Solar sector welcomes fivefold increase eyed in energy security strategy

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The British Energy Security Strategy has been met by a mixed reaction in the energy sector, with some welcoming its support of renewables while others view it as a missed opportunity. Image: Getty.

The British Energy Security Strategy, unveiled today, has detailed an aim of increasing the country’s solar capacity five-fold.

The strategy has been produced in response to increasing uncertainty in the energy sector, on the back of high gas prices throughout 2021 and into the beginning of this year, as well as increased volatility over the past month in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain – from new nuclear to offshore wind – in the decade ahead,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“This will reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control, so we can enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency with cheaper bills.”

The strategy provides support for new nuclear, offshore wind and heat pumps, but has been criticised by some in the sector for failing to include energy efficiency measures and more immediate support for those struggling with surging energy bills.

For solar, the government is planning to consult on the rules to ease the rollout of the technology helping to create 10,000 jobs in the sector by 2028 – almost double its previous expectations.

For domestic and commercial rooftops, it is to consult on relevant permitted development rights to radically simplify planning processes, and will also consider the best way to make use of public sector rooftop, the strategy said.

The last time permitted development rights in the UK were amended for rooftop solar was in 2015, when the threshold for permitted development for such installations was raised from 50kWp to 1MWp

The government will also look to design performance standards to make the installation of solar PV a presumption in new homes and buildings.

It points to the recent removal on VAT for solar panels – unveiled in the recent Spring Statement – installed in residential accommodation as evidence of the support it is already providing to the technology.

For ground-mount solar, the government will consult on amending planning rules to strengthen policy that favours development on non-protected land. This will include ensuring communities continue to be able to have their say on developments, and that environmental protections remain.

Solar Energy UK has welcomed the strategy, saying that a fivefold increase in capacity from around 14GW currently could lead to roughly 70GW of total generation capacity and support 60,000 jobs by 2035.

“The Government’s expectations of a five-fold increase in solar in the UK by 2035, shows that it now shares the same level of ambition as the UK solar industry,” said Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett.

“The announced changes in planning, CfD auctions and potential low cost finance options could significantly accelerate solar deployment, creating thousands of jobs, cutting energy bills and making Britain more energy secure.”

But others have reacted less positively, with Dr Alice Bell from lobby group Possible noting that the 10,000 jobs target is less than the number of jobs lost under the Conservatives in a single year in 2016 following the closure of the Feed in Tariff however.

“The promise of 10,000 solar jobs in six years is hard to stomach when it was only six years ago that the Solar Trade association were lamenting the 12,500 jobs that the Cameron government slashed in just a year,” she said.

“Cameron and Osborne managed to slash twelve thousand solar jobs in a year, now Johnson and Sunak are saying they’ll make ten thousand in six? It’s hardly the visionary energy policy we’re looking for from the Prime Minister.”

 

Further coverage of the British Energy Security Strategy is available on Solar Power Portal’s sister site Current±.

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