The results are in for our 2015 UK-wide survey about commercial solar panels. A total of 201 UK businesses took part in our online survey which was undertaken in January 2015.
The survey was done in order to understand what UK businesses think of solar panels, what the barriers to greater uptake are and the misconceptions there are around commercial solar. It is the first and largest survey about commercial solar in the UK.
Companies answering the survey were involved in all types of business, from small businesses to golf courses and farmers, although the majority were in manufacturing, warehousing, retail and the public sector.”This survey serves to highlight the growing pains of a nascent industry and identified a range of issues surrounding commercial solar. It was enlightening and we hope it can serve to educate both the public and solar panel companies,” said Michael Kaeflein, Marketing Manager of Energy Saving Solar.
- 75% of businesses underestimate how much can be saved by installing solar panels.
- Over half of businesses did not know another business that had solar panels
- Surprisingly when it comes to installing solar panels, almost as many businesses would consider outright purchase of the panels (capital purchase) as the fully-funded option.
- According to those surveyed barriers to more businesses installing solar include:
- not owning the roof,
- the lack of unbiased, accurate information
- the reduction in the Feed-In Tariff rates.
We set out to find out what businesses in the UK really thought about solar, what they liked about it and what they didn’t.
We used SurveyMonkey to complete our survey which was distributed through email, social media and our website.
Solar panels save money, save the environment and improve a building’s Energy Performance rating, so what’s not to like? A resounding 76% of respondents said that they would install solar panels, which is encouraging news for solar installers and testifies to the size of the possible market. 24% said no and the reasons were given below.
There were a range of reasons why businesses wouldn’t install. Three options were given for respondents to select as well as a comment box for them to enter other reasons.
- Of those who answered no, 63% cited the fact that solar panels are too expensive.
- What we found surprising is over a quarter mentioned that there is not enough sunlight in the UK to make them worthwhile, this is a common misconception that still needs to be combatted.
- Among the other responses in the “other” comments box was fact that the business did not own the building, were leasing or were in serviced offices.
- A small number of people were not aware of what solar does. This is an obvious problem that needs to be addressed, but remains a very small proportion of the sample surveyed.
- Several respondents also mentioned that they did not like the way the solar panels looked. others had already done surveys and found that they were ineligible for solar.
- A few mentioned that panels may negatively affect the property price and also tie them to the property if they wanted to move.
- Surprisingly six respondents mentioned that they already have solar installed – several of them weredisappointed with the results.
Most respondents reckoned that they could save between 0-30%, but most were in the 0-20% bracket. In our experience we find that businesses that install solar panels save around 33% on their electricity. A lack of awareness of the true savings obtainable with solar panels is something that needs to be changed.
This was one of the most revealing questions of our survey. Several respondents mentioned that they were completely unaware that part-funded and fully-funded panels in fact were available. If these options were more widely known then people would be less likely to write solar panels off by saying that they are “too expensive”.
Most respondents are aware of the fact that solar can increase the value of their property. There was a considerable percentage who did not think that it would (35%). An increase in property value is a very big benefit that needs to be used more in marketing, as too much emphasis is placed solely on saving money on electricity.
There is no specific figure of how much value solar panels add to the value of the property in percentage terms, the value is more in the intangibles.
Research by SolarCentury and JLL 1, sums up the point well, stating that solar panels can increase the value of a property because “rooftop solar on commercial property adds value by improving the marketability of a property to occupiers who are driven by cost or CSR objectives, and additional income which is received via power purchase agreements and government-backed tariffs.” (emphasis own)
The feed-in tariff is key to the whole proposition of saving money with solar panels, put simply it is the money that the government pays you for electricity that you generate from your solar panels. The fact the 35% of the businesses surveyed did not know about the feed-in tariff again points to the lack of information and education relating to commercial solar. Of those that knew about it, many were concerned about the recent cuts and changes to it. Read our easy-to-understand guide to the Feed In-Tariff.
It was not surprising to find out that the majority of those surveyed did not know of any other businesses that had solar on their roofs. With increased installation we hope to see this change in time. This is different from the situation with domestic solar, where as many as 85% of home owners know someone who has solar panels on their roofs according to recent research.
An install on an office roof
There were a number of issues that were highlighted. Some of the most salient points were picked and are stated below:
- Lack of government support
- Regulations for listed buildings, which are the ones most needing more energy efficiency.
- Lack of direct information and returns for now and the future.
- Having to pay now for a longer term return.
- Government legislative changes that altered the feed in rate, multi-national power companies using unfair influence to reduce the competition, a ridiculous media campaign casting doubt on our ability to make a difference and doubt on climate change being anything to do with human activity
- Planning restraints
One respondent raised a very pertinent point, with the knowledge required to make a balanced decision many business owners simply don’t have the time to “consider it while trying to run a business”, suggesting that it is a luxury.
Commercial solar in the UK, while in its infancy, is at a crux point. With the government being keen to shift focus from ground-mounted solar to commercial roof top solar, now seems like a good to time to promote accurate information and educate the public. With more businesses installing solar there will be greater debate and discussion. There is still quite a lot of misconception when it comes to the savings, whether a business building qualifies and the Feed-in tariff (FiT).