Thursday, October 07, 2004

Solar Energy UK: Solar Power for All New Homes

English national newspaper, the Guardian reports that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has demanded that all new homes built in Britain be designed so that they can receive solar power. Draft building regulations from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, due to come into effect in January 2006, stipulate the change.

The move is significant since the government is on the brink of a major housebuilding drive. The government's own agency, the Energy Saving Trust, is trying to ensure that all new homes will be powered in part by solar power before the end of 2010.

Last month Prime Minister Tony Blair said sustainable development would be incorporated in all new schools and public sector buildings.

Last August California proposed to add solar power to a million homes in the next 10 years, paid for by a surcharge on electricity bills equivalent to about 15p (27 cents) a month. Germany has increased its target for putting solar panels on roofs from 10,000 to 100,000, and spent £66 million (around US $120m) last year to install 121 megawatts of photovoltaic panels.

Although the UK has invested £25m in solar power - £9m this year - only 10 megawatts of electricity was produced in 2003, about the same as a small wind farm and only 1 per cent of the output of the Sizewell nuclear power station in Suffolk. Improvements in solar technology have fuelled demand for it but the industry needs significant investment to increase production.

At the moment (particularly in those countries which don't have regular strong sunshine) solar power is comparatively expensive when compared to other renewable energy sources such as wind power. However it is looking increasingly likely that there will be a technological and cost breakthrough in solar energy. When this happens we'll be able to make much greater use of it e if the homes currently being built are ready.

Guardian article on UK Solar Energy