Can You Get Free Solar Panels and Solar Panel Grants in 2019?

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The Feed-in Tariff has concluded, but solar panels are more affordable than ever before

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) will launch on 1st Jan 2020

Solar panels can cut your energy bills by up to 50%


DISCLAIMER: Our partners no longer take appointments for homeowners looking to benefit from the Feed-in Tariff, which concluded on 31st March 2019


The sunlight-absorbing magic of solar panels has captured the hearts and minds of eco-conscious homeowners up and down the country. A recent study from the Solar Trade Association found that over 800,000 UK homes now have solar panels, and that number looks set to keep on rising.

Although the Feed-in Tariff came to an end in April 2019, there’s another government initiative on the way (called the Smart Export Guarantee), and energy companies have come up with all sorts of replacement schemes. On this page, we’ll tell you all you need to know about the government’s solar panel initiatives (old and new), and explain why solar panels are still worth it.

To find out how much it would cost you to install solar panels, simply simply fill in this short form, and our qualified installers will be in touch. You can also check out our detailed page on solar panel costs to learn more.

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Can I still get free solar panels in 2019?

free solar panels

The short answer: not anymore, unfortunately.

It’s hard to believe that, back in 2010 when the Feed-in Tariff began, companies would literally buy your solar panels for you. They’d put them on your roof, you’d benefit from the energy bill savings (and all that eco-friendly electricity), and they’d earn all the money from the Feed-in Tariff. It was an efficient system, but the 64% reduction in Feed-in Tariff payments in 2016 put an end to the whole thing.

Although the Feed-in Tariff has now concluded, there’s another government initiative on the way (see the Smart Export Guarantee below), and some companies have even created their own tariff systems, such as E.On and Octopus Energy.


Are there any government grants for solar panels?

There are no grants for solar panels available in the UK. The government used to provide interest-free loans and grants as part of the Green Deal, but this concluded in 2015. The Feed-in Tariff also came to an end in April 2019, but the new Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is on the way, starting in January 2020.

The story of the Green Deal is a short and disappointing one:

1. Back in 2013, the government set up the Green Deal, which gave people a loan to help them buy solar panels (amongst many other energy efficient home improvements)

2. In 2014, the government launched a second Green Deal, changing the loans to grants – an upgrade that people took for granted…

3. In 2015, the government scrapped the Green Deal, largely due to lack of interest from homeowners

The current Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) is not quite the resurrection you’d be hoping for. It focuses on multiple types of energy-saving home improvements, but there’s no funding for solar panels.

Are there free solar panels for council tenants?

If you’re a council tenant in the UK, sit tight; free solar panels might be coming your way.

In 2017, the government set up a scheme that will provide 800,000 low-income households with solar panels in the next five years. It’s an ambitious plan, relying on £160 million of investment from Dutch firm Maas Capital, and implementation by UK firm Solarplicity.

The scheme has been very successful in Stoke-on-Trent (with over 3,500 council tenants signing up), and Solarplicity are now planning a nationwide rollout. The panels are expected to bring down tenants’ energy bills by around £300 each year.

This is all part of the government’s aim to ensure that 15% of energy consumption in the UK comes from renewable sources by 2020. Given that the government has just declared a climate emergency, this is pretty important stuff.

Are there free solar panels for pensioners?

Back when the Green Deal was alive and kicking, pensioners could easily receive a government grant for solar panels. The idea behind prioritising pensioners was that they are more likely to spend time at home than any other age group, so they’ll get more out of their solar panels.

However, the conclusion of the Green Deal put this lovely arrangement to bed.

Solar finance and solar panel loans

If you can’t afford the total upfront cost of a brand new solar PV system, there are ways to source the cash. Some companies are offering homeowners low-interest loans and reasonable repayment plans to help them make the switch to solar. For example, check out the options currently offered by Pegasus Personal Finance and Evo Energy.

You can also get a loan from your bank to cover solar panel installation costs. Most banks offer personal loans specifically for home improvements, which could be used for renewable energy developments.

Did You Know?

It only takes around 2-5 days to have solar panels installed. Just enter your details here and our suppliers will be in touch with quotes tailored to you.


What about the Feed-in Tariff?

DISCLAIMER: Our partners no longer take appointments for homeowners looking to benefit from the Feed-in Tariff, which concluded on 31st March 2019

The Feed-in Tariff was a UK Government initiative that paid households for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity that they produced from renewable sources (e.g. solar panels, wind turbines, etc.). On top of this, homeowners were also able to sell any unused electricity to the National Grid (this was called the Export Tariff).

The Feed-in Tariff was a huge success. Between 2010 (when the scheme began) and 2017, the UK’s renewable energy capacity rose from 9.3 gigawatts (i.e. 9.3 billion watts) to a massive 38.9 gigawatts. The Feed-in Tariff concluded in April 2019, but anybody who signed up before the deadline will still receive payments until their contract (usually 20 years long) expires.

Why has the Feed-in Tariff concluded?

Well, the government wanted to focus on more commercial, high-impact solar panel projects, and the tumbling cost of solar panels (decreasing by 70% since 2010) means there isn’t as much need for a subsidy.

That’s right, a solar PV system for a three-bedroom house in the UK currently costs about £6,000 – compare that to around £20,000 just one decade ago. Check out our detailed guide to solar panel costs in 2019 to learn more.

Nevertheless, subsidies are helpful, and fortunately the government has a replacement for the Feed-in Tariff in the works…


The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is going to fill the hole that the departed Feed-in Tariff has left behind. However, instead of being based on payments from the government, the SEG will ensure that energy suppliers pay homeowners for any unused solar-generated electricity.

While the Feed-in Tariff involved Ofgem setting the rates, the SEG will let energy suppliers determine their own prices. In a competitive market, this should lead to companies outbidding each other with higher repayment rates, creating better deals for the homeowner. Ideally, you’ll be sitting back in your solar-powered home while suppliers scrabble for your business.

What’s more, the SEG will be a lot fairer than the Feed-in Tariff. The government used to pay homeowners for just 50% of their unused solar-generated electricity, even if households were exporting as much as 80% of their electricity back to the grid. In contrast, when the SEG is in place, energy suppliers will pay homeowners for every single bit – although it will probably require each household to have a smart meter (to monitor things accurately).

Thankfully, there’s not long to waitthe government will have the SEG up and running by the end of 2019.

So, once the SEG is in place, homeowners will be benefitting from 100% of their solar panels’ hard work:

• All used solar-generated electricity will contribute to savings on your energy bills (which can be up to £220 per year, according to Energy Saving Trust)

• All unused solar-generated electricity will be bought back by your energy supplier

The best way to make the most of your solar panels is to combine them with a solar battery, and create a ‘solar-plus-storage’ system. A solar battery will stock up all the electricity that’s generated during the day (while you’re out), so it’s there for you to use in the evenings.

To find out how much a solar battery will cost you, and to check out the best models on the market, visit our guide to solar batteries.


Other alternatives to the Feed-in Tariff

A handful of energy suppliers have reacted to the conclusion of the Feed-in Tariff with their own tariff systems. While these are all very small-scale schemes, it suggests a bright future of company-led solar power incentives for homeowners. Here are three suppliers who have attempted to bridge the gap while the government has been working on the SEG.

E.On

The folks at E.On set up their Solar Reward scheme almost immediately after the Feed-in Tariff packed up. They promised to pay 5.24p per kWh of exported electricity to the first 500 customers who install one of their solar PV systems. It’s clearly a fairly limited scheme, and the payments last only one year, but the SEG should be set up by the time these payments finish.

Octopus Energy

Octopus Energy has responded very impressively to the vanishing of the Feed-in Tariff, setting up a scheme called ‘Outgoing Octopus’. Any customer that signs up will be paid a variable rate (updated half-hourly according to the ever-changing price of energy) for exporting their unused electricity back to the grid. There’s also no end date in sight, so it’s a genuine long-term replacement.

Bulb

This is very small-scale, but it’s currently something of a test run. The energy supplier is advertising export payments for 50 customers, although the exact rate and end date are both unclear. If all goes well, Bulb will be “ready to scale up”.


Is it still worth getting solar panels?

is it still worth getting solar panels

The short answer: yes!

With the Feed-in Tariff a thing of the past, you’re probably asking yourself if the switch to solar is still worth it. Fortunately, solar panels still come with a whole host of big benefits, and there also isn’t long to wait until the Smart Export Guarantee is up and running. Here are the main advantages of installing solar panels at home:

You’ll save money on your energy bills

Once your solar panels start soaking up all that golden sunlight, they’ll be fuelling your house with complimentary energy. That means you can seriously reduce the amount of electricity you buy from the grid, and slice a sizeable chunk of money off your annual energy bills.

Based on stats from the Energy Saving Trust, a 4kWp solar PV system (around 12-16 panels) could save you between £85 and £220 each year, depending on where in the UK you’re based (solar panels in the south of England perform the best).

Likewise, we surveyed 390 UK homeowners in January 2018, and 84% of them said their solar panels were reducing their monthly energy bills by as much as 50%.

For the biggest savings on your energy bills, it’s sensible to get your hands on high-efficiency panels. In solar speak, ‘efficiency’ refers to the proportion of sunlight that a panel can convert into usable electricity, measured in %. To find out more, check out our guide to the most efficient solar panels on the market in 2019.

If you’re keen to go the whole hog and use as much as 100% of your solar panels’ electricity output, consider installing a solar battery (it’ll work hand-in-hand with your panels).

They’re extremely eco-friendly

Solar panels are exactly what the Earth needs right now. While the planet coughs and splutters its way through the humanity-induced “climate emergency”, everyone must do their best to switch to clean, renewable sources of energy. Solar panels are exactly that, crafting electricity from sunbeams without dumping any carbon emissions in the process.

Oh yes, your carbon footprint will take a serious battering. A typical 3-4kWp solar PV system will prevent around 1.3-1.6 tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere every year(compared to a household that isn’t using any renewable energy, the swines). Swap your car for a horse-drawn wagon and you’ll be the eco-friendliest human there ever was, nursing the ailing Mother Nature back to full health.

They’ll give you electricity independence

Installing solar panels can have a very liberating effect. Once you start making your own energy instead of buying electricity from the grid, you’ll be relying far less on energy suppliers. When energy companies want to increase their prices, non-solar-powered households are essentially putty in their hands, forced to pay up or go without power. What’s more, the future of energy prices isn’t looking too rosy, with the “Big Six” energy suppliers regularly increasing their rates, and Ofgem’s ‘price cap’ doing little to help (they’ve already had to increase it).

For example, in April 2019, approximately 15 million households in the UK saw their energy bills increase by more than £100 per year.

Once you switch to solar, you won’t have to worry about these price increases. You might still need to buy a bit of electricity from the grid (especially during the evenings), but the storage capability of a solar battery has the potential to take you entirely off the grid. So long, grid!


Finding an installer

So that’s that – the Feed-in Tariff has checked out, but the Smart Export Guarantee is on its way in, and energy companies are coming up with all kinds of tempting initiatives. Meanwhile, solar panels are the most affordable they’ve ever been, promising hefty energy bill reductions and wholesome eco-friendly gains.

To find out how much it will cost you to get solar panels, fill in this short form, and our qualified installers will get back to you with their best prices.

Charlie Clissitt Content Manager

When it comes to all things eco-friendly and economically savvy, Charlie is a spectacularly woke millennial. A university-educated solar panel scholar with an eye for detail, when Charlie isn’t writing, he’s tucked up in bed watching his favourite black and white film.