The Environmental Audit Committee Warns UK will Fall Short of 2035 Solar Power Goals

The United Kingdom faces a daunting challenge in achieving its solar deployment targets, as a significant number of homes and small businesses are deterred by the high costs associated with installing rooftop solar systems.  

In a recent warning, members of the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) highlighted the urgent need for action, cautioning that the country is likely to fall considerably short of its goal of hosting 70GW of solar power by 2035.  

Energy Security and Net-Zero Secretary Grant Shapps received the alarming message from the EAC, emphasizing the criticality of immediate measures to avert a potential setback in the UK’s clean energy transition.  

This target, established in March, was initially recommended in January as part of the Net-Zero Review spearheaded by Chris Skidmore MP, underscoring the importance of renewable energy in achieving sustainability objectives. 

What Steps can the Government Take to Achieve their Net-Zero Targets for Solar

The United Kingdom government is in the process of setting up a solar industry taskforce aimed at devising a comprehensive strategy to achieve the country’s solar deployment targets. However, concerns have been raised by the EAC regarding the slow progress in overcoming key barriers hindering solar development in the UK. 

One major area of concern highlighted by the EAC is the significant delays in grid connection resulting from a complex and time-consuming planning process. Disturbingly, the Committee has learned that customers often have to wait for an astonishing 10 to 15 years to obtain a grid connection for their solar installations. This issue affects both utility-scale solar farms and small-scale arrays, creating a bottleneck in solar deployment. 

To address these challenges and expedite progress, the EAC is urging Grant Shapps to push for a net-zero remit for Ofgem, the country’s energy regulator, as recommended in the Net-Zero Review. This would provide Ofgem with a clear mandate to prioritize and facilitate the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. 

Additionally, the EAC recommends a collaborative effort between the government, National Grid, and electricity distribution network operators to resolve the persistent delays and improve the grid infrastructure in the long term. By working together, these stakeholders can effectively unblock the pipeline of delayed solar projects and develop strategies to enhance the efficiency and reliability of the grid. 

Encouraging Rooftop Solar Systems for Commercial and Domestic Properties

In a recent letter, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has emphasized that the United Kingdom cannot solely rely on grid-scale solar projects to meet its ambitious solar targets set for 2035. To achieve these goals, there must also be a significant increase in the adoption of rooftop solar systems, both in commercial and domestic properties.

Currently, only around 1.2 million out of the UK’s 25 million homes have installed solar panels. The EAC identifies several barriers hindering solar adoption for the remaining households, including limited access to finance and the need to improve battery storage infrastructure.

To address the issue of access to finance, the EAC urges the government to explore options for facilitating more affordable loans specifically designed for homes seeking to install solar systems. Additionally, ministers can collaborate with banks to develop innovative solutions such as green mortgages, which can incentivize and support solar installations.

Improving battery storage rollout is another critical aspect highlighted by the EAC. Concerns were raised regarding the eligibility of batteries installed in homes or businesses after the installation of solar panels to benefit from the zero rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) introduced in spring 2022. The EAC’s letter calls on Grant Shapps to work alongside the Chancellor to consider extending the VAT discount rate to household battery storage systems retroactively, thereby encouraging wider adoption of solar energy storage.

Moreover, the EAC stresses the importance of reassessing the government’s stance on community renewable energy, including solar. Alarming statistics from Community Energy England reveal that only 23 new community-owned renewable energy generation assets were installed in 2021, marking the lowest number since 2017. The EAC calls for a renewed focus on community-based initiatives and encourages the government to explore ways to support and promote the development of community-owned solar projects.

Addressing these barriers and embracing rooftop solar installations will be vital in ensuring the UK remains on track to achieve its ambitious solar targets. By facilitating access to finance, improving battery storage infrastructure, and revitalizing community renewable energy efforts, the government can unlock the vast potential of solar energy and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.

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