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How to use the ECO4 scheme for solar panels

Mikael Kristianslund

A UK terraced home
July 30, 2023

If you are eligible, ECO4 presents a golden opportunity to get free solar panels. With rising living and energy costs, now is the time to apply. We show you how.

ECO4 grant applications have soared in the past year. Why? Rising living costs, higher energy prices, and increased awareness. For the same reasons, there has been a record number of solar panel installations in the UK.

A major roadblock to going solar, however, is the high upfront cost. Enter the ECO4 scheme. This government initiative can make solar panels more affordable, even free in some cases.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is the UK government's strategy to push energy companies towards greener, more efficient home heating. Now in its fourth phase, ECO4, the scheme is focusing on replacing outdated boilers with greener alternatives.

However, it also supports the installation of solar panels in homes using electric heating, where other alternatives such as biomass or a heat network, aren't feasible.

Can you get free solar panels under the ECO4 scheme?

The answer is yes - if you are eligible, you can indeed get free solar panels via the ECO4 scheme.

Depending on the specific qualifying factors of your household, you might be asked to make a small contribution towards your new solar system, or it may be installed entirely free of charge.

Are you eligible for ECO4 funding?

You might be eligible for ECO4 funding if you live in private housing and receive any of the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Pension Savings Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Benefit
  • Housing Benefit

If you own your house, it must have an energy efficiency rating (EPC) of D or lower to be eligible. If you rent, it must be E or lower.

Additionally, the ECO4 scheme also supports inefficient social housing and private rented housing, provided the landlord permits it.

It's important to note that the ECO4 program is not limited to households receiving these benefits.

The government is actively exploring ways to assist low-income families who aren't receiving benefits. According to the ECO4 report, 46.1% of fuel-poor households are not in receipt of benefits.

You can fill out this ECO4 eligibility questionnaire to see if you are eligible. You can also just contact your energy supplier and they will help you.

Step-by-step guide to apply for the ECO4 scheme

So, you've determined you'd benefit from ECO4? Here's what you need to do next.

Step 1: Prepare the documentation

It's smart to have the necessary documentation ready. This includes your council tax bill, ID, and evidence that the household income is under £31,000 per year. This can be a pension statement, three months' payslips and bank statements, or a P60 dated in the last six months. If you are in receipt of benefits, you'll need to sign a consent form, which is verified by the Energy Saving Trust, and provide a copy of a utility bill.

Step 2: Get in touch with an energy supplier offering the scheme

As per regulations, all gas and electricity companies with more than 150,000 customers are required to implement ECO measures. The list of energy suppliers offering the ECO4 scheme includes:

  • British Gas
  • Bulb
  • Ecotricity
  • EDF Energy
  • ESB Energy
  • E-ON
  • Octopus Energy
  • Outfox the Market
  • OVO Energy
  • Scottish Power
  • Shell Energy
  • So Energy
  • SSE Energy
  • Co-op Energy
  • Utility Warehouse
  • Utilita

Remember, you're not restricted to your current energy supplier when applying for the ECO4 scheme - simply opt for the company that best suits your needs.

Step 3: Property evaluation

Once your eligibility is confirmed, a surveyor will evaluate your premises to determine whether they're suitable for the energy efficiency measures proposed, such as solar panel installation.

Increasing Interest in the ECO4 Scheme

In the last year, there has been a significant increase in ECO4 grant applications. This surge is attributed to rises in the cost of living, higher energy prices, and a greater awareness of the grant. By applying for the ECO4 scheme, you can take a proactive step towards energy efficiency and cost savings for your home.

Frequently asked questions about the ECO4 scheme and solar panels

Here are some common questions that often come up:

Can I apply for the ECO4 scheme if I'm renting my home?

Yes, tenants can apply for the ECO4 scheme. However, you will need permission from your landlord before any work can be carried out. The ECO4 scheme also supports energy inefficient social housing.

What is the difference between the ECO3 and ECO4 schemes?

The transition from ECO3 to ECO4 brought about some changes in the eligibility criteria. The government removed some non-means-tested benefits that were previously available under ECO3 to better target households more likely to have low incomes. Additionally, the ECO4 scheme aims to reach more people and includes smaller energy companies in its scope.

How long will the ECO4 scheme last?

The ECO4 scheme is the fourth stage of the government's Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. As part of its Sustainable Warmth Strategy, the government has extended the ECO grant for an extra four years, meaning it will run until March 2026.

Can the ECO4 scheme be used in conjunction with other energy-saving schemes?

Yes, the ECO4 scheme can potentially be used in conjunction with other energy-saving schemes. However, the specifics will depend on the rules of the other schemes. It's always a good idea to check with the providers of each scheme to ensure you're eligible for multiple programs simultaneously.

Are solar panels right for my home?

The suitability of solar panels for your home depends on several factors. These include the size and orientation of your roof, the amount of sunlight your location receives, and your household's energy consumption. Use our home energy recommendation tool to learn more.

Does my roof need to face a certain direction?

While south-facing roofs are ideal for solar panels in the UK due to the path of the sun, this doesn't mean that other orientations can't benefit from solar energy. East and west-facing roofs can also generate significant solar power, especially if the pitch of the roof is optimal.

Are solar panels effective in the UK?

Yes, solar panels are indeed effective in the UK. Solar panels don't need direct sunlight to work; they can still generate electricity on overcast days, albeit at a lower rate compared to bright, sunny days. During the summer months, the UK has long daylight hours, which can contribute significantly to solar energy production.

Moreover, advancements in solar technology have made modern panels more efficient at converting light into electricity, enhancing their effectiveness even in less sunny climates.

Conclusion

There's never been a better time to consider solar energy. The ECO4 scheme presents a golden opportunity to embrace this green, cost-efficient power source. Not only is solar power a step towards a sustainable future, but it's also a move that could see significant savings on your energy bills.

Should you need assistance or guidance in applying for the ECO4 scheme, or understanding how much energy you could save with solar panels, we at Sparkway are here to help.

Ready to transform your home's energy efficiency?