‘Mission Zero’: What does the independent review of the UKs Net Zero strategy have to say about UK solar energy?

Former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore recently published his Net Zero Review. A report that endeavoured to ask how the UK could better meet the commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions made some forty-two months ago.

Back in 2019 the UK became the first major economy in the world to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions, signing this pledge into law. With this came the notion that the UK would act as a pioneer for other nations to follow in their efforts of becoming greener economies. However, a clear message of inconsistency, mismanagement and a lack of detailed policy has emerged from Skidmore’s review, with the current approach of the UK Government being linked with delays, increased costs and a misalignment with climate science.

The report is not all doom and gloom however, with 129 recommendations being made that, if achieved, would set the UK back on track for meeting its 2050 target. As well as these recommendations, 10 priority missions to catalyse public and private action by 2035 have been set, inclusive of the need for a ‘rooftop revolution’ for solar PV.

What could this mean for the UK’s Solar capacity?

The lack of a clear roadmap for the deployment of solar was highlighted as a cause for concern in the review, despite total solar capacity expect to grow significantly before 2030. The establishment of a taskforce consisting of government, regulators and industry was advised to set up clear and agreed milestones for solar growth, helping to overcome the inconsistency and mismanagement previously experienced.

Similarly, the absence of a target for rooftop solar to become a UK building standard led to the declaration of a ‘rooftop revolution’ and removal of all barriers that are hindering the ‘full-scale deployment’ of solar on commercial and domestic buildings. As part of this, Skidmore emphasized the need for planning system flexibility, accommodating the acceleration of consultation to mandate the Future Homes Standard (FHS) to 2025, included as part of this consultation on new homes being built with solar as standard practice.

As well as new builds, the governments retrofit support scheme was also highlighted as a potential means to integrate solar installation into UK standards. Local Net Zero Retrofit Hubs, run by industry and supported by government were mentioned as a means of co-ordinating retrofit procedures at local levels around the UK.

Response from within the industry

Mike Thornton, Chief Executive at Energy Saving Trust welcomed the review and its associated recommendations, particularly regarding UK building standards, stating that: “Delivering energy efficient buildings, the electrification of heat and the shift towards renewable energy sources are all vital for decarbonising our homes and businesses, boosting energy security and growing the UK economy.”

A positive response was also given by Solar Energy UK’s Chief Executive, Chris Hewitt, who commented: “It’s no surprise that solar energy, one of the cheapest and greenest sources of power, has been backed so strongly in Chris Skidmore’s review of how to reach net zero while maximising economic growth. We very much hope that Whitehall will embrace his calls to establish a joint taskforce with the solar industry to work on a roadmap for reaching 70 GW of solar by 2035.”

Jonathan Brown, Product Marketing Manager at Solar Capture Technologies reiterates the importance of collaboration between government, regulators and industry, stating: “The UK renewables sector is an exciting sector to be involved in, and from first-hand experience of the Solar PV industry there is vast amounts of knowledge and experience to be shared. If the government can really bring industry on board, I believe real progress will be seen.”

It is now up to the UK Government to realise the opportunity that progressing towards Net Zero can provide, turning ambition into delivery, backed by the findings of this review.