Solar Taskforce looks at ‘untapped potential’ of commercial sites to drive UK’s clean energy plans

The Taskforce was setting up after it was recommended by Chris Skidmore MP’s Net-Zero Review

In the first meeting of the new industry-led Solar Taskforce, discussions have taken place to help the UK reach its solar installation targets issued under the updated Energy Security Plan.

One of the main recommendations from the Taskforce is that more can be done to install solar on commercial sites, including offices, schools, warehouses and car parks.

The Taskforce, led by Energy Minister Graham Stuart and Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett, also claimed that floating solar installations, alongside well-managed ground-mounted solar sites on farms, could help improve energy and food security without taking up much land.

“Installing rooftop solar power, whether at residential or commercial scale, is one of the best investments available, offering dramatic savings on energy bills and the opportunity to be paid for sending excess power to the grid. The benefits can also be greatly enhanced by adding a battery storage system,” Hewett said.

“Solar is the most popular form of power generation amongst the British public and consumer demand has never been higher, though the rate of rooftop installation must double to help hit 70GW by 2035. The number of solar farms will also have to increase significantly. I am delighted we now have industry leaders working directly with the Government to resolve the stumbling blocks and maximise the benefits that solar energy offers to the nation.”

The Taskforce was set up after it was recommended by Chris Skidmore MP’s Net-Zero Review, alongside the target to host 70GW of solar by 2035.

While more than one million homes have been fitted with solar panels, the Taskforce believes that more incentives are required to deliver a similar uptake amongst commercial sites.

More than 19,000 smaller-scale rooftop installations were made in March 2023 alone – a rate of more than 500 a day, the Government notes. At this pace, there could be 230,000 installations this year, which would be the record set in 2011.

The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned Energy Security and Net-Zero Secretary Grant Shapps that the UK is likely to miss its 2035 target of hosting 70GW of solar by a “considerable” margin without “urgent” action.

Chief among these concerns are delays in grid connection, resulting from a cumbersome planning process. In some cases, customers are having to wait 10 to 15 years to secure a connection for solar installations, the EAC has heard. Delays plague both utility-scale solar farms and small-scale arrays.

In response, the Taskforce also discussed plans to publish a solar roadmap next year. The plan will likely consider how to upskill and expand the current solar workforce to meet increased levels of demand and improving secure supply chains to harness innovation, including floating solar.

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