The default source of electricity has traditionally been from the national grid, generated from a range of fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas and oil. However, these fuels are not without their environmental downsides which is why governments across the world have been trying to push for more renewable, green sources of energy that will also help its citizens.
Solar electricity is one of these clean and renewable sources of energy. There are a wealth of benefits that it has, not only for the world, but also eases the costs of living of the homeowners who use it. Solar energy is generated through solar panels, which take energy from daylight and allow it to be used throughout the home.
As such, the government has blended the fact that it both lowers energy costs within the home and helps to cut down on harmful gases entering the atmosphere, to encourage solar panels as a better alternative. They have therefore introduced several grants and support methods to get solar PV system into more UK households, helping with the zero carbon emissions by 2050 target.
What’s the best Government Grant for Solar Panels?
Solar panels and the installation work required can be expensive. As a result, over the years, various UK government grants, schemes and incentives have been introduced to make solar panels more accessible to households, businesses and communities nationwide.
Some of these schemes include the Feed-in-Tariff scheme, Smart Export Guarantee, 0% VAT payable on solar installations, and our favourite, the ECO 4 Scheme.
The ECO4 Scheme
ECO4 is a government scheme that was introduced in April 2022, follwing on from the previous iterations of the scheme. It covers a range of home improvement options designed to cut down on harmful gases entering the atmosphere and does it mainly by targeting low-income families that will benefit from the reduced costs of energy. These home improvements consist of:
- Solar Energy Grants
- Insulation Grants
- Heat Pump Grants
Over three million grants and measures have been given out so far, with over two million homes receiving home improvements across these categories.
To get Solar Panels through ECO4 you have to apply. Our application form for ECO4 takes less than five minutes to fill in, and you’ll get a notification of your eligibility, as well as access to some of the UK’s get certified contractors.
It is still entirely possible to get your hands on Solar Panels for free through ECO4, or at least for a highly discounted rate – provided that you are eligible.
Am I Eligible for ECO4?
Eligibility criteria for ECO4 are remarkably simple. They consist of both the benefit/income level you have or your EPC Rating.
Benefits and/or Income that qualifies for ECO4
Since the government are targeting low-income households, they made those that receive some financial support benefits automatically viable. The following benefits are those that are eligible for ECO4’s schemes:
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support (IS)
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Working Tax Credit (WTC)
- Child Tax Credits (CTC)
- Universal Credit (UC)
- Housing Benefit (new qualifying benefit for ECO4)
- Pension Credit Savings Credit (new qualifying benefit for ECO4)
Alternatively, if your household income is lower than £31,000 a year, you will likely qualify. Whilst it is quite likely, it may be more or less depending on your local authority, in which the final decision lies.
EPC Rating required to qualify for ECO4
EPC refers to Energy Performance Certification, which is essentially the certified document stating the conditions of your energy production and efficiency. For residential properties, the process is carried out by an accredited Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA). The inspection will take the property’s construction, insulation, heating and cooling systems into account. After the inspection, you will receive a certification rating from A to G, which grades the level of energy efficiency your building has overall.
A signifies a high rating of efficiency, whereas G signifies the lowest. In order to qualify for the ECO4 scheme, you must be in need of home improvement options, and as such, you need a rating of F or below.
We at Solar Grants believe that this is the prime way to get your hands on Solar Panels, as ECO4 has replaced many of the following schemes.
Previous Schemes Available
This was a government scheme that was available from 2010 – 2019. It was designed to promote renewable energy sources, of which Solar Panel is included. Those who generated their own energy and stored them in batteries were able to sell that energy back to the national grid, as well as being paid for the electricity that they generated.
That being said, whilst this is now unavailable, those who already signed up during the open period are still able to continue benefiting from the scheme.
Green Homes Grant (GHG)
The Green Homes Grant was a governmental scheme that gave out vouchers to homeowners to cover some of the costs of installing energy efficiency improvements, of which Solar Panels were counted. The scheme began in September 2020 and ended in March 2021, although it was then extended to March 2022.
The Technological Advancements of Solar Technology
Solar Panels are often cited as having certain drawbacks, and these drawbacks are often cited as the reason why many opt not to pursue them. However, Solar Technology has come a very long way in the past couple of decades due to continuous research and development.
Solar Panels Efficiency
Solar Panels have been cited as having a poor ability to draw in power, especially during the daytime when not a lot of solar light is hitting the PV system. However, research has enabled solar panels to increase efficiency and power with developments such as muti-junction solar cells. This uses several layers of high-quality materials sectioned apart, capturing a broader range of solar spectrums.
Whilst Solar Panels still are a considerable expense, their massive cost has been reduced to reachable means for a decent percentage of the population. This is due to the development of thinner films within the Solar Panels. The thin film requires fewer materials, enabling them to be constructed through roll-to-roll printing and vapour deposition, which are highly cost-effective.
Bifacial Solar Panels
These solar panels are able to generate solar energy from the sun on both sides of their panels. This means that the sun’s energy that hits and is reflected off of areas behind the solar panel can now be captured instead of being wasted. This means that the amount of energy that solar panels can generate increases significantly.
Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)
BIPV essentially is a technology that allows Solar Panels to be installed and fitted onto unconventional surfaces. These surfaces can be areas such as windows, facades or roofing tiles. These measures allow installers to save a great deal of space whilst reducing the costs of installation.
Energy Storage Solutions
Through the development of energy storage alongside solar panels through batteries, you can essentially use the solar energy you collect throughout the day during times when no sunlight at all is present. Overall, this makes solar energy systems far more reliable and flexible. On top of that, you can take advantage of batteries so you can sell them back to the national grid.
Smart Solar Systems and Inverters
Smart Solar Systems are technologies that enable solar systems to be integrated into online systems. This means that through devices, such as Androids and computers, you can monitor your energy production. It can also be used to monitor in real-time the performance and health of your systems, allowing you to detect when your Solar System isn’t performing to standard.
Flexible and lightweight solar panels
Thanks to newer manufacturing processes, flexible and lightweight solar panels have been created with the purpose of being fitted onto various different types of building structures. This makes solar panels more accessible to a wide array of people and situations.
Other benefits of Solar Panels that you should consider
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
Smart Export Guarantee was a scheme introduced in January 2020. It was a replacement for FoT Export Tariff, which ended in 2019. SEG mandates that energy suppliers that have more than 150k customers are obligated to offer tariffs for small-scale, low-carbon generators for excess electricity exported to the grid.
This means if you have a battery alongside your solar panels, then you can benefit by selling your generated green energy back to the national grid.
0% VAT On Solar Installations
To encourage greater take up of solar technology the government introduced 0% VAT for reneawable technologies like solar. Until the end of March 2027, products such as solar panels will be zero rated meaning no VAT will be payable. After this period, the rate of VAT will revert back to the rate of 5%.
Being independent from the national grid grants you a great many benefits. Aside from minimising your greenhouse gas production, you also protect yourself from regional outages. These outages are most common during severe weather conditions, such as storms.
Solar Panels Pay for Themselves
Although it will take a little while to get the investment back, with the use of batteries in the Smart Export Guarantee and the costs saved drawing from the national grid, solar panels eventually pay for themselves. Once whatever you spend to get them is paid back, you can essentially use solar panels as additional income.