Local authorities across East and West Sussex have teamed up to get behind a  group buying scheme designed to cut the cost of installing domestic solar PV.  In this blog, David Edwards, from West Sussex County Council’s Energy Services Team, explains how the Solar Together scheme works.

Lockdown has reminded us all about the importance of home as a place to escape the world. But this is only part of the story as our houses have also increasingly become the place we work, educate our children and socialise (albeit virtually) in recent months.

This change has led many of us to reflect on how we live and think about what we can do to make the most of the space we live and work in. Beyond adding a lick of paint or converting the spare room into an office, the shift towards home life has made investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy a more viable option for many people to reduce costs and carbon emissions.

Residents in Sussex that are considering the switch to renewable electricity now have a reliable option on their doorstep in the shape of the council-supported Solar Together Sussex scheme. Local authorities in West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, many of whom have declared climate emergencies and are working to reduce their carbon emissions, have joined forces with group buying experts, iChoosr, to offer their residents a route to getting a high quality solar PV installation at a reduced cost. The scheme also offers battery storage installations for those that already have solar panels and want to get the most out of them.

The first wave of PV installations stalled when FITs were removed; the Solar Together scheme aims to kick start a second wave. Photo: early adopters in Steyning

How the scheme works

Solar Together Sussex is a simple scheme that works by taking advantage of economies of scale to drive down the cost of each installation. Residents interested in getting solar panels can register without obligation. They are asked to provide basic information about their roof, including the approximate size and orientation. When registrations close, iChoosr holds an auction enabling pre-vetted solar PV installers to bid for the work. Following the auction, each household that registered then receives a personalised recommendation detailing the installation costs and the likely return on investment so they can make an informed decision whether to proceed.

Based on similar schemes run by iChoosr and local authorities in other parts of the country, the cost per installation can be up to a third less than if the householder approached an installer individually.

The scheme is overseen by the Energy Services Team at West Sussex County Council, who have developed a track record for delivering successful energy projects including solar farms, energy storage projects and large programme of solar PV installations on schools. The team is running the Solar Together Sussex project on a ‘cost neutral’ basis. This means that the commission the councils receive for each solar PV installation is used to cover marketing costs including a targeted direct mailshot. Any surplus revenue is used to build a fuel poverty fund and support local people who are struggling to meet their energy costs.

Although registrations for the autumn 2020 Solar Together Sussex auction close on 6th October, there could be a further auction in spring 2021 for households that miss out this time around.

To register for free and without obligation, residents should go to www.solartogether.co.uk.  Choose Sussex, then click on the relevant District or Borough where you live.

The auction will take place once registration closes on the 6th October. Households will receive their personal offers on 26th October, be invited to a local information event and have until the 11th December to decide whether to go ahead with the installation. If they accept, one of the winning suppliers will be in contact to schedule a roof survey and set and installation date.

For further information about Solar Together Sussex, contact either nicola.stringer@westsussex.gov.uk or david.edwards@westsussex.gov.uk

District & Borough Councils are helping promote the scheme: the Horsham District Council leaflet

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