Solar panels 'take 100 years to pay back installation costs'

A A A

Solar panels are one of the least cost-effective ways of combating climate change and will take 100 years to pay back their installation costs, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) warned yesterday.

In a new guide on energy efficiency, Rics said that roof panels for heating water and generating power are unlikely to save enough from bills to make them financially viable in a householder's lifetime. In the case of solar panels to heat water for baths and showers, the institution estimates the payback time from money saved from electricity and gas bills will take more than 100 years – and up to 166 years in the worst case.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels for power – and domestic, mast-mounted wind turbines – will take between 50 and 100 years to pay back.

Given that the devices have a maximum lifetime of 30 years, they are never likely to recoup the £3,000 to £20,000 cost of their installation, according to Rics' building cost information service. Instead, it suggested people wanting to cut fuel bills should insulate lofts and cavity walls, install efficient light bulbs and seal windows.

Joe Martin, author of Rics' Greener Homes Prices Guide, said there was an argument for installing solar panels but it was not an economic one. "We wanted to bring some reality to this because there are a lot of missionaries out there. The whole push for household renewable power is that you can do these things and make back money but that's not true on existing property," he said.

The solar power industry accused Rics of failing to take account of the rising cost of energy and other financial benefits of renewable power in its figures. Jeremy Leggett, of Solar Century, said: "They are grossly irresponsible."

Rics assessed the cost, annual savings, disruption and payback time of various energy-saving methods and gave each an overall rating of one to five stars.

Solar panels for heating and power and wind turbines generating between 3kW and 5kW merited two stars. Smaller 1.5kW turbines of the type installed on roofs paid back in 25 years, received a three-star rating.

By contrast, cavity wall insulation had a five-star rating: spending £440 would save £145 a year in fuel bills, paying back in three years, while an investment of £325 in extra loft insulation would save £60 annually, paying back in five years.

The figures were compiled before energy companies put up bills by up to 30 per cent last month and ignore state subsidies.

Last year, the Department for Trade and Industry slashed grants for the installation of household renewable power by 83 per cent, infuriating the fledgling micro-generation industry which complained the move rendered solar panels unaffordable to all but the wealthy.

Jeremy Leggett, executive chairman of Solar Century, complained that Rics' figures failed to assume any rise in energy prices, when a conservative estimate of 10 per cent a year would transform the calculations.

In addition, Rics had failed to take account of a number of other benefits – renewable obligations certificates worth £160 a year to householders from next year; reductions in energy consumption of up to 40 per cent for schemes with a meter; the rising payments from energy companies for spare electricity put back into the national grid; and the increased value of an energy-efficient home.

He estimated the current payback of power-generating PV panels was 13 years.

Rics countered by saying it had not taken account of maintenance costs and that it deliberately chose not to include "ifs" in its figures. "I doubt however you do the sums, they [solar panels] make sense," a spokesman said.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones