Solar Power

Energy Security and Net Zero – in the House of Commons at on 28 February 2023.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

What assessment he has made of the potential contribution of solar power to UK energy security and the 2050 net zero target.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Solar is a cheap and versatile technology. It is a key part of the Government’s strategy for net zero and I share the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm for it. We are aiming for up to 70 GW of installed solar capacity by 2035, and that represents a fivefold increase in our current capacity.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I welcome the Minister’s enthusiasm for solar and the progress that has been made so far. According to Solar Energy UK, the rate at which solar panels are being put on to domestic roofs is still only half of what is needed to meet the Government’s own targets. I know that he wants to do much better, so is it not time to pick up the pace and give us a real rooftop revolution by making solar panels mandatory on all suitable new homes? Will he do that?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

More than a million homes now have solar panels installed. According to data from the microgeneration certification scheme, a total of 130,596 solar panels were installed on UK rooftops last year alone, and that is more than 2019, 2020 and 2021 put together, but like the hon. Lady I want to see us go further and faster.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

Energy security and food security should have equal billing, yet the proliferation of solar farms across thousands of acres of agricultural land is taking away from our nation’s ability to produce food. Warehouses up and down the land want to put solar panels on their roofs, but find they cannot because of the grid connections. What steps are being taken to ensure that the solar revolution can come on rooftops, not agricultural land?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The planning system is designed to seek that balance with the need to secure a clean, green energy system. It is worth noting that ground-mounted solar has probably the lowest levelised cost of any form of energy in this country. The Government have clarified the definition of “best and most versatile” agricultural land as constituting lands in grades 1, 2 and 3a, and we do everything we can to incentivise that solar should go on brownfield land or land of lower agricultural value.