Surge in demand for solar panels could create new jobs in North East, say industry leaders

North East manufacturers have reported surging sales in solar panels creating a possible boost for jobs.

The soaring price of heating homes and businesses had already increased interest in solar energy, when the Chancellor announced that VAT on the panels was to be scrapped.

On March 23 Rishi Sunak said the rate would drop from 5% to zero from April 1, controversially adding the claim that this was “thanks to Brexit”.

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Solar panels will be VAT zero-rated for the next five years. They can cost less than £10,000 to install and, while this is a significant money for many, for those who can afford them there is a return on investment as they will eventually pay for themselves via reduced energy bills.

Recent world events have created a surge in demand for renewable energy.

Customers are also keen to protect the environment. Solar power is pollution-free and emit no greenhouse gases to be emitted.

Current global events are playing a part too as solar panels reduce dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels; often from countries run by brutal despots.

New jobs are expected to be created across the region as the solar installation industry expands for the first time in years.

Paul Harbord is director of the Steadfast Group in Peterlee. He thinks the current surge in solar energy might only be the beginning.

Paul Harbord, left, and dad Michael, of the Steadfast Group, have been installing domestic and commercial solar panels across the North East.

He said: “The energy bills that many are starting to see on their doormats are frightening and while everyone is hoping they’re going to drop in the next few years, they could well become the ‘new normal’.

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“We’ve installed solar panels for years, but whereas business sharply declined when the feed-in tariffs ended, we are now seeing a big uptick in enquiries.

“That’s not surprising because even ourselves, as a company, have been looking to switch to renewables wherever possible. We’re in the process of electrifying our fleet of vehicles and much of the equipment we offer to clients is now solar powered.”

Marion Statham has worked in renewable sales in the North East for the past decade.

She said: “If you go back 10 years ago, many people were still uncertain of the technology. They worried about things like fires, breakdowns, panels shattering or just the strangeness of having solar panels on their roof. As an added bonus, it helps save the planet too.”

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