Wales has the highest uptake of small-scale renewable installations in homes and businesses across the UK.
Scotland has previously held the top spot as the UK nation with the highest proportion of installations per household. As Welsh homeowners continue to invest heavily in greener energy they have overtaken Scotland in the league tables for the first time since 2021, according to latest data from MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme).
Scotland has roughly double the number of households as Wales, so although Wales has a smaller total installation count, there are more houses with installations according to MCS and housing data.
By the end of April 2023, all-time installation volumes reached 178,758 for Scotland and 97,537 for Wales. Using housing data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to compare uptake volumes, Wales has 7.24 per cent of homes with installations against Scotland’s 7.23 per cent. England is third with 1,261,503 (5.52 per cent) and Northern Ireland is fourth with 31,421 (4.19 per cent).
Total installation volume and uptake is viewable in near-real-time by each home nation and also by local authority on the MCS Data Dashboard. Every certified small-scale renewable installation is recorded in the MCS Installations Database that is updated every 24 hours to paint a dynamic picture of the uptake of renewables across the country.
Transitioning to renewables
One Welsh company seeing the demand for renewable energy installations is Llandudno-based Chris Allen Heating, whose founder Chris Allen transitioned into small-scale renewables after more than 35 years of experience in installing traditional heating and electrical technologies. With experience in fitting air source heat pumps already, Allen and the team chose to become MCS certified for solar PV technologies too.
He believes solar PV is their most popular technology due to its instant impact: “Not only can the customers see the savings to their electric bill very quickly, but once installed, there are very few, if any, changes to how the customer uses the existing systems in their homes,” Allen said.
Sian Griffith, a primary school teacher who lives in Anglesey, decided to invest in solar PV in 2021 for three reasons: her concerns around climate change, the desire to reduce her carbon footprint and the potential savings on her energy bill. Under the Welsh Government’s Arbed am Byth scheme, after purchasing her panels, Sian qualified to have them fitted to her home free of charge by Chris Allen Heating.
Commenting on the installation, Sian said: “It made perfect sense to have the panels fitted once the surveyor had explained how they worked, and that my south-facing roof was an ideal location for them. The installation company provided instructions on how to make the most of the panels by doing as many electricity-hungry activities, such as clothes washing, during the day when the panels were generating at their peak.”
Demand for renewables is rising
Chris Allen expects that the number of renewable installations in Wales and across the UK will continue to increase year-on-year. He believes it is inevitable that fossil fuels will be slowly phased out as they become less affordable.
Ian Rippin, CEO at MCS, added: “It’s promising to see Wales perform so well in our latest data release as it highlights that more Welsh homeowners are not only looking to decarbonise their homes, but also that they are conscious about the installation quality they receive to maximise efficiency. Solar panels will lead to long-term cost savings.
“Solar PV continues to be the most popular technology type in Wales and across the UK, but heat pump installers are also seeing further uptake each month and demand is gaining momentum for low-carbon heating, especially since the Boiler Upgrade Scheme was extended to 2028.
“With the energy crisis still very prevalent, consumers face hard decisions, so we hope these latest statistics give businesses and consumers in Wales the confidence to invest in home-grown energy to prepare their homes for a low-carbon future.”
In 2022 the UK Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) was launched to pay consumers grants to replace 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 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 micro-CHP. Although the scheme has now closed to new applicants, existing claimants can still receive payments for their energy generation.
In 2020 the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) was launched and electricity suppliers now pay consumers for electricity they export back into the grid. This energy can be generated by several 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.