Government to give commercial buildings go-ahead to install bigger rooftop solar panels

Claire Coutinho
Claire Coutinho

Industrial buildings will be able to install bigger solar panels on their roofs under plans to be unveiled by Claire Coutinho.

The Telegraph can reveal that on Monday the Net Zero Secretary will tell the Tory Party conference that she will bring in new rules to make it easier to place panels on the roofs of warehouses, factories and multi-storey car parks.

It follows concerns that too many panels are being built on fields, spoiling the rural scene.

Ms Coutinho was promoted to the Cabinet in August, and weeks later Rishi Sunak announced the Government was weakening a number of net zero measures - although the ultimate 2050 target would remain.

The Prime Minister said he would delay the ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, and also delay the need for many people to scrap their gas boilers.

In recent years, there have been growing complaints that too much rural land is being covered by unsightly solar panels rather than being used to grow much-needed crops or providing pasture land.

Ms Coutinho will tell conference delegates: “We are working to reduce pressure on rural communities by making it easier for solar panels to be installed on industrial rooftops… warehouses, car parks and factories.

“We’ll cut through the planning red tape that limits the amount of solar businesses can currently install - protecting the countryside, boosting renewables and, according to the industry, saving businesses up to £3billion pounds a year.”

Reduce countryside burden

The plan is part of the Government’s target to generate 70 gigawatts of solar power by 2050.

At present, “permitted development rights” mean that industrial firms can install panels generating only one megawatt of solar power before having to apply for planning permission.

Ms Coutinho would scrap that limit, making it easier for businesses to install rooftop solar panels on their warehouses and factories, reducing the pressure and burden on the countryside.

A source said the Net Zero Secretary remained supportive of ground-mounted solar panels but she wants to see more built where it made sense - on top of commercial buildings.

Labour have vowed to speed up the move to solar power, to 50GW by 2030. On Sunday night, the Tories said this would require 250,000 acres - an area 10-times the size of Manchester - of land or rooftop to hit this target.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.