Climate Action

UK households energy costs estimated to increase £5 bn a year as a result of blocking new solar farm

A new study by ECIU shows further restrictions on ground mounted solar farms are predicted to cos energy bill payers up to £5 bn a year

  • 05 September 2023
  • Press release

A new study by ECIU shows further restrictions on ground mounted solar farms are predicted to cos energy bill payers up to £5 bn a year 

Placing further restrictions on ground mounted solar farms could cost energy bill payers as much as £5 billion per year, new analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found.

The results of the study show up the average UK household will be charged an extra £180 per year.  

Based on an analysis of the Government’s 70GW solar energy target, between 24GW and 39GW of this is likely to be generated by ground mounted solar panels in England. With amendments for report stage of the Energy Bill proposing further restrictions on solar farm developments, following moves by the Truss government to effectively ban them last year, political pressure remains to constrain solar farms. 

Research shows if amendments are successful, energy costs for bill payers could be between £3 billion and £5 billion higher per year, as the electricity would likely be produced using more expensive gas instead. At the top end, this is equivalent to gas required to heat around 6.5 million homes for a year, or gas contained in around 90 tankers of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).  

Findings show compared to gas, solar on farmland could save households between around £100 and £180 per year, amounting to savings of around £2,500 to nearly £4,500 per household between 2024 and 2050, though this is dependent on future power prices. 

Tom Lancaster, Land Analyst at ECIU said, “There has never been a cheaper form of energy than solar, and putting even more barriers in place to its roll out will cost the public dear, whilst locking in dependence on imported gas. This makes little sense when new solar farms will only need a tiny fraction of the available farmland, presenting no real risk to food security whilst providing a major boost to Britain’s energy security. 

Between just over 40,000ha and 70,000ha of land would be needed to meet the solar target, or between around 0.5 and 0.7% of English farmland. By contrast, moves to further restrict solar development on grades 1 to 3a farmland effectively prevent development on nearly 4.75 million hectares of farmland . Including grade 3b land in this, as some have previously suggested, would render a further 3.75 million hectares of relatively low grade farmland out of bounds for solar energy generation. 

There are already significant areas of farmland used for bioenergy generation, with over 120,000ha of land used to grow energy crops without restriction. Findings show this is already twice the area of farmland that would be required to meet the solar target by 2035, and fifteen times the area currently used for ground mounted solar in the UK. Solar is a much more efficient means of producing electricity, with a hectare of solar farm delivering 48-112x more driving distance, via an elective vehicle, than using the same land for biofuel. 

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