Govt solar plans must go further to unlock potential for schools, offices and homes
Friends of the Earth and 10:10 have welcomed the launch of the Government’s long-awaited Solar Strategy today (Friday, 4 April 2014) – but say plans must go further and faster.
The strategy, outlining Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker’s personal ambition to install up to 20GW of solar by early next decade, comes days after environment campaigners accused David Cameron of pandering to a noisy minority of backbenchers opposed to onshore wind power.
But Friends of the Earth says that modelling set out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change predicts only half of Greg Barker’s solar ambition will be realised, so warm words must be followed by action – with a firm commitment to deliver at least 20GW of solar by 2020, rising to 40GW by 2025.
The environment charity is calling for a huge increase in community-scale solar power to help meet this target. It says the Government must make it easier for more schools to go solar, by removing red tape preventing schools from borrowing money to meet the upfront costs of solar panels.
Friends of the Earth Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“It's encouraging to see the Prime Minister's Conservative colleagues promoting a positive solar vision for the UK and as a solution to climate change, particularly when it comes just days after David Cameron took a swipe at onshore wind farms.
“Clean, renewable power like solar is our future, and with Greg Barker rightly pointing out that it will soon be cheaper than gas, we need the whole of Government to move fast to ensure solar projects everywhere can rapidly take off.
“Putting solar on the Government estate is a good move, but we need to go further, allowing every community to benefit. As a first step Ministers must relax rules preventing schools borrowing money to install solar, potentially unlocking tens of millions of pounds in savings for schools nationwide."
The call comes the day after Greg Barker and Education Secretary Michael Gove together visited Barnes Primary School in London, to unveil a new solar information leaflet for schools.
The school was one of the first to install solar panels last year through 10:10’s Solar Schools project which gives free support, training and advice to schools to help them fundraise the cost of solar panels.
On this visit, Michael Gove publicly committed to talk to the Chancellor about relaxing rules that currently prevent schools borrowing money to install solar panels. Friends of the Earth says this would provide another funding option for schools who are not in a position to crowd-source or create co-ops.
10:10's Solar Schools Manager Amy Cameron, said:
“It’s great to see ministers recognising the positive impact that Solar Schools can have and encouraging others to join in. Around the UK parents, teachers and pupils are coming together to cut their carbon emissions, reduce electricity bills and unite communities though solar.
“We need solar on many more schools but we can’t stop there. The solar strategy recognises that all kinds of public buildings, millions of homes and countless businesses could all benefit.
“This strategy opens up the possibility of solar at a huge variety of scales from individual houses to massive factories and feels like a firm commitment by Government to a vital renewable energy technology. This sort of commitment has been in short supply recently, so it’s especially welcome.”
Friends of the Earth is this week launching its own campaign to help more schools save up to £8,000 per year through clean energy. The environment charity wants to see solar panels on every school that wants them and thereafter every public building.
*** Solar school case studies available *
Notes to editors
1. Solar Schools is a project of climate change campaign 10:10. It provides free online and offline resources, training and staff support to help schools to crowdfund the cost of solar panels from their community. Through the project, schools not only cut carbon and boost budgets, but also build fundraising capacity and engage thousands of people with renewable energy. To date, Solar Schools have worked with 50 schools across England and Wales to collectively crowdfund over £350,000 for solar PV. Read more about 10:10 Solar Schools Campaign visit http://www.solarschools.org.uk/about/.
2. Friends of the Earth has published a short briefing summarising the key tests for the Government’s Solar Strategy: https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/bright-future-or-another-grey-day-46139.pdf.
3. Since Monday, more than 5,000 people have signed Friends of the Earth’s petition to Michael Gove, calling on him to relax Government rules preventing schools from accessing some of the best solar schemes: http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/press_for_change/help_schools_go_solar_41960.html.
4. For more information on Friends of the Earth’s new solar campaign, please contact Marie Reynolds, press officer – 020 7566 1647.
5. DECC’s press release and solar strategy are now online: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-uks-rooftops-to-become-power-stations
6. In December 2013 Greg Barker announced his solar ambitions, saying “four million solar panels covering land the size of 3,400 football pitches should be built on government land and property including schools and prisons.”: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/10542014/Energy-minister-wants-four-million-solar-panels-installed-on-government-land-and-buildings.html.
7. Read more about how Barnes Primary School joined 10:10 to go solar: http://www.solarschools.org.uk/barnesprimary/.
8. For more than 40 years Friends of the Earth has seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For further information visit www.foe.co.uk or follow us @wwwfoecouk.