Solar panels for Uttlesford’s housing stock?

A THIRD of Uttlesford’s council houses could be getting solar panels in an ambitious drive to lower the district’s carbon footprint.

Uttlesford District Council’s new executive cabinet is meeting tonight (Thursday) and is expected to agree proposals to install solar panels on one in every three properties of the housing stock – up to 1,000 of the 2,856 tenanted properties – by April next year.

In the report to the cabinet, officers explained that “the council is committed to addressing climate change” and has “set targets for reducing carbon emissions from its own estate and the district while reducing the number of vulnerable households in fuel poverty”.

The recommendation is for the council to find a suitable third party to carry out the installation and maintenance work. The installer would then enter into a long-term contract with a feed-in tariff scheme (selling excess electricity back to the national grid) to secure an income for the investment. The council would receive a roof rental (to be reinvested in the housing stock) and the tenant reduced electricity bills.

This is the preferred option.

An alternative is for the council to fork out �6m from its own budgets or to borrow the funds. It would then benefit from the feed-in tariff income – an estimated return of around �350,000 per year – but would not receive the roof rental.

In either scenario, the council will be liable for costs in relation to roof structure surveys, asbestos testing and removal, and required electrical upgrades to properties.

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Officers – who have described the project as offering a “number of key benefits at minimal cost with acceptable risk” – have also pressed a need for urgent action. The installation needs to be completed before April 2012 - after this date the feed-in tariff income is reduced by seven per cent.

Uttlesford Tenants Forum is believed to be in favour of the proposals, although tenants can opt out.

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