Green move to cut bills

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MORE council homes across Wigan are to benefit from bill-busting solar panels.

As part of a partnership with the borough’s council house management company, Wigan and Leigh Housing (WALH), the council will up its investment in solar panels to £3m before the end of 2012.

The deal, taken during the press-excluded session of the ruling cabinet, will now mean 500 homes reaping the rewards of significantly reduced heating and lighting costs. Work to install them could start as early as next month.

A report revealed that the decision could bring benefits for council house tenants in the form of reduced energy bills, as well as boosting the economy with new jobs.

Panels produce electricity in an environmentally-friendly way and it is predicted that on average, tenants could see their bills being slashed by £100 a year as a result. Any electricity that is not used by the tenant can be sold back to the National Grid.

The decision to increase the number of homes that will benefit from solar panels has been taken to capitalise on government-backed incentives, known as ‘Feed-In Tariffs’ that will only be available until next April.

Council Cabinet member for the Environment Coun Kevin Anderson said: “We all need to be moving away from fossil fuels and making use of low-carbon technology.

“Solar panels have been around for four decades now so it is only right that we use this opportunity to make them work for us.

“It is anticipated that the scheme could help generate more than £250,000 a year for the next 10 years as the £100 average savings on bills for tenants. Any money that is made will be ploughed back into more energy saving measures for the council homes.

“We are also confident that such a large scale installation project will help create new jobs in the borough in terms of the fitting and ongoing maintenance of the panels.

Coun Anderson added that the scheme was part of the council’s ongoing commitment to invest in social housing and to ensure that the borough has some of the ‘greenest’ homes possible.

In the last few years, through Wigan and Leigh Housing, the council had spent £15m in putting in modern gas-saving central heating and hot water boilers along with insulation on the hi-rise blocks.

Money to fund the panels will be taken from the Housing Revenue Account – so will come from rents rather than the council taxpayer.