Eco-friendly Britons rush for affordable solar panels

Eco-friendly Britons seeking relief from soaring domestic energy bills can now pop down the high street and pick up solar panels for their homes. Electrical goods group Currys became the first major retailer in Britain to sell the power panels after Britain experienced its hottest month on record in July.

Test market: Currys announced it would stock panels at three stores around south London as part of a test to capitalise on growing environmental awareness of climate change and concerns over energy efficiency.

Cheap: According to Currys, its solar panels, which retail at 1,000 pounds (1,473 euros 1,887 dollars) each, can cut household energy bills by up to 50 per cent and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to two tons.

Rising energy price the driver: "Our customers are becoming more environmentally aware all the time," Currys managing director Peter Keenan said. "But this is far more than a ‘green solution’ for the home, it is also a perfect way of safeguarding against seemingly inevitable energy price rises."

Installation cost a deterrent to date: Since the start of 2006, all major energy providers in Britain have imposed steep price hikes linked to soaring wholesale energy costs. The cost of fitting an average three-bedroom house with enough solar panels to cover half its electrical requirements would be around 9,000 pounds, the company added.

Up to 18 years to recoup: At that price the sales outlook is far from sunny, since an average household could take between seven and 18 years to fully recoup the cost through lower energy bills. Specialist suppliers in Britain currently charge up to 16,000 pounds to kit out a house with solar panels.

Planning restrictions being eased: The move by Currys tallies with British government efforts to ease planning restrictions for the panels’ installation. They are to be manufactured by the Japanese electronics group Sharp at its plant in Wrexham, North Wales and sold at Currys branches in Croydon, Fulham and West Thurrock.

Solar sales can be stimulated by policy: In Germany and Japan, meanwhile, solar panel sales have shot up because households are allowed to sell excess electricity back to the national grid. Last month, the British government set a target of 20 per cent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, following a long-awaited review of the country’s energy policy.

Reference: World Business Council for Sustainable Development, website: http://www.wbcsd.org

Erisk Net, 11/8/2006

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