Solar panels will cut bills by £100
HUNDREDS of social housing tenants are to see their electricity bills slashed by up to £100 a year.
The savings are in the pipeline as landlord Aspire invests £1.5 million in solar panels for its customers.
Up to 400 homes in Newcastle and Stoke-on-Trent are to be fitted with the energy-saving devices by the end of July.
Newcastle-based Aspire said the panels should cut customers' electricity bills by between £50 and £100 a year, and possibly more, depending on how the household uses electricity and the number of panels installed.
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Aspire chief executive Sinead Butters said the group was responding to feedback from tenants.
She said: "Customers have told us they want our help to cut their energy costs.
"By installing solar panels on some of our properties, we hope to save our customers between £50 and £100 a year. The solar panels will also reduce our carbon footprint."
The homes having the solar panels fitted have been chosen due to the size of their roof spaces and because they have the best orientation towards the sun.
Contractors Heatex, of Festival Trade Park, and Phoenix Renewable Technologies, of Newcastle, have been appointed to carry out the environmentally-friendly work.
Both companies are working with Aspire to create new job opportunities for young people as part of their contracts.
Heatex is to take on two apprentices from Aspire Housing's sister company, PM Training in Shelton, while Phoenix is taking on two apprentices in addition to the two it already employs.
Ms Butters added: "Through this contract for solar panels we are not only caring for the environment, we are also creating new jobs and opportunities for young people."
The project will be completed just before the Government subsidy for installing solar panels is reduced.
The so-called Feed-In Tariff (FIT) for homeowners is being cut by 23 per cent from August 1.
It means customers will receive 16p per kilowatt hour of electricity produced as a result of having the solar panels fitted, and some of the power may be sold to the National Grid. The rate is currently 21p and this was slashed from 43p in April.
The Government had originally tried to enforce that cut in December, but the High Court ruled the change of date "legally flawed".
Ministers then failed to overturn the ruling in the Court of Appeal.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council was forced to close a scheme to fit solar panels to up to 4,000 council homes due to the first cut in April.
But a spokesman said nearly 570 properties had the panels fitted before the project – a collaboration with energy giant E.ON and maintenance firm Kier Stoke – ended.
The Sentinel reported on Saturday that PM Training had launched a new 'green' training centre in partnership with BGC Renewables in Etruria.
Young people are being taught how to install solar panels at the Etruscan Street centre, and around 100 apprentices and existing workers are expected to gain qualifications there over the next 12 months.