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Group-buying schemes are slashing solar installation costs for households in the UK

A suburb in which most households have rooftop solar installations.
Photo: Dreamstime

An initiative in the UK that helps households to team up and make bulk purchases of solar panels and batteries is slashing installation costs and making these technologies more widely accessible, the International Energy Agency notes in a new report.

The group-buying scheme, called Solar Together, is a partnership between iChoosr and local governments. It’s currently active in 33 councils, including Manchester City and Wigan.

Under a previous procurement round in Liverpool, nearly 600 residents had solar systems installed, and costs were cut by up to 33%. Authorities in Liverpool said the partnership there was aimed at helping the city reach net zero emissions by 2040.

A more recent round led by the Essex County Council promises a minimum 25% saving on standard solar systems for participating households. “The more people that register, the cheaper the cost of the solar panels will be for each person,” the council says.

How it works: Households register online to participate in local iterations of the scheme, which then procures solar systems via an auction process involving pre-vetted suppliers. The lowest bids set the price for all participants, and residents then decide whether or not to accept the offer.

“Community-led or community-centred bulk clean energy procurement, when effectively planned, is an advanced way of integrating diversity, equity and justice into the community’s energy transition, as well as improving the resilience of local energy systems,” IEA says.

It adds that the model boosts clean energy investments, assists local suppliers, creates jobs, and improves affordability.

A similar model is being implemented in the City of Madison in the US. The municipality is working with RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit organisation, to facilitate group purchases.

“Through the MadiSUN Group Buy Program, we empower homeowners to make informed decisions and embrace solar energy with confidence,” said Lauren Cohen, programme manager at RENEW Wisconsin. “Together, we’re driving down costs, ensuring quality, and promoting a brighter future for Madison.”

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