Home » MCS reports record year for UK home-made low-carbon energy

MCS reports record year for UK home-made low-carbon energy

by Mark Cantrell
Record numbers of UK homeowners installed low-carbon energy and heating technologies over the last year

Record numbers of UK homeowners installed low-carbon energy and heating technologies over the last year, according to a national standards certification body.

The latest data from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) – the standards-setting organisation for low-carbon technologies and installers – shows that so far in 2023, a total of 220,500 MCS-certified installations were registered.

This figures beat the end-of-year total for 2022, which the organisation said had already been the most successful year for small-scale renewable installations since records begin in 2008.

Ian Rippin, chief executive of MCS, said: “It’s a pleasure to report on another record-breaking year for small-scale renewables, illustrating the sector’s sustained upward growth. We had an incredibly busy 2023, and the data confirms the progress we’ve made. The future of small-scale renewable installations is becoming increasingly important, and we continue to play a crucial role in the decarbonisation of the UK’s homes.

“The growth we’ve seen in domestic renewable electricity systems over the past year may also give some insight into the growing consumer reliance on home-grown energy in the UK during the cost-of-living and energy crises.

“As electricity prices skyrocket, more people are turning to renewable solutions to generate their own power at home, secure energy independence, decrease their electricity bills, and reduce their carbon footprint.”

Sunny outlook

According to the organisation, there was substantial growth of solar PV installations in 2023. So far this year, it says, there have been 183,022 certified solar PV installations across the UK, exceeding the 138,000 in 2022 by one third.

Solar PV installations have continued to grow since the government’s Feed-in-Tariff closed in 2019; MCS say this demonstrates that the technology is still saving consumers money on their energy bills, and providing them with the carbon savings and energy independence without subsidy.

As more homeowners explore options to better utilise their home-grown energy, battery storage has become the third most popular tech type to be installed amongst the MCS certified contractor base.

At the end of 2022, there were 50 contractors certified to install the technology, and there are now over 850. Installations have seen a similar growth with 4,400 of the 4,700 certified batteries being installed in 2023, and almost 800 of those in November alone.

Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK, said: “It’s no wonder that people are queuing up to go solar. Installing a solar energy system is one of the best investments available to homeowners and businesses alike.

“Electricity bills remain stubbornly high, and all expectations are that they will remain so for the foreseeable future. In contrast, solar provides cheap, decarbonised power and normally pays for itself in a few years.”

Taking the heat

MCS data also shows that heat pumps have seen a significant rise in popularity in 2023, with more than 35,000 installations registered between air source and ground/water source technologies, a record year for UK heat pump installations.

This figure brought the UK to over 200,000 certified heat pump installations in total since 2008, the organisation says. Heat pumps show sustained growth in the UK with each of the six previous years surpassing the one before for certified installations.

Heat pump uptake remained high in the second year of the Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), which launched in May 2022 to encourage households across England and Wales to access a grant to replace their boiler with a more environmentally friendly heating system.

In October this year, the grant value for heat pumps was increased to £7,500, opening up the possibility of owning a heat pump to thousands of homeowners. Since the increase of the grant value, average weekly applications for BUS vouchers soared from 331 to 1,172, reflecting the impact of government policy on deploying important low-carbon technology.

To date, more than 17,500 BUS vouchers have been issued with a value over £90m; under the scheme, the government aims to support increasing heat pump deployment in line with ambitions to install 600,000 heat pumps annually by 2028.

Charlotte Lee, chief executive of the Heat Pump Association, said: “It is promising to see this growth in the UK heat pump market and we celebrate that more and more homeowners can access low-carbon technology to keep their homes warm, comfortable, and energy efficient.

“Whilst we are pleased that the BUS grant has been increased, we would encourage the government to take further steps to demonstrate the national commitment to low-carbon heating. It is vital that the overall budget for BUS is increased to support greater heat pump deployment and to ensure it does not act as an artificial cap on the market.

“Other vital policy enablers include reducing the price of electricity relative to the price of gas and supporting contractors to cover the costs of becoming certified to install heat pumps, akin to the support offered in Scotland.”

Growing pool of contractors

In October, MCS certified its 4,000th contractor, reflecting a demand for more skilled, competent installers to deliver low-carbon energy and heating technology for UK consumers.

More than 1,800 new contractors have become certified in 2023 so far, a 70% growth in the contractor base since the end of 2022. In fact, more contractors have joined the scheme in 2023 so far than in the previous six years of the scheme combined.

At the end of 2022, MCS had fewer than 2,000 solar PV contractors – today, it has over 3,300. According to the organisation, this growth mirrors the rapid rise in certified solar PV installations across the UK, and the growing demand amongst homeowners to generate their own home-grown electricity, reducing energy bills, claiming energy independence, and decreasing their carbon footprint.

Rippin added: “Since MCS began recording installations, we have seen more than 1.7million certified systems go into UK homes. This was achieved through the hard work of our ever-growing contractor base, which now includes more than 4,000 businesses. It is clear that MCS will play an increasingly important role in the future of the industry and the scheme updates coming next year will ensure it’s fit for purpose for the growth in industry.”

Image credit: MCS

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