The integration of solar power in commercial buildings has the potential to revolutionise the renewable energy landscape in the UK, according to the new Solar Taskforce. On Friday (26 May), the group met for the first time to discuss the untapped potential of commercial sites for solar. The UK Solar Taskforce is a government-led initiative established to drive forward the actions needed for industry and government to meet the UK’s solar ambitions. The Taskforce will run up to 2024 with the key objectives of creating a strategic roadmap, taking action, and securing investment in the sector. Conversation at the first meeting highlighted the fact that commercial buildings, including offices, retail spaces, and warehouses, offer vast areas of unused rooftop space that could be utilised for solar panel installation. This untapped potential could play a crucial role in meeting the UK’s ambitious renewable energy targets while driving the transition towards a sustainable and low-carbon future.

Domestic solar power is not enough, leaders say

The government has a clear target to increase solar capacity by nearly fivefold to 70GW by 2035 as part of wider plans to power up Britain with cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy sources. Even with this goal, the UK is still only using a small percentage of its land resources to fuel solar power. Over a million homes in the UK already have solar panels installed on their roofs, though Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart says there is still room for improvement: “Households across the UK are already doing their bit to provide cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy sources with the solar panels on their roofs – but with acres of rooftop space on car parks and supermarkets in every community, we can be doing even more.”

A bigger solar industry will lead to job creation and local growth

The meeting underscored the positive impact of solar energy integration on job creation and local economic growth. In 2020, the solar industry supported 11,500 jobs across the country – with that figure now expected to be even higher, offering employment opportunities and fostering innovation within the renewable energy industry. The Taskforce also discussed upskilling and expanding the solar workforce to meet increasing levels of demand, while creating well-paid long-term employment opportunities for Britain. In March this year, over 19,000 smaller-scale rooftop installations were made, at a rate of more than 500 a day. If this continues, there will be 230,000 installations in 2023 – beating the current record set in 2011. With this in mind, the Taskforce aims to have sufficient workers ready for the increased workload.

Making solar more accessible

Another key focus of the meeting included cutting costs of installation. Existing barriers that hinder the widespread implementation of solar power in commercial buildings include high upfront costs, limited access to financing, and administrative challenges. The report suggests potential solutions, including financial incentives, streamlined planning processes, and knowledge-sharing platforms, to overcome these barriers effectively. Ben Fawcett, Head of Solar at EDF Renewables UK and member of the Solar Taskforce, said: “If we are to achieve our net zero ambitions, we need to drive forward the deployment of all types of solar, from rooftops to small and large utility-scale solar farms. By bringing the government and industry together, the Solar Taskforce is a great step in the right direction as we work hard to unlock the potential of solar in the UK.”

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