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Domestic Solar Energy

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 20 April 2022

1. What assessment he has made of the potential contribution of domestic solar energy generation to meeting COP26 commitments. (906484)

Solar is a UK success story, with more than 99% of the UK solar PV capacity deployed since May 2010 totalling almost 14 GW, which is enough to power more than 3 million homes. As the Government’s British energy security strategy sets out, we want to see a fivefold increase in deployment by 2035.

The Government’s British energy security strategy sets out a very ambitious aim to grow solar capacity by five times as much by 2035, yet Xinjiang produces about 45% of the world’s supply of the key components used in solar panel polysilicon. Despite raising that issue countless times, my calls have languished, as the Government continue to import goods that use forced Uyghur labour. Will the Minister set out what steps he is taking to ensure that the expansion of solar capacity in the UK is not tainted by the ongoing Uyghur genocide?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. The Government are deeply concerned about the reports of forced labour and the impact on the global solar panel supply chain. He will know that the Government announced robust measures last year to ensure that no UK organisations are complicit in that, and those measures are now being realised. They include strengthening the overseas business risk guidance and introducing financial penalties under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. He will also know that the UK’s main solar industry trade association, Solar Energy UK, is leading the industry’s response through a whole range of measures.

I yield to no one in my determination to see us reach net zero by 2050, but does the Secretary of State not agree that the right place for solar is on buildings, including domestic buildings across the nation, as the question from the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) suggests? We do not want hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land to be threatened, as is happening in Wiltshire, by vast and unplanned solar farms that people simply do not want to see, particularly post-Ukraine.

Of course, we want an expansion of renewables across the country, but I point my hon. Friend to the energy security strategy, which sets out our plan to ensure more rooftop solar, not just on commercial buildings but on public sector property.

The COP26 President acknowledges the tremendous contribution that solar has made and can make to the achievement of our net zero goals. I am sure that he also acknowledges that it is now one of the renewables that is cheapest and most quickly installed, so why are the Government ignoring its future development, having devastated the industry a few years back by precipitously withdrawing all support for development, and doing nothing to ease the penal planning restrictions on both domestic and ground-mounted solar installations? He says merely that he expects installations to increase fivefold by 2035, but without providing any support to allow that expectation to become a reality. Is it not time that the Government took seriously the contribution that solar can make to net zero targets?

I respectfully disagree with the shadow Minister; the Government are doing an enormous amount on this issue. In the latest contracts for difference auction process, solar is back in. We have already removed VAT on solar panels to allow installations on residential accommodation. If he looks at the detail set out in the energy security strategy, he will see that there will be a big focus on solar, wind and, of course, nuclear.