Official portrait of Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP via Wikimedia Commons

Trade association Solar Energy UK has welcomed a letter sent by MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) demanding that the Government should tackle long grid connection waiting lists for solar and battery projects. 

As part of the EAC’s latest enquiry, 'Enabling Sustainable Electrification of the UK Economy', committee chair Philip Dunne MP sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps, warning that action must be taken to tackle long waits for grid connections. 

Unless action is taken “with some urgency, there is likely to be a very considerable shortfall,” in meeting the target of 70 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2035, Dunne wrote. 

“There is potential for solar energy to have a bright future in the UK, but a dark cloud of delays for the industry hinders the ability to meet its full potential,” Dunne added. 

Earlier this week, Octopus Energy released a 5 point plan to speed up grid connections. In March, the company was offered a grid connection date of 2036 for one of its sites. 

Solar Energy UK says that waiting times for large solar projects to connect to the electricity grid “can often stretch well into the 2030s.” They said the EAC echoed their views attributing these issues to “historical underinvestment, the way connection applications are managed, ‘unresponsive’ distribution network operators and a ‘regulatory failure with Ofgem failing to prioritise net zero.’” 

The letter also identified a problem with existing rules requiring the capacities of collocated solar and battery storage facilities to be considered together, which Solar Energy UK said was excessive, “considering that current will flow from them at different times of the day.” 

The MPs’ demands include a new mission statement from Ofgem requiring grid operators to speed up investment, and the Committee said they would examine grid connection delays in more detail through their inquiry, which is accepting evidence until June 1. 

“We are very glad that the Environmental Audit Committee has taken our concerns on board, and I thank the MPs for opening their new inquiry. It is grossly unacceptable that solar projects with planning consent and with finance ready to go can told to wait more than a decade simply to connect to the grid. The situation is causing billions of pounds of economic damage to the UK,” said Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett. 

Solar Energy UK said that another way to increase installation rates is through the Future Homes Standard, which will apply from 2024, and should include solar and heat pumps as a minimum requirement, the Committee said. 

The Committee also welcomed the announcement of a joint industry-government taskforce on solar energy in March’s Energy Security Plan. Solar Energy UK, hopes the taskforce will look at resolving skills and supply chain issues.