UK Solar Customers Face ‘Unacceptable’ 15-Year Delays for Installations
Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) in the UK have found that customers are having to wait as long as 15 years for solar installations.
According to the EAC, the long wait times are due to a lack of sufficient investment in grid infrastructure like cables and transformers, deficient management of grid connection applications, “regulatory failure” on the part of the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and “unresponsive” operators in the distribution network, reported Business Green.
“There is potential for solar energy to have a bright future in the UK, but a dark cloud of delays for the industry hinders the ability to meet its full potential. Evidence to our Committee made clear that the UK has the potential to fulfil the UK’s ambition of 70GW of generating capacity from solar. But sticking points for households around access to finance and [Value Added Tax (VAT)] being slapped on batteries remain,” said Environmental Audit Committee Chairman Philip Dunne in a UK Parliament press release.
Other areas where the connection to the grid was causing delays were a lack of availability of data on solar photovoltaic generation, especially for installations on a smaller scale, as well as developers applying for connections to the grid without having obtained project planning permission, The Guardian reported.
In a letter written by Dunne to Energy and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps last week, Dunne said the government’s goal of 70 gigawatts of solar power by 2035 would be “challenging” in the face of current waiting times, reported Business Green.
“This is not only holding back the UK from achieving its decarbonisation goals, but it is also hampering the economy by preventing businesses and households from investing in solar PV installations to reduce their energy costs,” Dunne wrote in the letter, according to Business Green. “Accelerating the solar transition will enhance the UK’s energy security, help enable households and businesses to slash their energy bills and make a significant contribution to decarbonising the UK’s electricity supply.”
The EAC said that, while solar power was inexpensive to generate, installation could be cost-prohibitive, The Guardian reported.
“It is grossly unacceptable that solar projects with planning consent and with finance ready to go can be told to wait more than a decade simply to connect to the grid,” said Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK, as reported by Business Green. “The situation is causing billions of pounds of economic damage to the UK.”
MPs advised the government to consider ways to help households obtain affordable loans and provide a VAT discount for battery storage, The Guardian reported.
An additional investigation into the UK’s lack of solar connectivity is being launched by the EAC to look at what other hurdles exist for the ability of renewable technologies to hook up to the grid.
The committee will also “consider the potential for a smarter and more flexible grid which enables dynamic demand management and peer-to-peer electricity trading and storing,” the press release said.
Dunne said the solar installation delays could keep the UK from reaching its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
“The ability for low-carbon energy sources, including solar, to be able to connect to the grid could seriously jeopardise Net Zero Britain. Our solar inquiry found that some developers wait up to 15 years for a grid connection: this simply isn’t good enough. We must make sure that concerns around infrastructure and planning are addressed swiftly,” Dunne said in the press release. “Given our Committee’s mounting concerns over grid connections for low-carbon energy projects, we are today launching a new inquiry that will consider this in greater detail. I encourage anyone with views on these issues to submit evidence.”
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