Data from Cornwall Insight shows that only 40% of the UK’s energy is currently generated by renewables, whilst only 18.5% of planned renewable generation “highly likely to develop as planned”. Image: Getty.

Community Energy England (CEE) has joined forces with Morrisons, M&S, Tesco and three of the UK’s biggest co-operatives – the Co-op Group, Central Co-op and MidCounties Co-operative – to urge the UK Government to prioritise unlocking additional renewable energy generation capacity, including solar.

Together with the six major supermarkets, CEE – representing 300 community organisations – signed a letter to Rishi Sunak calling for the government to provide greater support to the renewable sector to help ensure the success of its commitment to decarbonise the UK’s electricity generation.

The letter cited research by Cornwall Insight, commissioned by The Co-op, predicting that if grid decarbonisation continues at the current rate, the grid will only be at 58% renewable energy generation by 2030 – more than 10% lower than is needed by 2035 to support the UK’s wider net zero goal.

Despite the Environmental Audit Committee recently revealing that it will perform a more thorough investigation into the role solar technology can play in the UK’s decarbonisation target, Cornwall Insight’s report showed that renewable energy generations are behind target. At present, roughly 40% of the UK’s energy comes from renewable sources, with only 18.5% of planned renewable generation “highly likely to develop as planned” according to the report.

The letter put forward a framework for the future to help utilise the opportunities offered by renewable energy. It specifically called for: fiscal and financial developments to incentivise investment in renewable energy; reforms to planning regimes to accelerate renewable energy projects; support for community energy organisations to develop clean energy projects; and protective measurement put in place to ensure the fair price of green energy.

“The UK is still too reliant on fossil fuels and we need to create more UK renewable energy to green the energy grid” said Shirine Khoury-Haq, chief executive at Co-op.

“Grid decarbonisation isn’t going fast enough and the Government needs to incentivise investment in it and push through planning reforms to allow rapid progress for onshore and offshore developments.”

CEE is pushing for further integration of renewables, faster, and is itself targeting 5,270MW of community power on the energy system by 2030.

Meanwhile supermarkets around the UK have been committing to solar to help decarbonise their operations. This includes Tesco announcing a major green electricity project in 2019, which includes installing solar panels on 187 of its sites covering 335,000m2 for example.

Earlier in 2022, Atrato Onsite Energy completed upgrades to a solar system installed on an M&S warehouse as part of the supermarket’s continued energy upgrades.

CEO at M&S, Stuart Machin, shared Khoury-Haq’s urgency stating: “The UK has the potential to really lead the way in renewable generation – not doing so would be a missed opportunity. The climate crisis demands urgent action and we want to see the Government responding with the same urgency to remove the barriers across planning, investment and pricing”.