Bosses of Britain’s busy solar sector today gave the government food for thought, urging solar sceptic Liz Truss to get behind the industry.
Representatives of lobby group SolarEnergyUK have marshalled 17 organisations for a joint open letter to Britain’s head of government, seeking to correct the premier’s ‘solar paraphenalia’ sneer, uttered as she touted for votes to lead the Conservatives.
During a hustings last month in Darlington, Truss told party cardholders that solar farms impede food production.
“The opposite is true”, today’s open researched letter on land use tells her. “Solar farms directly address climate change, which Defra has identified as the most important threat to UK food security”.
“Installing a solar farm is a temporary and reversible form of land use. Helping to meet the UK’s energy security and climate change objectives through their deployment will have minimal if any impact on Britain’s food security”, according to the solar advocates.
The lobbyists couple their rebuttal to Truss with a new guide to use of UK land and natural capital, covering farming, leisure and solar power generation. Drawn up in collaboration with the National Farmers Union, the 65-page manual attempts to establish best practice in balancing food cultivation with clean power generation, the latter being accepted to take place on lower quality land.
Solar farms also generally utilise previously developed land, such as brownfield sites and land of lower quality”, the letter tells Truss, who for three years till 1999 was a trainee management accountant at Shell UK.
“Walk beside me, not behind me“
Building out UK solar to the 85GW to 90GW capacity deemed by independent scientists at the Climate Change Committee to be necessary by 2050, would require a footprint equivalent to 0.3% of UK land, SEUK calculates. This is less, says the letter, than the amount occupied now in 2022 by Britain’s golf courses, the lobbyists tell the former oil executive.
Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett today extended an invitation to the Prime Minister: “I would be delighted to accompany her on a visit to one of the UK’s many excellent solar farms. She can see for herself how their affordable, clean electricity will help to power the UK out of the cost-of-living crisis.”
A second SEUK briefing sets out parameters around solar farms’ impact on UK food security. “The solar industry is a natural partner for countryside management,” Hewett asserted.
Signatories to today’s open letter to Truss include co-operative afficiandos Scottish Renewables and Community Energy England, standards quality enforcer the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, and renewables advocates within industry the Aldersgate Group.
Bosses of British renewables include solar were sunning themselves this morning in the light of yesterday’s backing from Sir Keir Starmer. In his conference keynote speech, the Labour leader included a promise to treble solar deployment to 40GW by 2030, in line with the Conservatives’ recent pledge.
But Starmer named 2030 as his deadline for 100% clean power flowing over the nation’s grid, a five year advance on the Johnson government’s 2035 deadline, set out in its April 2022 plan for energy security.
Sunny compass “boxed”
Anticipating a “huge national effort”, Starmer zeroed in on solar farms “growing rural communities in the south east, south west and Midlands” to treble solar output.
“This will require a different way of working – the biggest partnership between government, business and communities this country has ever seen,” he added.
Moves to create more than a million new skilled jobs for trades such as plumbers, electricians, engineers, software designers, technicians and builders, would start “within the first 100 days of a new Labour government,” Starmer told party members.
“The entire solar industry will be very happy with the warm support for the industry given by Kier Starmer,” declared the SEUK’s Hewett.
“It is very welcome that the Labour leadership is so clearly aware of the huge benefits offered by cheap, clean solar power, rather than undermining one of the fastest growing industries in the country”, the industry boss observed.