800,000 Low-Income Homes to Go Solar in the UK

©. Solarplicity

And they get free LED lightbulbs too.

When the UK government introduced feed-in tariffs for solar, some critics derided the scheme as a rip-off. Why subsidize the wealthy to go solar, argued the naysayers, when it rains most of the time and Brits don't use air conditioning? Yet solar took off like wildfire, and the grid even (momentarily) hit 26% solar penetration at one point earlier this year.

In fact, the faster-than-expected uptake of solar has been used as justification by the government for scaling back its feed-in tariffs as renewables are increasingly able to compete with lower subsidies or, in some cases, no subsidies at all.

But even with the lower feed-in tariff rates, schemes are cropping up that offer significant social benefits even beyond any carbon savings. The latest? The BBC reports on a scheme by green energy provider Solarplicity to install solar on 800,000 low-income households in the next five years. Tenants will get lower bills (aided, in part, by smart meters and LED bulbs that are also a part of the deal), while Solarplicity will make money from the feed-in tariff income—and they'll create 1,000 jobs in the process, many of which the company says will go to military veterans.

It's an encouraging sign and an important reminder that not all energy is created equal; if solar can deliver electricity with lower emissions, cost savings to the most vulnerable in society, and jobs to a broader cross section of the public, then surely those are good reasons to target subsidies where they can have a broad impact? Or, at least, to stop subsidizing fossil fuels so we can actually start talking about a real level playing field...