40GW by 2030, is it possible?
The UK has a legally binding target to deliver a net-zero economy by 2050. As part of this, the adoption of the Sixth Carbon Budget put into law the most ambitious emissions reduction targets in the world, committing the country to an interim goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035.
Under this scenario, the Climate Change Committee says that wind and solar will need to provide 75-90% of the UK’s electricity in 2035, with solar alone delivering 60TWh per year. This is a more than four-fold increase on current levels. The minimum level of solar deployment consistent with achieving this target – and therefore a net-zero economy – is 40GW by 2030.
Although the solar industry is going from strength to strength, there are policy and regulatory barriers which mean the industry is unlikely to deliver this level of growth on its own. As such, our recommendations represent a roadmap for how the Government can accelerate the deployment of solar at the pace necessary to achieve its climate change objectives.
These recommendations are not exhaustive, but implementing them would form the foundation of a Net Zero strategy that puts the UK on a credible trajectory to achieving full decarbonisation by 2050.
Delivering 40GW of solar by 2030 is a challenge – but achievable. However, it requires a level of policy ambition that matches the laudable climate objectives the UK has set. The UK’s solar industry is a success story, and without intervention is still set to see significant growth – likely a doubling of existing deployment. But this would still leave the country more than 10GW short of the 40GW needed. In addition to helping deliver Net Zero, the UK solar industry could help create 13,000 additional FTEs if it achieved 40GW of solar energy by 2030.
Industry expansion would likely generate a minimum of £17 billion in additional economic activity, and deliver further investment as a component, supply and maintenance chains are scaled up to meet demand. There will also be an economic activity associated with the energy storage markets which will expand to help maximise the benefit of solar power. A growing body of scientific evidence also indicates that well-designed and well-managed solar parks not only deliver clean renewable energy but support wildlife habitats and can meaningfully contribute to achieving the UK’s national biodiversity targets.
As such, solar energy can make a major contribution to the UK’s national objectives. It will deliver a significant reduction in emissions as part of the UK’s international climate change targets. It will help create thousands of green jobs, and support long-term recovery from the pandemic. And it will help deliver a healthy local environment, supporting biodiversity, and responsible land management. This is why the UK should target 40GW of solar by 2030.