Energy-saving solar panels to be sold on the high street

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The Independent Online

A major electronics retail chain is to sell solar panels on the high street for the first time.

Currys is to sell panels costing £1,000 each at three stores from tomorrow in what could be the start of a major shift towards providing eco-friendly devices for domestic properties. Green lobby groups welcomed the decision but said there was still much more to be done to help ordinary householders save energy.

Currys said that rising electricity charges and a better understanding of environmental issues meant customers were now more open to purchasing items such as solar panels, which it said could cut household energy bills by 50 per cent and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to two tons. The average home emits more CO2 a year than a car.

According to Currys, it would cost around £9,000 to install sufficient panels to halve the consumption of an average three-bedroomed house. The panels are on sale at Currys stores at West Thurrock, Fulham and Croydon.

Installation takes about two days and planning permission is normally only needed for listed buildings. The panels do not necessarily need direct sunlight. The price is almost half of that levied by specialist suppliers, and government grants are available for up to 50 per cent of the cost of many energy-saving devices for the home.

Peter Keenan, the managing director of Currys, said it was a perfect way of safeguarding against seemingly inevitable energy price rises. Mike Childs, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth, said it had to be good news in improving accessibility and raising awareness, but he said electrical retailers could help customers more by labelling appliances with how much energy they consume, and said householders should first install insulation and double-glazing, which would save more money than solar panels.

He stressed there were numerous other technologies that could help people be more energy efficient.

* Yesterday's clouds and showers could not prevent July 2006 becoming the hottest month since records began in 1914. The average night and day temperature in the UK in July was 17.8C (64.04F) ­ comfortably hotter than July 1983 and August 1995, when it was 17.3C (63.14F). This summer temperature also hit 36.5C (97.7F) at Wisley, Surrey, beating the all-time record British temperature for the month. Despite a warming trend recently, Nigel Bolton, national forecaster for the Met Office, ruled out speculation that August would be even hotter.