Solar can provide 20% of UK electricity, research claims

Solar can provide 20% of UK electricity, research claims
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ franco lucato

Solar can provide at least 20% of the UK’s electricity and create 200,000 jobs in the country, more than double current forecasts, according to new research.

The rise comes as industry experts call on the Government to back UK solar development and urgently revise up their solar targets to delivery net zero by 2050.

This follows the move this week by outgoing Prime Minister, Theresa May, to commit the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, becoming the first major economy to do so.

While the UK’s 13GW of 900 solar farms and 900,000 rooftop installations provide 4% of the country’s electricity, according to new analysis carried out by Energy Watch Group and LUT University in collaboration with Solarcentury, the UK can increase this by more than six times by 2030 to a significant 80GW.

This is equivalent to meeting 20% of the UK’s electricity demand and more than double the 35GW of solar that Labour recently committed to delivering over the same period.

Today, thanks to falling costs, solar is now one of the cheapest and most economical sources of energy in the majority of markets worldwide including the UK.

Globally, Energy Watch Group says that solar can provide 70% of the world’s total energy by 2050, with the Global Alliance for Solar Energy Research Institute predicting that 10TWh of solar generating capacity will be produced globally by 2030; a 20-fold increase on the volume generated today.

In Europe alone, Energy Watch Group and LUT expect that this exponential growth in solar will create c.1.5 million jobs by 2030, of which c.200,000 will be created in the UK.

Last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned the Government that achieving net zero by 2050 will be too costly for the UK, while putting too high a burden on public spending.

However, UK-headquartered Solarcentury, the global integrated solar power company, strongly refutes this, claiming that reaching 100% renewable energy in just a few decades is not only achievable for the UK, but affordable too.

Frans van den Heuvel, Chief Executive of Solarcentury, said: “As a country, we are proving that solar works, and can be deployed both at scale and speed. Social demand to act on climate chaos and switch to renewables is at an all-time high, with three quarters of UK residents now believing that climate change is the biggest crisis facing humanity today.

“With demand for electricity set to rise as we shift to an electric based system, the good news is that we have everything we need to significantly increase the UK’s solar capacity, from the momentum, ambition and skills, to the technology, investment and affordability. The one missing piece of the puzzle is political will.

“The benefits of hitting net zero by 2050, not just for the environment but for the economy and society as a whole, are clearer today than ever before.

“While we welcome the Government’s commitment to this target, we need them to fully embrace this change and build on momentum – not put the brakes on – removing all remaining policy barriers to put solar on a level playing field with all other energy generation technologies. As a country, we must act now to combat climate chaos. It’s simply too costly not to and its not a decision to be delayed.

“There is absolutely no need to turn to other countries for carbon credits to reach net zero, this is a fundamentally flawed approach and missed opportunity for economic growth. The role that solar will play in the UK’s net zero target should not be underestimated.”