Solar capacity in the UK stood at around 14GW in 2020
Greenpeace, the Green Finance Institute, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), and others call on government to set ambitious solar target
The government should aim to ramp up UK solar power capacity to 40GW at a minimum by the end of the decade, backed by a comprehensive skills development and financing deal to support the sector’s growth in line with national climate targets, a group of NGOs and think tanks have urged.
Solar power capacity currently stands at around 14GW, but there remains “major potential” for far more, argues the coalition, which includes Greenpeace, the Green Finance Institute (GFI), the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), WWF, E3G, Community Energy England, and CPRE.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has estimated the UK will need around 54GW of solar capacity by 2035 in order to put the UK on track for its 2050 net zero target, while the National Infrastructure Commission has suggested the UK would need roughly 38GW of solar by the end of the current decade.
As such, with solar power costs continuing to plummet and UK solar projects having set a new all-time peak generation record of 9.68GW last April, the government should aim to set a minimum target for the sector to ramp up capacity to 40GW by 2030, the group said.
Doing so would bring solar into line with the UK’s burgeoning offshore wind sector, for which the government has already agreed a deal to bolster skills and supply chain development with an overarching aim of delivering 40GW of capacity by 2030.
The statement released by the green groups yesterday argues a government solar sector deal with detailed planning to develop the skilled supply chain needed to support the solar and energy storage industry could help to drive a ‘green recovery’ from the current pandemic crisis.
Moreover, a detailed government strategy to ramp up solar capacity should also recognise the key role community energy has to play, which the green groups argue boasts enough potential alone to power 2.2 million homes, support 8,700 jobs, and save 2.5Mt of CO2, adding £1.8bn to the UK economy by 2030.
Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said solar was “the cheapest, most popular energy source in the UK”.
“It can be fitted, unobtrusively onto the roofs of homes, schools and warehouses, as well as at scale to boost farm incomes and biodiversity,” he said. “If Boris Johnson’s climate commitments are to mean anything, his ambition to make the UK the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’ must be followed up with him promising we’ll become the ‘Texas of sun’. Such a commitment, with a proper plan and financial incentives, would unlock the private investment needed to accelerate the market for take up.”
The move follows claims this week from trade body the REA that, with the right policy environment fostered by the government, half of the UK’s electricity could be generated by renewables by the end of next year, on the path to potentially operating an entirely carbon-free grid by as soon as 2032.
Last year, renewables provided 42 per cent of the UK’s power mix, outstripping fossil fuel generation for the first time, while low carbon generation – including renewables and nuclear – made up well over 50 per cent.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.