Government looks to solar panel efficiency

Solar panels are being installed free of charge to 500 homes in Northern Ireland as part of the Government’s renewable energy campaign.

The panels cut water heating bills by an average £120 a year as well as reducing emissions.

They are among the first tangible benefits from the £59m Environment and Renewable Energy Fund announced by the Secretary of State last year.

Social Development Minister David Hanson today visited the home of Mr & Mrs Chris Gamble at Moss Road, Lisburn where a solar panel has been installed to launch the Housing Executive’s annual Home Energy Conservation Report.

The Minister said:

 "Solar panels take advantage of a free energy source, the sun. They also help to reduce energy bills and help our fight to eradicate fuel poverty. This initiative is one of several major projects supported by the Environment and Renewable Energy Fund (EREF).

"We need to do everything we possibly can to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. This has been made more imperative by the volatile fuel prices we have been faced with in recent years. The Housing Executive is playing a lead role in this battery and its latest report highlights the progress that has been made to date.

"We hope that the £59 million EREF fund will build this and encourage Northern Ireland people to harness the natural resources all around us to provide heat and power. It is expected to lever a further £300 million of private sector investment in our renewables infrastructure."

Brian Rowntree, Chairman of the Housing Executive, said:

 "The 10 years since the Housing Executive was named the Home Energy Conservation Authority for Northern Ireland have seen substantial improvements in the levels of energy efficiency, with an improvement of 17.2% compared with 14.56% in England by 2005. The Housing Executive continues to improve the energy efficiency of its own stock and support schemes in the private sector.

"We are currently involved in a two-year programme involving the installation of 600 solar thermal panels in its properties. We, too, hope that such schemes will make the general public more aware of the alternative technologies, helping to drive down the prices of these technologies and making them more affordable for everyone across the residential sector."

The solar water heating panels are being part funded by Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE). Managing Director Stephen McCully also visited the home of Mr & Mrs Gamble today and said: 

"Demand for alternative energy sources has been growing steadily in Northern Ireland and it is hoped that by encouraging this type of project, other homeowners and businesses will consider installing sustainable energy solutions.

"We are very keen to help support renewable energy installations and currently have a grant available to help householders install electricity generating panels."


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