Solar heating panels will come on 7 million homes

Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister whom I have much maligned in these posts, told the BBC radio 4 programme that green energy targets to meet at least 15% of the UK’s energy from renewables would lead to over seven million homes being fitted with thermal solar systems in the next 12 years.

Of course the plan will cost money – the overall costs of the renewable energy strategy is set at £100 billion, which will amount to by my calculations around £350 per annum per household, but that will include not just solar panels but also wind turbines and other measures.

In a year when household energy bills are set to increase by £500 and with further increases certain in the pipeline an investment today will pay the nation real dividends in the future.

There will also be included plans to force householders to insulate more, but there is only so much that you can save with insulation, and saving energy, as important as it is does not generate energy.

The announcement is very welcome. We shall have to see what the detail holds because that it where the plan for renewables will succeed or fail. I expect that the plan will involve plenty of compulsion. Householders will be forced to install solar systems and the government will be forced to install large scale wind farms by virtue of its membership of the European Union.

I hope that it will abandon some specific policies – like the Zero Carbon Home policy, which diverts attention into a policy where very little is to be gained in terms of carbon and energy saving in new build, where the real problem lies not in the 75,000 new homes every year but in the 26 million existing homes that use energy.

Some people may not like the idea of solar panels on seven million roofs, but do not be put off by the BBC’s pictures on their web site. They are not like any solar panels that I know, and I do run the company that has 25% of the UK’s solar thermal market. If you want to see how unobtrusive they are put “solar panels” into the search engine in this site or look at some examples at