Solar Energy UK
7 June 2023
Solar Energy UK welcomes the Government’s acceptance of the need to grant Ofgem a ‘principal objective’ to help the country meet net zero.
An amendment to the Energy Bill (Gov NC52) was published today in the name of Andrew Bowie, the junior minister responsible for energy systems and networks. The legislation is currently at committee stage in the Commons.
Though indirect, Solar Energy UK expects the change to result in a faster rollout of grid-scale solar projects, which can be subject to long delays in connecting to the electricity grid. This should result in lower consumer bills, faster decarbonisation and more investment, jobs and economic growth.
The Government’s decision today follows the Lords passing a similar change to the bill on 17 April. Amendment 133 was passed by 208 votes to 182, having garnered support from the National Infrastructure Commission, Energy UK, RenewableUK and the Energy Networks Association.
In an earlier debate, crossbencher Baroness Hayman, co-chair of Peers for the Planet and one of the amendment’s sponsors, said: “This is not just a matter of semantics. The reason all these organisations and bodies support this change is that they believe it essential for increasing the pace and scale of investment in the UK’s electricity grid… to deliver net zero and ensure that long-term planning happens at the pace needed.”
As Solar Energy UK revealed to the Times last month, many planned solar farms and commercial-scale rooftop solar projects are suffering from damaging waiting times to connect to the grid – in at least one case stretching into the early 2040s. Being told to wait until the end of this decade is common.
The delays are partly due to how electricity network upgrades are regulated. The objective of keeping bills low has slowed the pace of investment by electricity network operators into new lines, transformers and switchgear. But as cheap renewables are now effectively subsidising expensive natural gas, this approach has only resulted in greater consumer costs.
“This was a common-sense decision by the Government. The era of costly renewables is long gone – consumer and environmental interests are now one and the same,” said Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Energy UK.
“The new amendment reflects the close relationship that we have with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, working together to run the new Solar Taskforce. There is a general consensus that slashing waiting times for grid connections is the body’s greatest priority.”
The announcement has been welcomed by Ofgem.
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