First and foremost, please be assured that I recognise the importance of this issue and have solar panels on my own roof. Therefore, I agree that, where appropriate, solar panels can put unused roof space to good use and are an important technology in helping to reduce carbon emissions. I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to widespread deployment of rooftop solar and has established a Solar Taskforce to help meet its ambition for a fivefold increase in solar by 2035.
While I share the view that solar has an important role to play in helping us decarbonise the power sector, it is worth noting that the suitability of solar panels on rooftops is limited by the type of building and its location around the country. Some roofs are not suitable for solar panels due to structural strength or the direction of the building. I therefore support the approach taken by the Government through minimum energy performance standards for new homes which do not prescribe the technologies, materials or fuels to be used. This offers builders and homeowners the flexibility to innovate and select the most practical and cost-effective solutions in individual circumstances.
The National Planning Policy Framework - which sets out planning guidance for local authorities in England - expects local planning authorities to have a positive strategy in place to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources. The strategy should identify opportunities where development can draw its energy supply from renewable or low carbon energy supply systems.
You may be interested to know that the Government has set out plans to introduce a Future Homes Standard which would significantly reduce carbon emissions and energy use in new homes from 2025, including using solar panels, while improving energy efficiency. As a first step towards this standard, an interim uplift to energy efficiency requirements came into force last year. While the approach to achieving these higher standards remains technology-neutral, I understand that the Government anticipates that most developers will comply with these requirements by installing solar panels on new homes or using other low-carbon technology such as heat pumps.
To support more households to install solar panels, permitted development rights are in place, meaning that solar panels can be installed without the need for full planning permission (subject to certain conditions). In addition, VAT has been cut on energy saving materials, including solar panels. For a typical family fitting roof top solar panels, this will save more than £1,000 in total on installation, on top of around £300 in annual savings on their energy bills.
I do hope that this response has highlighted a firm commitment across government to increase rooftop solar across the country.