21 July 2021:
A core part of Solar Energy UK’s work revolves around talking up policies that would boost the growth of the UK’s solar energy markets. For example, reforming the business rates regime, supporting up-front financing, and addressing reliability myths are three ways in which the deployment of rooftop solar technologies could be accelerated.
Fortunately this is a view that Government researchers share, according to a new public attitudes report published by BEIS earlier this month. The research, which involved 15 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and nearly 900 households across Great Britain, was aimed at understanding the barriers and enablers to solar PV adoption.
With the UK currently wilting under a heatwave, this timely report highlights factors influencing consumers and businesses in their decision to invest in solar energy technologies. According to the research, measures which might increase deployment on household rooftops include:
- Establishing a scheme to address consumer risks about the reliability of solar panels. This is even though, as the research highlights, solar PV is an extremely reliable technology.
- Raising awareness of schemes such as the Smart Export Guarantee, which provides homeowners with the ability to sell surplus solar power to the national electricity grid.
- Developing new financial mechanisms to spread out the costs of installing a solar system over time.
For businesses, the report, which was based on in-depth interviews with SMEs, highlighted the attractive economics of solar. Respondents suggested that this is a major reason to install a rooftop system, reflecting the findings of Solar Energy UK research on the costs of commercial solar. The research also identified the environmental benefits of installing onsite solar generation as increasingly important for businesses’ reputation, and licence to operate.
However, respondents highlighted regulatory uncertainty as a risk. For the SMEs surveyed, the “single biggest barrier for the adoption of solar” is the potential for increases in business rates. Solar Energy has previously highlighted the impact of the business rates regime, including writing to the Chancellor in 2020, with wide support from across business and industry. Solar Energy UK has produced Business Rates advice for companies to understand how to calculate their liabilities, and continues to call on the government to ensure there is a level playing field for onsite solar power generation.
Overall, the BEIS research corroborates what Solar Energy UK members often cite as solar’s key advantages: it is an affordable, accessible, and effective way to reduce carbon emissions. As the report makes clear, there is also “headroom for expansion” – for example, in London, which has a relatively low deployment footprint at the moment. Solar Energy UK recently launched Solar Skills: London to support the expansion of the capital’s solar industry.
The BEIS report noted the strong growth in UK solar, including since the end of the installation subsidy feed-in tariff, with solar panel installation costs having declined by 60% since 2010. Home occupiers can also make money by selling power to the national grid. Solar Energy UK’s Smart Export Guarantee league table enables consumers to identify the potential revenue that could be earned from the surplus electricity produced by home solar panels.
To learn more about solar PV’s deployment potential around the country, read Solar Energy UK’s flagship report, Lighting the way. This report includes clear recommendations which, if implemented, could see the deployment of 40GW of solar power in the UK by 2030, a level consistent with the UK meeting its climate change target of reaching a net zero economy by 2050.
By Ben Milne, Policy Research Assistant and Kevin McCann, Policy Manager.