Skip to main content

Solar Energy (Public Sector)

Volume 587: debated on Thursday 6 November 2014

3. What steps he is taking to encourage the public sector to increase rooftop solar energy installations. (905917)

The solar PV strategy set out how we will maximise the potential for deployment on mid-sized commercial and industrial buildings and on the public sector estate. We are taking actions to deliver on that ambition, including: making changes to the feed-in tariffs to protect the incentive for building mounted solar; consulting on allowing solar PV to transfer from one build to another without losing FIT accreditation; and working with the Cabinet Office on our ambition to see 1 GW of mid-scale solar deployed across the Government estate.

I thank the Minister for her encouraging response. The public sector, and the Government in particular, need to lead by example. Will she comment on the best practice by Colchester borough council, which already has rooftop solar energy installations on more than 1,000 houses and five public buildings, and more are planned, producing significant financial savings for tenants and the council tax payer?

I welcome the efforts made by Colchester borough council to promote the deployment of rooftop solar; it is to be congratulated on that. In our solar strategy, which was published earlier this year, the Government set out their own ambition to see 1 GW of mid-scale solar deployed across the Government estate. So far, a planning application has been made for an RAF location, and a pipeline of other potential sites is being developed.

Last week, work started to build the largest roof-mounted solar panel array in the UK—I am talking about the Marks & Spencer distribution centre at Castle Donington in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a far better use of solar technology than seeing thousands of acres of productive arable land covered in solar panels?

I congratulate Marks & Spencer on its solar rooftop project at Castle Donington. That is exactly the kind of project that we would like to see. The solar strategy set out a number of positive initiatives to encourage rooftop solar including the recent Department for Communities and Local Government consultation on increasing permitted development for solar PV. I recently led round-table discussions to identify some of the issues for rooftop deployment from the perspective of the landlord-tenant relationship. I look forward to seeing more of the actions that we discussed going forward.

There are enormous technological breakthroughs in solar energy, which is really worthy of further investment, but they will not get us through this winter. In view of the Minister’s complacent answers to the last set of questions, if we have blackouts this winter, will Ministers on the Treasury Bench resign?

I do not accept the premise of that question. There will be no blackouts this winter, and Ministers will continue to deliver the renewable energy and the energy security that we so need in this country.

Rooftop solar is silent and invisible energy production, making it very attractive where we have unused roofs in urban and commercial centres where it is most needed. Will the Minister meet me and one of my constituents to discuss some sort of incentives to encourage landlords and landowners to use their roofs?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that rooftops are an ideal way to promote solar. We are working on a number of initiatives, but I am always open to suggestions and I will be delighted to meet her.