UK consumers add solar panels to shopping lists

Wed Mar 2, 2011 1:00pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British shoppers can now pick up a solar panel while out grocery shopping as the country's third largest supermarket J Sainsbury Plc has started to sell renewable energy technology in some stores.

Sainsbury's Energy -- a five-year partnership with British Gas -- is offering small solar panels and loft insulation at stores and online so people can start generating their own energy at home.

Its 2.1 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system costs from around 10,000 pounds ($16,310) to install and set up but could pay back a household as much as 22,000 pounds over 25 years.

Sainsbury's Energy will deliver and install the units and offers customers 10,000 "reward" points, equal to 50 pounds, which can be used to pay for anything from groceries to holidays.

It is estimated that government schemes due to be introduced this summer, which pay households for each unit of renewable electricity produced, could save them an average 600 pounds a year.

However, a recent survey found that 87 percent of UK consumers do not know what small-scale renewable energy is, and 80 percent do not know where to buy the equipment needed.

That could change. Sainsbury hopes to have trained experts giving advice in hundreds of stores across the country by the end of the year.

"Our ambition is for Sainsbury's Energy to become the number one destination for customers looking for new energy technologies, energy efficiency measures and great energy deals, so we can help them to reduce costs, while also reducing carbon emissions," said Justin King, Sainsbury's chief executive.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by Paul Casciato)