Green groups welcome calls for a solar ‘rooftop revolution’ in Net Zero review

Chris Skidmore’s landmark net zero review has been welcomed by green groups, who now urge the government to ‘embrace’ recommendations to establish a joint task force to help the solar industry to reach its ambitious targets.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore was tasked by former prime minister Liz Truss to undertake a net zero review to find out whether the UK is working towards its legally binding 2050 target in a way that is “pro-business, pro-growth”. The full report was published today for consultation after being leaked yesterday.

Within a section on decarbonising the UK’s power supply and expediting renewables, Skidmore writes that the UK “need[s] to go further, faster” to reach the ambitions set out in Boris Johnson’s government’s British Energy Security Strategy.

To achieve this, Skidmore has set out various recommendations, including removing the need for planning permission to install solar panels on the roofs of residential and commercial buildings and recommendations to “streamline” the planning and environmental permitting processes “to ensure new power generation can come online as soon as possible”.

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the trade association Solar Energy UK, said that the review’s strong backing of solar is “no surprise”.

He added: “The number one priority of this group will have to be unblocking access to the grid – which is pushing back the completion of many large projects well into the next decade. In time, it should lead to a sector deal, like those agreed for aerospace, construction, offshore wind power and other industries.”

Hewett also backed a call in the report for an end to “stop-start” policies, which result in uncertainty for investors, and promoting access to low-cost finance for residential installations of solar powers and updated planning rules that see a “general right to put solar power on rooftops”.

This references uncertainty caused under Truss’s government about whether new planning rules would have seen solar panel deployment restricted from over 50% of agricultural land.

Shaun Spiers, executive director at Green Alliance, welcomed the review and said he hopes Whitehall will “embrace” calls to establish a joint task force to help the solar industry to reach its ambitious targets.

Sarah McMonagle, acting director of campaigns and policy at the countryside charity Campaign to Protect Rural England said that this boost to solar energy could be “transformative” if it is taken up by the government. She said that the review highlights what many already know, which is that economic growth and net zero “go hand in hand”.

She added:  ”The arguments are all but over. We need a massive uplift in renewables and we need it now.”

Responding to the review, Polly Billington chief executive of UK100, a network for UK locally elected leaders, commended the report’s commitment to working with local authorities.

Billington said: “UK100 is committed to empowering local leaders to deliver on the UK's ambitious climate targets, but we need central government to take heed of the Net Zero Review’s findings and commit to unlocking the ambition of local authorities to deliver the most successful version of net zero."

Environmental Audit Committee chairman Philip Dunne has also reacted positively to Skidmore’s review, saying it reflects issues the EAC has been calling for action on. He said: “Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review report demonstrates, unequivocally, the countless opportunities net zero brings. His emphasis on clarity and leadership cannot be overstated.”