• A report commissioned by the Labour Party in the UK suggests the country should adopt a target for 35 GW of PV capacity by the year 2030
  • It would mean installing solar panels on an area panning 22,000 football pitches, and this would be spread across large-scale as well as building integrated small-scale solar
  • Wind power gets maximum space among renewables with onshore wind target proposed to be 30 GW and that for offshore wind, 52 GW
  • As per the report, the solar goal can be achieved through a number of measures as technology-neutral ‘floor-price’ CfD mechanism, prioritising PV plus storage as a solution to grid congestion, and removing CCL on corporate PPAs

The British Labour Party has proposed a solar PV capacity goal of 35 GW to be achieved by 2030 as recommended in a report called THIRTY by 2030 put together by a team of independent energy experts and commissioned by the party itself. In the interim, the plan is to aim for 16.5 GW PV by 2022.

A total of 30 recommendations make up this report while identifying the most ‘radical feasible pathway’ to decarbonize the country’s energy system by 2030, hence the report name THIRTY by 2030. It suggests adopting a target of at least 90% electricity demands, excluding transport, being met from renewables and low-carbon sources by the target year.

If the Labour party has its way with a possible win in elections that are expected to be announced in the face of no deal on Brexit as yet, it would mean a huge increase in the UK’s solar PV growth. At the end of 2018, the country had installed 12.8 GW that were incentivized by government subsidies in the form of feed-in-tariff (FIT) and the Renewables obligation (RO) schemes. While the RO scheme was shuttered to make way for a contracts for difference (CfD) scheme and auctions that brought the installation of large-scale PV installations basically to a halt, demand for the FIT is also basically dead after it was drastically reduced in 2017.

For solar, the Labour party commissioned report recommends deploying panels covering an area of 22,000 football pitches, tripling the UK’s current capacity. This includes a mix of large-scale solar farms as well as building integrated small-scale systems.

“Total solar potential is only limited by the availability of land. Thus, it is in theory possible to generate all of the UK’s electricity from solar power,” according to the report writers. They suggest that paucity of land for large scale solar could be dealt with by installing up to 160 GW of power on south-facing roofs and facades that could lead to the generation of up to 140 TWh annually.

The four-goals it suggests that will transform the UK’s energy supply and use include

  • reducing heat demand by 20% and electricity by 11%,
  • increase supply of renewables and low carbon heat to 50%,
  • increase supply of renewable and low carbon electricity to 90%, and
  • balance supply and demand.

Implementing these measures would lead to a net benefit of £800 billion ($1.02 trillion) to the national economy and create 850,000 new skilled jobs in the green industry.

In May 2019, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced 1.75 million solar rooftop homes for low-income households under the party’s Green Industrial Revolution (see UK Labour Party Promises 1.75mn Rooftop Solar Panels). In the 30 by 2030 report, the writers suggest around 2.25 million homes in total with rooftop PV accounting for some 4.5 GW capacity, while the remaining 25.5 GW are foreseen to come from large-scale PV.

The UK Solar Trade Association (STA) has welcomed the report that recommends achieving the solar goal through a number of measures such as a technology-neutral ‘floor-price’ CfD mechanism, prioritizing PV plus storage as a solution to grid congestion, and removing the Climate Change Levy (CCL) on corporate power purchase agreements (PPA).

However, solar is planned to play second fiddle to wind power for which Labour’s recommended target is 30 GW for onshore wind and 52 GW for offshore wind, among other sources. Other measures suggested include a complete shut down of oil-generated electricity generation by 2022 and reducing the share of current gas-fired electricity generation by 72% compared to the current capacity.

The only form of fossil fuel use permitted needs to be coupled with 100% carbon capture and storage. Nuclear power capacity continues to stay as the Labour party sees the existing capacity of this source that’s planned to be decommissioned before 2030 is replaced with equivalent capacity. Energy storage capacity needs to be expanded to at least 20 GW along with investment in grid enhancements.