Saffron Housing solar panel plans put on hold due to tariff changes

A south Norfolk housing association has had to put its solar panel installation programme on hold after being hit by cuts in a government renewable energy tariff.

Long Stratton-based Saffron Housing Trust, which owns 4,800 homes in the south Norfolk area, had planned to install solar panels on 1,000 properties but has had to stop 200 short of the target due to cuts in the government's Feed In Tariff (FIT).

The FIT, which provides financial support to renewable energy producers, was slashed on December 12 from 43.3p to 21p for every kilowatt of electricity generated by the solar panels.

However, this reduction was for individual solar panel installations and the housing trust was hit by a further cut for multiple-panel installations, receiving only 16.8p for every kilowatt of electricity.

The result has been the installation scheme has been put on hold following the completion of just over 800 installations on tenants' homes in Diss, Wymondham, Harleston and Loddon.

However, the trust's chief executive Adam Ronaldson said no decision had yet been made on whether to continue with the solar panel installations and the trust would have to work out the financial implications of the tariff change.

The trust's tenants save �150 annually on electricity bills because they can use the power generated by the panels for free alongside the conventional electricity supply.

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Mr Ronaldson said: 'We have a higher proportion of our tenants living in fuel poverty than those who own their homes, so in actual fact our tenants are less likely to be helped out as a result of these tariff changes.'

He slammed the six weeks' notice given by the government prior to the tariff change and warned that many energy firms who had placed solar panel orders when the tariff was still 43p would now find the market had gone because of the reduction.

However, Mr Ronaldson said he was delighted 800 tenants had received panels as part of the trust's planned �7m investment.

One of the solar panel recipients, Barbara Williamson, of Newton Flotman, said: 'I think it's a thing of the future – I have grandchildren and great grandchildren and anything that will help save energy has got to be good in all sorts of ways. I am really pleased that my bungalow was suitable for the panels.'

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