The UK should set clear roadmaps for an onshore wind and solar “revolution” to help it meet its climate and energy ambitions, according to what’s being billed as the largest ever study of how nation can achieve net zero.
Britain should this year set up taskforces and deployment roadmaps for the two technologies, said a report by Chris Skidmore, an MP in the ruling Conservative Party and former energy minister who led the inquiry that was ordered by former short-lived Prime Minister Liz Truss and took submissions from more than 1,800 sources.
Onshore renewables have often been seen as languishing in the shadows of the UK’s booming offshore wind sector, which has a 50GW installation target for 2030 and long-term agreements between the government and industry designed to foster investments.
Skidmore said onshore wind and solar are the cheapest new sources of power globally and have seen their competitiveness with gas-fired generation transformed by the current energy crisis, which has seen its costs spiral.
In one of 25 recommendations in his report, the MP said the government should help pave the way for solar to hit up to 70GW of installations by 2035 but does not cite a figure for onshore wind, saying it should be at the level “required deployment levels for 2035 net zero grid”.
He urged “where locally supported, unleashing solar and developing onshore wind, the cheapest forms of generation, to be rapidly deployed in communities across the country [enabling] local people to reap the benefits of local, low carbon generation”.
But Skidmore also flagged major obstacles that would still need to be overcome, not least of them timely access to a grid connection.
The UK’s government has already indicated it will look to ease planning rules that have stalled new onshore wind deployment in England since 2015.
Britain currently has 28GW of operational wind power, 14.3GW onshore and 13.7GW at sea, according to latest data from industry body RenewableUK, which said of Skidmore’s study: “If the government is looking to increase the economic benefits of the UK’s decarbonisation ambitions, the review sets out some really clear easy wins.
“Setting targets for new onshore wind and solar capacity would certainly increase investor confidence and ensure we can decarbonise our electricity system by 2035.”
However CEO Dan McGrail also warned against sending negative signals like the recently-imposed windfall raid on green power revenues.
“A stable policy environment is vital at a time renewable developers and their supply chain are under massive financial pressures just like any other sector, to ensure we maximise investment in renewables. Given this, the government needs to look at what more could be done to increase investor confidence.”