Why we were shortlisted for Installer of the Year

Michael Buick explains Joju’s recent award nominations.

We’re up for an award (3 actually). We’re being considered for the “Installer of the Year” trophy at the Solar Power Portal Awards 2015.

The hotly-contested category will reward companies that have gone above and beyond to deploy solar PV across the UK, with 2015 having been a record year for installations. More than 2.5GW of solar capacity was deployed in the UK in Q1, and installers have been central to that success.

We thought we’d share a shortened version of our entry. We have also been shortlisted for Best Community Benefit Project, and Best Rooftop System <250kWp

Joju Solar Entry for Installer of the Year

What Makes Joju Solar Different?

Joju Solar stands out because of our clear vision of how to build a better energy system, and our role in making it happen.We have adopted an approach that we call ‘Solar for the Community’. It is obvious that there is limited scope for individuals to take action on climate change beyond their own property, and also that a top-down approach, driven by national Government and Utilities, is met by widespread mistrust and disenfranchisement. So we passionately believe in the potential of a ‘middle-out’ approach, where a network of communities, local authorities, housing associations and SME’s work together to build support and momentum in growing the supply (and ownership base) of solar PV in the UK. Crucially, this approach also democratises our energy system, and engages citizens with its shape and operation. We see ourselves as key innovators and practitioners in this new delivery model for low carbon and renewable technologies.

Working with Communities

Since 2012, £29m of capital has been raised by communities for renewable energy projects. Joju Solar have been responsible for installing nearly 10% of this, with much of it coming within the last calendar year. In Summer 2014, we delivered 630 kWp of community funded PV across 10 schools in just 6 weeks, for our major partners the Low Carbon Hub and Energy4All – two of the leading community energy groups in the country. This included Glenleigh Park (pictured below), the largest solar primary school in the country at 150 kW, and a complex build, being entirely on slate. We are currently on site with the 2015 schools programme, which is of similar scale.
In March 2015, we followed this by installing 250kW at Norbar Torque tools in March 2015; this is the largest individual community funded solar roof in the country, and nominated in these SPP Awards in the best rooftop

Working with Councils

We have also worked with a range of local authorities delivering solar PV across their social housing portfolios – a win/win scenario where councils benefit from FiTs to recoup investment cost, and householders receive free electricity which helps lift vulnerable people out of fuel poverty. We have installed for Brighton Council (1.5MW, 500 homes), Reading (1.8MW, 600 homes) which accounts for 1% of UK domestic solar installations in the last year. We are just starting on a programme of (5MW, 1700 homes) for Lewes Council. This is an extremely rewarding strand of our work, where we see our installations make a real difference to people’s lives. In the words of one Brighton resident:“It’s the best thing ever …. I usually put £10 on my meter per week, but for the last fortnight I haven’t put any on at all.”

Meeting Future Challenges

Whilst there will undoubtedly be impacts from the forthcoming FiT review, we see this as a short blip in the grand scheme of things. Instead we would prefer to dwell on what we see as some of the larger challenges within the energy sector over the coming years.
• Increased decentralisation. The success of the solar PV market over the last 5 years is indicative of a drive towards greater decentralisation of our energy system, and taking control away from the old centralised model of generation and Big 6 retail models.
• The rise of the pro-sumer. Instead of being passive consumers of energy, households and businesses are starting to become more active players within the energy sector, by self-generation, demand response or provision of ancillary services (e.g back-up)
• A new network of actors, including community energy groups, councils, ESCos and aggregators, all involved in many aspects of the energy system including generation and distribution. We are particularly excited by the idea of a peer-to-peer energy market, which could be similarly disruptive to the energy sector as Zopa and Funding Circle to traditional banking.
• The rise of electric vehicles, driving the need for smart energy systems. With electric vehicles continuing to break into the mainstream, we will see new loads on the system, and car charging is likely to need to be controlled by time-of-use pricing. The latter will give rise to a new smart energy system where devices and generation are called on and off in response to the wider grid.
• Time of use pricing implies a smart metering infrastructure and with it the possibility of using storage to arbitrage the market with storage (buy low sell high). This will drive the market for storage at all scales and technologies (batteries, flywheels etc).

Where does Joju Solar fit into this picture?

We’d argue that we’re already a major part of this energy transition, and we are looking to play a role in more aspects of this, beyond just being a solar installer, going forward over the next 5 years. We have already installed a pilot of 35 homes with solar PV and domestic battery storage for Oxford City Council – so we already understand and have experiences with the technologies that are likely to shape our more decentralised, and more democratic energy future.

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