Report highlights council use of solar energy

The Solar Trade Association has highlighted the success of local authorities in building modern solar homes, developing ‘subsidy-free’ solar farms and using solar to save money and provide stable sources of revenue to fund services.

Among the 26 case studies in the Leading Lights report, Plymouth City Council was recognised for developing Bickleigh Down Eco Village, a development of net zero emissions homes, while Milton Keynes is looking to encourage battery storage in new developments. Furthermore, a subsidy-free 7.4MW solar farm with 4MW battery storage by West Sussex Country Council is reported on, alongside the use of solar thermal to help reduce energy bills for people in social housing off the gas grid by Mid-Devon District Council.

Solar Trade Association analysis of BEIS data shows that the top 10 local authorities by investment have collectively invested £80 million in solar, with Peterborough topping the league tables with the highest concentration of solar homes in the UK (11 per cent).

However, because of variations, the report makes ten recommendations to local authorities to make solar work better, including: higher building standards; use of Salix Finance; going for high volume tenders and larger schemes to improve economics; granting solar business rate relief to state schools and community energy groups; and including solar and storage alongside EV strategies.

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said: “Leadership on solar in the UK today comes from local councils, and increasingly from regional government. Local people want a stake in clean energy, so they understand the tremendous value of solar and energy storage – both hugely accessible technologies. We’ve been impressed by the level of innovation and political leadership being demonstrated today by some councils. Our message to councils is don’t wait on national government; there is a lot you can do today with solar and the UK solar industry wants to work with you to help meet your climate, air quality and economic goals.”

Leonie Greene, report author, said: “There is frustration out there that national policy has made it harder to do solar. Our research showed that better national policy is needed to support domestic and community solar and the great ambitions of local government to use solar to tackle fuel poverty. Government should also end the unfair business rate treatment of rooftop solar for self-consumption. But our report shows that many projects can be done today, free of central government, which heralds a new era of sustainable clean energy investment. By making use of the unique powers they have on planning, to access Salix Finance, Local Development Orders and on granting relief from rooftop solar business rates, councils can support the clean energy ambitions of the communities they serve.”