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Investment conundrum: solar panels or a pension?



Listen to Blue & Green director Mark Hoskin, a financial adviser at London-based Holden & Partners, speak to BBC WM about the benefits of investing in solar panels.

The energy minister Greg Barker said on Tuesday that installing solar panels on your roof could well be a better long-term investment than a pension. .

Solar is becoming an increasingly attractive option. Half a million UK homes are now fitted with a solar panel array, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

These installations generate a cumulative capacity of over 1.72 gigawatts (GW) – with an average of 7.77 megawatts (MW) installed every week since September.

While there is an upfront cost to consider, the ability to generate electricity for free – and sell excess back to the grid – means households could actually be recouping a profit before too long. Barker said this made solar a viable alternative to a pension.

BBC WM – the radio station that covers the West Midlands, south Staffordshire, north Worcestershire and north Warwickshire – brought together two experts to thrash out the issues.

On the programme was Mark Dampier, head of research at investment adviser Hargreaves Lansdown, and Mark Hoskin, a director at Blue & Green Communications and a financial adviser.

The two men initially agreed that investing in solar panels and saving for a pension were not mutually exclusive.

Hoskin said that people can actually invest in solar panels through a pension in many cases. Households can also benefit by investing in the panels directly, and recovering the cost through the government’s feed-in tariff subsidy scheme. The final way to get involved with solar, Hoskin added, was to ask a company like A Shade Greener to install the panels for free; households benefit from the free electricity and cheaper bills, and the company takes the subsidy.

Hoskin said the feed-in tariff goes up every year with inflation, whereas pensions were generally “bad value” in an inflation environment.

He and Dampier went on to answer questions from callers on issues such as the structural considerations of solar panels on roofs and what happens when you want to sell your property. 

Listen to the full segment from 1hr 37m here.

Further reading:

Domestic solar panels as an investment

Solar panels now on nearly 500,000 rooftops across UK

Cashing in on solar panels

Top 10 reasons to invest in renewable energy projects

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013