UK solar capacity must treble by 2030 to align with net-zero target

18th June 2021

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Rueben Lifuka

The UK's solar energy capacity must treble over the next decade for the country to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but is only set to double under a business-as-usual scenario.

That is according to new report by Solar Energy UK, which outlines the policy and regulatory changes required to deliver the 40GW of operational solar capacity needed by the end of the decade.

These include policy changes across the residential, commercial, and utility-scale markets, with the government urged to show as much leadership on solar power as it has done for offshore wind.

The researchers said that trebling solar PV capacity by 2030 could cut total UK carbon emissions by 21.2 million tonnes per year, as fossil fuels are replaced with cleaner power, equating to 4.7% of the country’s emissions in 2019.

This level of deployment would also deliver thousands of skilled jobs, and an estimated £17bn in additional economic activity.

Solar Energy UK chief executive, Chris Hewett, said: “Solar companies up and down the country are in a strong position to deliver the growth needed to meet the UK’s climate commitments.

“However, the government must act now to accelerate deployment to ensure their net-zero targets are met. Jobs, economic growth, and a massive reduction in carbon emissions are all up for grabs.”

The report explains how the UK's current rate of solar capacity expansion will still leave the country more than 11GW shy of the level required to meet the its climate change commitments.

With less than six months to go until COP26, the researchers said that pressure is growing on ministers to make the required policy and regulatory changes now.

These include business rates reform, an end to VAT for solar energy systems, and solar PV’s continued eligibility for government-led clean power auctions.

The report also considers the impact of improved building standards for homes and commercial properties, funding of retrofitted solar on homes and public buildings, and changes to solar park planning definitions, among other recommendations.

“Solar is affordable, reliable, and immensely popular with the public,” Hewett continued.

“Every additional unit of solar energy generated in the UK cuts the amount of coal and gas we burn today. It can and must play a bigger role in the UK’s green economic recovery.”

Image credit: iStock

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