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Why UK consumers are seeking solar as the solution to the cost of living crisis

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Jordan Brompton, co-founder and CMO at myenergi, discusses the widespread benefits of self-generation and explains how households can make the most of their sustainable supply.

As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, the number of UK homeowners investing in renewables is rising at a rapid pace. Over the past decade, the European energy marketplace has continued to experience increasing volatility. Even prior to the catastrophic impact caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices were creeping up and unprecedented demand was beginning to put pressure on available supply.

Indeed, in 2021 alone, wholesale costs soared by upwards of 250%.1 Key factors behind this hike included a cold summer, meaning less gas was stored for winter use; fewer pipeline deliveries than predicted; and far lower energy generation across Europe than in previous years.2 This resulted in significant demand placed on supply channels, just as energy demand peaked,3 and all while global economies were still bouncing back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than short-term pressure, with the market quickly bouncing back, challenging conditions are set to continue. With price caps rising, inflation soaring and the cost of living impacting almost every household, escalating energy prices and the real risk of demand outstripping supply continues to hit the headlines.

To tackle the seemingly looming energy crisis, more householders than ever are turning towards renewable energy generation as a solution to safeguard against an unpredictable market. According to Solar Energy UK, more than 3,000 photovoltaic (PV) installations were undertaken every week in July – an increase of almost 200% year-on-year. In addition, installers nationwide have been reporting enquiry surges of more than 1,000%4.

But while increasing renewable uptake should be commended from an environmental perspective, will self-generation really protect consumers from escalating energy bills? What’s more, with a hefty associated price tag, is it possible to further maximise efficiencies and reduce the payback on their investment?

Does the maths add up when it comes to self-generation?

With almost 1.1 million installations across the UK, solar PV deployment provides a combined national energy capacity of approximately 13.6 gigawatts.5,6 Unlike most renewable generation, an increasing percentage of this capacity is from smaller panels, many of which are found on the roofs of residential homes.

But why solar? Well, when it comes to self-generated energy generation, PV is a reliable and efficient solution with a realistic payback time and minimal maintenance requirements. As the technology has continued to evolve and improve, it has become the most popular solution for homeowners looking to take energy into their own hands.

While popular, solar is just one solution. Skyrocketing energy prices have been a huge motivator for households investing in self-generation, with all renewable technologies thrust into the spotlight. Whether small-scale wind turbines, solar thermal technology or ground source heat pumps, consumers are quickly moving away from reliance on mains supply and the uncontrollable pressure of market volatility.

And yet, despite continued investment, the Achilles heel of renewables remains. While most household energy is used in the evenings, most renewable energy is generated during the day. Unless consumers have a comprehensive battery set-up, it’s most likely that they’ll export sustainable power at periods of low consumption and buy it back at a more expensive rate when they need it.

Self-consumption technologies – beating the system

In the past, the challenge of unmanageable generation has proven a barrier too high for most homeowners to overcome. The equation simply doesn’t add up. But fortunately, there’s another way.

There are technologies available, such as those from myenergi, which allows consumers to maximise the efficiency of their self-generated supply, reducing both their carbon footprint and energy spend. 

One example of these technologies is eco-smart electric vehicle chargers, of which myenergi developed the first, the zappi. This EV charger is smart in that it operates as a mains-connected charging device that automatically optimises around the consumer’s energy tariff to enable charging at both cheaper and greener times from the grid, while seamlessly integrating with renewable tech to harness self-generated energy.

This gives zappi users the opportunity to charge for free using solar generation. While charging a car through mains supply is still far cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than running a petrol or diesel car, doing it with renewable energy can take EV charging completely off grid.

Other technologies that are available include solar power diverters, which can divert surplus renewable energy to domestic heating systems. That will be especially useful in the winter, where homes can benefit from lower heating bills thanks to their own renewable generation. 

As a result of all these technologies, it’s possible to have a smart home with minimal grid demand, autonomously powering an electric car, heating and hot water with completely free renewable energy. An investment upfront is obviously required, but with energy bills escalating, it gives users complete control over energy spend and avoids the risk of price cap hikes. W

The idea of smart, automated systems that use renewable energy to power and warm homes across the UK while recharging a zero-emission vehicle is a real game-changer. However, it’s not a vision for the future, it’s available to us today.

So, while the Achilles heel remains, innovations are giving consumers smarter, more innovative and environmentally-friendly alternatives to offset their reliance on the grid. With the cost of grid generation outside the control of homeowners, now is the perfect time to become more independent. With concerns about ongoing price hikes, self-generation, energy independence and smart eco-smart technologies can provide the solution.

Jordan Brompton

co-founder and CMO at myenergi

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