Time To Act On Extortionate And Obstructive Electricity Grid If We Are To Tackle The Energy Crisis, Say UK Warehouse Owners

September 7, 2022

We are failing to use the equivalent of 18,500 acres of land for solar power generation that could generate more than the 13.8TwH of electricity required in the UK renewable energy strategy.

This is because of the failure to enable warehouse owners to install solar panels on their roof of their buildings over recent decades, says the UK Warehousing Association in its new independent research report, commissioned from the specialist consultancy Delta Energy & Environment (Delta-EE).

Occupying a third of all commercial roof space the warehousing sector alone could double UK’s solar PV capacity and deliver the entire UK requirement for 2030, forecast by the National Grid future energy scenarios (FES).  But UKWA draws attention to the extortionate and highly ineffective monopolist gatekeepers that are preventing businesses investing in energy generation and connecting to the energy grid: the District Network Operators (DNO), controlling who can get access to the electricity grid, when and at what cost.

UKWA Chief Executive Clare Bottle said: “Warehouse owners across the country are struggling to pay for gas-powered electricity from the grid, when they could be generating all the power they need and more from the roof of their buildings. Out of sight, easy to maintain and affordable, the case for solar should be obvious and yet we are being held back by poor market practice and failures of regulation.

She points in particular to the obstructive, extortionate and not fit for purpose DNOs holding back the businesses that could invest hundreds of millions of private sector funding into clean renewable power. Bottle said “we need a fundamental rethink of the way in which DNOs hold power over access to the grid, how they get renewable schemes connected to the grid and the prices they charge.”

And she calls on the new Prime Minister Liz Truss to act to remove these barriers to investment, so the UK is not exposed to this type of energy crisis in the future.

The UKWA report ‘Investment Case for Solar Power in Warehousing and Logistics’ is published this week and explains how the UK warehouse sector is sitting on one of the obvious solutions to UK energy resilience that is actionable right now.

 ‘Walking on Sunshine’ to be unveiled at IMHX

Thursday 8th 11am.

According to the report, UK warehousing has the roof space for up to 15GW of new solar power, which could:

  • Double UK’s solar capacity
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 2 million tonnes/year
  • Cut warehousing electricity costs from between 40-80%
  • Save the warehousing sector £3bn/year
  • Provide a more secure power supply
  • Enable the sector to become a net producer of green electricity

Laurence Robinson, Senior Analyst at Delta-EE and co-author of the report, says, “Rooftop solar PV in warehousing can play a significant role in delivering local renewable energy, particularly in urban areas where limited alternative options are available due to land and planning constraints.

“Just twenty percent of the UK’s largest warehouses can provide 75million square metres of roof space, avoiding the need to develop new land equivalent to the footprint of 500,000 houses.”

Commenting on the report, Chief Executive of UKWA Clare Bottle said, “As energy costs continue to rise, UKWA is calling on the government to support the sector in embracing solar PV as it transitions to electrification with transport fleets, forklifts and other mechanical handling equipment (MHE), automation and robotics, all of which will drive up demand for low-cost, sustainable electricity.”

Why Solar?

Solar PV is widely predicted to be a major part of future sustainability, providing low cost, secure and green electricity, but so far – despite cost reductions of over 80 percent in the past decade – this option has been largely unexplored and untapped in the warehousing sector.

Yet, unlike utility scale solar, warehouse rooftop solar does not compete with farmland. And as the report shows, warehousing is in a unique position to adopt solar power, providing an unparalleled amount of accessible, unobstructed roof space close to industrial and residential centres.

What UKWA is asking from government

On planning, UKWA highlights the barriers presented by grid permits and recommends wholesale reform of the way DNOs operate and their regulation by Ofgem.

On funding, the government’s super deduction on capital investment, due to end in April 2023, must be extended to 2030 to support levelling up by addressing upfront investment concerns.

On tax, solar energy is excepted from business rates, UKWA says this must be preserved, in recognition of the important role solar will play in a greener economy.

The conclusion is clear. The case for solar PV on warehouse rooftops is overwhelming, for the sector and for the UK.

Clare Bottle will be joined by Kevin McCann of Solar Energy UK, Thomas McMillan, Energy Director at Savills, Jenna Strover, Head of Commercial Delivery at Potter Space and Laurence Robinson of Delta-EE in the Logistics Theatre at IMHX on Thursday morning 8th September to present and discuss the report findings and sector strategy for solar.

UKWA will also have available its new solar PV installation toolkit, a step-by-step guide for members keen to adopt solar PV and reap the benefits of lower costs, increased energy security and reduced carbon emissions.

Request Your Solar Pv Installation Toolkit