The government's pledge to provide £3 million last week for the construction of energy-efficient buildings using solar power was welcomed by Peter Smith, RIBA vice-president for sustainable energy, as an effective tool in helping the UK meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce carbon dioxide levels.
Smith said expenditure on the installation of solar cells was desperately short, adding that the government input announced by energy minister Peter Hain was greatly valued.
'[Britain] has lagged behind in terms of the way the government has supported technology like this, ' Smith said. 'It is refreshing that Hain has been more assertive about things like this than any minister I can remember.'
But he called for more funding for sustainable energy solutions, adding that many governments around the world subsidised the installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels.
He said there was a current reluctance to use PV panels because of their expense and the length of time it took to recoup the costs from energy savings.
'I want to see thousands, rising to tens of thousands of roofs covered by solar panels every year over the next 10 years, rivalling the large programmes in Germany and Japan, ' Hain said at the launch of the fund. Hain called on developers to bid for a share of the money. The investment in solar housing is expected to increase by 300 the 166 homes established under the first round of funding in May 2000. It is expected that most of the 300 homes will be completed by the end of 2002.
At the formal opening of a roof-top solar showcase at the offices of Solar Century, near London's Waterloo Station, Hain said: 'This extra money will help provide the right learning experience before the UK embarks on a much larger installation programme. This government is serious about solar energy. This solar housing trial is just the start of a long-term strategy.'
He added his own plea: 'I appeal to developers and UK manufacturers of solar equipment to invest in the future of this important industry.'
By the end of 2001, it is expected that more than 100 homes will be installed with the solar panels as a result of the first funding round of £1.4 million.