Climate Friendly Retrofit Part 6: The Solar Install Process Needs to be Easier

Josiah Lockhart
4 min readJul 20, 2021

One of the main 3 strands of our retrofit is a microgeneration system to produce our own energy, and late last Monday we finally had our system commissioned and generating power, and I’m please to say that after one week we have netted 23.6kwh.

I want to share with you our experience of installing solar and the process one has to go through in order to get microgeneration set up, and why, in my view, there needs to be significant reform to the process if we are to push mass adoption and make it accessible to those who don’t have a spare £5000 sitting around.

The first step is always to talk to a system designer who can come and assess your specific circumstances and house. And in many ways, the design is the easy part. What I’m keen to do is share with those of you considering microgeneration the 2 parts of the process that you need to be prepared for, but might not realise when setting off on your journey.

Firstly, if you want to install a system over 3.68kwh, you need to get approval from you local District Network Operator (DNO) to ensure the grid can handle any excess produced. This process has 3 steps to it. Firstly, your installer submits a design and G99 application to the DNO, and the DNO has up to 12 weeks to respond. Once they respond, they make the homeowner an “offer” (i.e. not a set fee) as to what it will cost to connect your microgeneration to the grid (in our case this was £350). Once that offer is accepted the DNO takes up to 4 weeks to carry out a study on the local grid though which they can come back and ask for system changes (most likely a reduction in size) and depending on where you live this is more or less likely. While we did not have any changes made to our system, we are in a “red” zone due to all the windfarms that surround us.

Secondly, There is a great programme managed by the Energy Savings Trust/Home Energy Scotland giving interest free loans of up to £5000 for solar PV. But with programmes like this there is a time frame that not every supplier and installer is built to manage the cashflow of this timeframe. Once the initial system is designed, it is submitted to EST who then go through a process of review to approve a loan, once the loan is approved then the DNO process above can start. But the main dilemma is often how to cash flow the process and install as, understandably, the loan cannot be drawn down until after the system has been commissioned and an “MCS certificate” to certify the system has been installed correctly and connected to the grid.

For us, the combined EST & DNO time for our 5kwh system from design to commissioning took nearly 18 weeks in total. Add 10 days on top for a MCS certificate plus additional processing time for EST to let us draw down our loan and we are looking closer to 21 to complete the process. A week after install, we are waiting on our MCS certificate, out of pocket £4,800 until EST draw down, are currently giving the grid 62kwh a week for free.

But despite that, our system is in and performing well Over the first 6.5 days we generated 137kwh, which is more than enough to power our home, heat our water, and then some. If you are looking to start a process similar to this, there are some great people out there who can help. We used the Social Enterprise LiveEco CIC to design our system who were great and have a fantastic ethos. I’d also recommend the team at AES solar who have been a good sounding board for ideas as well. And don’t forget to give Home Energy Scotland a ring in the first instance to get all the details of support you are eligible for.

If you missed the earlier parts of this story, they can all be found here.