to you to install the technology, either as a loan or a hire purchase deal? In which case: How long for? What is the annual equivalent interest rate (AER) on the money? Where is their consumer credit license? and do they have cooling off period in case you change your mind.
- What happens if you decide that you want to pay off the remaining costs early? Can you have the FIT income re-assigned to you?
- What happens if you move house and the new owners don’t want to ‘inherit’ the deal?
- Are you giving any performance guarantees for the equipment? (and what happens if it stops working and generating FITs for you? Is that your risk?)
- Who is responsible for addressing any planning issues or electricity distribution company notification requirements? Who pays any associated costs?
- What happens if the company which owns the equipment ceases to exist or goes into liquidation?
If you do decide to go ahead with a free solar PV offer, we recommend telling your mortgage provider about you plans before you sign a contract with the supplier.
Its also worth considering the following:
– Do your domestic chores like laundry, ironing and vacuuming, during daylight hours when you can use the free electricity.
Avoid wasting energy by putting some cost effective energy efficiency measures in place. Check our our top tips for saving energy.