Warehouses, car parks, schools and shopping malls hold the key to boosting by a factor of five Britain’s solar electricity output, or so a new government-industry taskforce believes.

Roofs of commercial buildings, offices, distribution hubs & and their surrounding acres of asphalt-covered ground offer vast untapped potential to generate cheap, on-site power from light, as the nation seeks to add to the 1.1 million domestic roofs already benefitting from solar kit.

Jointly led by energy minister Graham Stuart and suppliers’ trade body SolarEnergyUK, the taskforce met for the first time today, in a bid to overcome barriers slowing the spread onto commercial roofs of the quickly deployed, low-cost technology

Absent however from today’s meeting were major property owners and their advisors. A SolarEnergyUK spokesperson promised these would be invited to the taskforce’s working groups, before it ceases operation in February.

LandSec ranks among the UK’s three biggest commercial property owners, by revenue. Its latest sustainability performance figures report – table 16 – that across its retail sites, self-generation from renewables accounted for only 2% of the total 53 million kWh consumed across LandSec-owned shops & supermarkets in 2022.  Barely changed for 3 years, onsite self-generation across LandSec’s retail estate has hovered just above 1 million kWh.

By 2035, ministers intend multiplying Britain’s existing solar capacity nearly five-fold, to 70GW, up from the current estimate of around 15GW. All but 1 per cent of Britain’s solar arrays have been installed since 2010, during the eight years of the Feed-in Tariff subsidy, closed since March 2019 to new registrations.

Low-quality farmland houses the overwhelming share of solar capacity, raising objections from some country-dwellers and the Conservative Right. Now industry backers want to speed and spread array installation to uglier industrial roofs and grey ground asphalt, all easily addressed and far less politically sensitive.

The taskforce emerges from a commitment in Powering Up Britain, the government blueprint released in April outlining the UK’s route to a clean, secure electricity system by 2035.  The paper accepted recommendations for more urgency made in January by Chris Skidmore MP, in his independent review of Britain’s Net Zero goals.

Co-chairing today’s first meeting, energy security minister Stuart declared: “Households across the UK are already doing their bit to provide cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy sources with solar on their roofs.

“With acres of rooftop space on car parks and supermarkets in every community, we can be doing even more.

“This new dedicated taskforce will have a laser-like focus on cutting costs and breaking down the barriers to harnessing the power of the sun in every way we can, all while using a small fraction of this country’s land”.

His taskforce co-chair, Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK pictured right, said: “Installing rooftop solar, whether residential or commercial, is one of the best investments available, greatly enhanced by adding battery storage”.

This March alone, say industry observers, over 19,000 sites received new solar installations, a rate of more than 500 a day.  At this rate, 2023 will see 230,000 new PV systems put in place, beating a record set in 2011, the first year of public subsidy.

“Rates of rooftop installation must double to help hit 70GW by 2035”, Hewett went on, and “the number of solar farms will also have to increase significantly”.

The new solar taskforce counts as members the heads or senior officers of:

  • Investors NextEnergy Capita and the UK Infrastructure Bank
  • Solar developers Evo Energy, EDF, Lightsource BP and equipment distributor Segen
  • The Energy Networks Association

Polls repeatedly confirm solar as the most popular form of power generation among Britain’s public.  After last decade’s cycles of boom and bust, the subsidy-free industry now supports an estimated 11,500 high quality jobs.

Three years of eye-watering electricity tariffs for commercial tenants aid the task-force’s efforts to educate roof owners.

More details on the taskforce here.


  1. The financial argument for rooftop solar power will remain valid for as long as grid electricity remains very expensive which is presently around 3.5 times the cost of producing it, due to the old formula that links the price of electric power to the daily spot price of gas. Today, electric power from gas fired power stations is less than that from renewables and nuclear. When this link is phased out so that grid electric power reflects the true cost of producing it, there will be little argument for the cost of investing in roof top solar


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