2023 set to be a record year for renewables
Records broken for solar panel and heat pump installations in first six months of 2023
UK on track for nearly a quarter of a million homes installing certified renewables this year
“The future lies in renewables, not oil and gas”, say experts
More households are installing heat pumps and solar panels in the UK than ever before, with a 62% jump compared to last year, new data from the official standards body for renewable technologies shows.
MCS data shows that in the first six months of 2023, more than 120,000 certified solar panels, heat pumps and other renewable technologies were installed in UK homes, the highest number ever by this point in the year.
The previous record for renewable installations was more than a decade ago in 2012, when households raced to get solar panels before cuts to the Feed-In Tariff incentive scheme kicked in.
June saw 27,791 certified installations recorded on homes and businesses across the UK, bringing the total for the first half of the year to 122,155. 2023 saw more installations in the month of June and in the first half of the year than any previous year.
2023 is the first year to average more than 20,000 installations per month, and the first to see more than 3,000 heat pumps installed per month. Analysts say that with this sustained growth, nearly a quarter of a million households could install renewable energy by the end of this year.
Over 80% of the installations so far in 2023 have been electricity-generating technologies, driven mainly by the continued growth in solar PV installations. By the end of June, there were 102,797 certified installations of solar PV alone as more households turn to home-grown energy during the cost-of-living crisis. The first half of 2023 saw 82% more installations than the first half of 2022.
Small-scale renewable energy installations on homes and businesses across the UK now have a total installed capacity of 4GW. The energy demand for the entire country averaged 29.4GW a day in the last year, meaning that the solar panels and wind turbines on peoples’ homes, at peak conditions, could power over 13% of the UK at current.
The growth in solar has been mirrored by battery storage installation growth since MCS introduced the battery storage installation standard at the end of 2021. Each month of 2023 has been a record month for battery technologies, with installation figures surpassing the month before, totalling over 1,000 batteries going into homes and businesses across the UK in 2023 so far.
There has been similar success in the growth of low-carbon heating, with average heat pump installations being over 3,000 per month for the first time in 2023. There were 17,920 heat pump installations in the first six months of 2023, a figure only rivalled by a rush to install heat pumps before the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive subsidy scheme in March 2022.
Heat pump installations in England and Wales have been eligible for £5,000 – £6,000 Government grants since May last year under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. These grants are starting to take effect as heat pump sales are steadily growing. In Scotland, consumers can claim a grant of £7,500-£9,000 towards a heat pump installation plus an additional optional loan of £7,500.
The UK Government has set clear targets to reach 70GW of solar capacity by 2035 and to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. The growth in renewable technology across the UK in the last few years is promising, but there is still much further to go.
One of the biggest barriers to overcome will be recruiting enough qualified, skilled installers to meet demand. There are now 1,500 certified heat pump installation companies in the UK, estimates are that 50,000 workers will be needed to meet Government targets of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. So far in 2023, over 850 new contractors have become MCS certified. That’s more contractors than joined the scheme during the whole of 2022, showing the UK is picking up pace in recruiting installers.
MCS is calling for the Government to expand the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and offer higher grant values and more vouchers per year. Further investment in skills and training is also needed to build up a workforce able to respond to the demand for heat pumps.
MCS is also calling on the Government to mandate solar panels, heat pumps, and battery storage in all new homes from 2025 under the new Future Homes Standard.
MCS CEO Ian Rippin said: “We are pleased to report that the UK is on track for its strongest year ever for certified small-scale renewable technology installations. The home-grown energy you invest in for your home, or your business plays an ever more crucial role in the decarbonisation of UK buildings.
“As the cost of energy continues to grow, we are seeing more people turn to renewable technology to generate their own energy and heat at home. We need to continue to push this expansion to meet our shared national ambitions to reach net zero by 2050. More consumers have the confidence to invest in small-scale renewables now than ever, but we have to make that transition even easier.”
Speaking on the sustained growth of rooftop solar on UK homes and businesses, Gareth Simkins, Senior Communications Adviser at Solar Energy UK said: “In the spring, it was looking like we would have something like 215,000 MCS certified solar installations this year. But that was clearly an underestimate – I would bet on around 250,000 now. Installing solar on your roof is one of the best home improvements you can make, and more and more people realise the financial and environmental benefits.”
Discussing the continued success of heat pump deployment across the UK, Bean Beanland, Director of External Affairs at the Heat Pump Federation, said “Whilst there is much to celebrate, there is a tremendous job of work to do to ensure that heat pump technology becomes mainstream over the remainder of this decade. Enhancing the collaboration with existing and future installers is critical, both to industry success and to the continued development of policy supportive of the electrification of heat and the complete cessation of combustion in due course.
“It is essential that the lowest carbon heat becomes the lowest cost heat so that homeowners and landlords can justify the transition away from polluting fossil fuels. This transition will accelerate as consumers appreciate the advances in protection that the revisions to the MCS scheme are designed to deliver. If this is coupled to a genuine affordability and future funding package, then households will be able to contribute to climate change mitigation with confidence and at a cost that is fair to all.”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
“Electricity-generating technologies” include solar PV, battery storage, michroCHP, and small-scale wind turbines.
UK average energy demand calculated using National Grid Live.
Since 2008, MCS has been gathering data from MCS certified contractors and other third parties such as scheme operators. Every certified installation is registered on the MCS Installations Database (MID) when a certificate is raised by the contractor.
Built over the last 15 years and now holding information on more than 1.5 million installations, the MID remains the single most comprehensive reference point for UK small-scale renewables.
As MCS certification is not a mandatory requirement, the MID does not capture every renewable installation in the UK. However, as MCS is the route to incentive, we are confidents our installation data represents the majority of systems installed since the late 2000s.
Installation and contractor data including cost, system size and more is freely available and can be broken down by time and region using the MCS Data Dashboard.
The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (DRHI) is a government scheme which was launched in November 2011 and closed in March 2022. Consumers installing renewable heating systems between September 2011 and March 2014 are eligible to claim tariff payments per kilowatt hour for heat generated by heat pumps and water heated by solar heating. Although the scheme is now closed to new applicants, existing claimants can still receive payments for their heat generation.
In 2022, DRHI was replaced by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) which pays consumers grants to replace their fossil fuel heating systems with renewable alternatives. You can be paid £5,000 towards the installation cost of an air source heat pump, or £6,000 towards the costs of a ground source heat pump. In limited circumstances, biomass boilers are also eligible.
The sustained high performance of heat pumps in the UK follows the introduction of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) after RHI closed. Through the BUS, the Government offers grants to consumers to replace their fossil fuel heating systems with heat pumps. In the first year of the scheme, 9,983 grants were paid, collectively worth over £50 million. Behind solar PV, heat pumps (air source and ground/water source) were the second most popular technology on the MCS portfolio.
The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) was a scheme operated between April 2010 and April 2019 offering tariff payments from electricity suppliers per kilowatt hour to consumers exporting renewable electricity back to the national grid, including by solar PV, wind and microCHP. Although the scheme has now closed to new applicants, existing claimants can still receive payments for their energy generation.
In 2020, FiT was replaced with the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) under which electricity suppliers pay consumers for electricity they export back into the grid. This energy can be generated by a number of renewable methods including solar PV, wind and micro-CHP.
To be eligible for any of these incentive schemes, installations, products and contractors installing the system must all be certified by MCS.
MCS certified contractors
MCS certifies renewable energy and heating contractors of all sizes across the UK to carry out certified work. There are now over 3,500 MCS certified contractors. Each of the companies must have their administrative systems and a completed installation audited by a certification body – a third party certifier acting on behalf of MCS. Their staff must almost meet MCS training and competency requirements.