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Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 19/06/2018 fip

© PA * Tony paid £6,250 to have solar panels installed on his roof in October 2014 

* He has received around £2,300 back in generation and feed-in tariffs

* He also credits the panels for having kept his energy bills under control

At 6.30am, I am woken by a hysterical squeal from the bathroom.

The sunny start to summer had encouraged me to turn off the gas boiler, leaving my solar panels and immersion heater to warm the water.

However, the previous day had been shrouded in dark cloud and  I’d neglected to boost the hot water.

Mrs H emerges, shivering, from her lukewarm shower, wearing a hard stare that would put Paddington to shame. She is not amused.

I’m still deeply in love with my solar panels, having paid £6,250 for them in October 2014.

I have so far received around £2,300 back in generation and feed-in tariffs and they have kept our energy bills under control.

What more could a prudent investor want?

© Getty

Last month was awesome, as the UK basked in around a third more sunshine than usual, according to the Met Office. I reckon my panels made me around £115. What’s more, I used just £16 of electricity and £1.40 of gas.

It’s like having a cash machine on my roof. I expect to break even within two years and, from then on, it will all be profit. I’m currently hoping to get back more than £24,000, including the savings on energy bills.

Taking into account the outlay, I may make an overall return of more than 7 pc a year on an inflation-proofed investment where the income is supplied by the Government.

Let’s pause to acknowledge the bad side of solar.

Money Mail has rightly highlighted dodgy loan deals from companies that have ripped off homeowners. But the fault lies with the sales practices, not the panels themselves. Mrs H and I have made a few lifestyle changes over the past year. We’ve bought a battery-powered Dyson vacuum cleaner. I’ve plugged its charging unit into a timer that works only during peak daylight hours.

And then there’s the new kitchen. Out went the gas hob to be replaced with an induction one. It’s cleaner and, when the sun is out, very cheap to run.

Our big indulgence was the Quooker tap, providing instant hot and boiling water — we could have bought a van-load of kettles for the same money.

But the seven-litre combi tank heats all our kitchen water, meaning we no longer have to run the tap for five minutes while hot water wends its way from the tank in our roof. That reserves the hot water in the main tank for morning showers (which has generally worked).

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Our energy company, Tonik, has, on occasion, greeted our low meter readings with an ‘Are you sure?’ message and replaced them with higher estimates.

Meanwhile, we solar investors must tread with care. I’ve received scam letters offering to check my equipment for free.

I’m also extremely wary of the storage batteries being sold, as I cannot see how they can possibly be cost-efficient. Much better to feed energy back into the grid until Apple or some other genius company comes up with a smaller, cheaper, more efficient model.

The great shame is that the Government has cut generation tariffs to a maximum 4.01p per kilowatt hour for new domestic installations. This compares with the 15.78p I’m receiving and the astonishing 52.75p enjoyed by some early adopters.

The export tariff paid on unused electricity is 5.24p per kilowatt hour. Some smart meters can measure this, but most firms assume half your generated energy is exported.

I wouldn’t buy solar panels on today’s figures and I wish the Government would reconsider its decision to slash rates.

When I last wrote about my panels, some people complained about the subsidies. But every new energy generation method is backed by government subsidy.

Which would you prefer: huge subsidies handed to Chinese and French firms for building nuclear plants based on untested technology or far smaller subsidies to UK householders?

At least our money broadly stays within the UK economy.

What about investing in a solar fund?

Anyone who has missed the boat might consider an investment fund. Ben Yearsley, of Shore Financial Planning, has solar panels on his home.

He has also invested part of his own and his mum’s Isas in an investment trust called Foresight Solar. This Jersey-based fund provides income based mainly on feed-in tariffs and other renewable energy payments.

But beware: it is currently trading at a premium of around 5 pc, meaning its share price is higher than the value of the assets it holds.

Other options include Bluefield Solar Income and Greencoat UK Wind, both on premiums of around 9 pc. It’s partly a reflection of that hefty income stream, which can be 5 pc or more.

Also keep an eye on the charges, which can be high. And remember politics. It’s very unlikely, but governments can change rules.

Yearsley is an adventurous investor. But those who want an income stream and can afford to take a risk might want to cast an eye, especially if the premiums reduce or share prices fall.


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