Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker is to set up a working group to free up blockages in the financing of commercial rooftop solar.

Addressing questions after his keynote speech at the Large Scale Solar Conference in Cornwall last week, Barker told delegates that he would set up a small working group consisting of financers, developers and manufacturers to tackle the financial barriers facing the commercial rooftop solar sector.

During the question and answer sesssion with the minister, Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource Renewable Energy, told Barker: “The issue is not so much the level of the tariff – it’s more about the bankability. The reason that Lightsource was able to complete the 5MW project at Bentley is because the likes of Volkswagon/Audi group, the ultimate owner, are a bankable counterparty.  

“From our perspective, there is a huge amount of [the] UK with large rooftops that could be covered in solar, only for the lack of bankability, in other words the lack of strength of the counterparty. Ultimately, the banks in the UK, for anything from 250kW-5MW, unless you’re Volkswagon/Audi group or someone of similar ilk, simply won’t lend the money.

“There is such a massive amount of potential in that roofspace that is sitting there pointing up doing very little and I agree that there has to be some mechanism that allows us to unlock that huge potential.”

Responding to the question, Barker said: “Maybe, given the difficulties there are in lending and borrowing money in the UK, which remains very difficult for a lot of very good companies, we could try and take some of that effort and deploy it in this sector.

“I would be very happy to convene a working group, pulling in people that have a track record in innovative financial products, people who understand where the opportunities are within the financial system and maybe work through how we design new financial products that give a shot in the arm for the market. We can’t push water uphill but we can, in my experience, through the convening power of government, maybe push the market sooner and perhaps at a greater scale then it would otherwise get to left to its own volition.”

Barker added: “The other issue is the Green Investment Bank – there is a pot of money there for other technologies apart from its stated four priorities. Maybe we need to think also as part of that exercise whether there is a role for the GIB to help unblock private sector funding at greater scale.”