Solar panels will join tea lights and spider plants on sale at Ikea stores from today, despite huge government cuts to solar subsidies for homeowners in the United Kingdom.
Shoppers will be able to order panels online and at three stores, initially Glasgow, Birmingham and Lakeside, before the so-called Solar Shops appear in all the Swedish company’s UK stores by summer’s end.
Ikea’s new foray with energy company Solar Century marks its second attempt to sell solar panels, after a two-year pilot with Chinese company Hanergy ended last year.
The company maintains that despite low wholesale electricity prices and ministers’ 65% cut to solar incentives, after which new solar installations have crashed in the past two months, the technology makes sense for British householders.
“Obviously the climate has been changing in the past year in the UK but, nonetheless, our research showed a third of homeowners would really like to invest in solar, and the majority of those are driven by the opportunity to save money,” said Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability at Ikea UK and Ireland.
“Even though the feed-in tariff rate has come down, you’re still going to get a 6% rate of return on a solar installation, you’re not going to get that return on an ISA.” She admitted it was “depressing” to see the recent 75% fall in solar power capacity installed by homeowners but said “we see solar as the future”.
Research by Ikea found of the one-third of people who wanted solar, 60% did so because of savings on electricity bills, and that the average solar install should cut buyers’ electricity bills by half. A typical system for a semi-detached house with 10 panels would cost from £4,550, the company said.
John Sauven, Greenpeace UK’s director, welcomed Ikea’s solar venture, saying: “Over the past decade things have changed dramatically as the price has come down and the efficiency, even in cloudy skies, has gone up. Now solar power is widespread enough for most of us to know someone who’s chosen to invest.”
Solar energy recently passed an important milestone in the UK when it provided more power than coal to homes and businesses for a day.