As energy costs spiral, new report reveals that warehouse rooftops could double UK’s current solar capacity and save billions


An independent research report, commissioned by the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) and produced by specialist consultancy Delta Energy & Environment (Delta-EE), has shown huge potential benefits for the UK, and for the warehousing & logistics sector, of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the nation’s warehouse rooftops.

As the warehousing sector possesses approximately a third of all commercial roof space, it has the potential to double UK’s solar PV capacity, which means the warehousing sector alone could deliver the entire UK requirement for 2030 forecast by the National Grid future energy scenarios (FES).

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.

“The UK’s 20% 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, it is essential that we seize this opportunity to potentially double UK’s solar PV capacity and massively reduce electricity costs for businesses in this vital sector. The current crisis in Ukraine has underlined the necessity for a more secure power supply for the UK and adopting solar PV across the country clearly supports the journey towards the government’s 2050 net zero targets.

“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 requirement 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 this option has been largely unexplored and untapped in the warehousing sector.

Yet, as the report shows, warehousing is in a unique position for solar power, providing an unparalleled amount of accessible, unobstructed roof space close to industrial and residential centres.

Unlike utility scale solar, warehouse rooftop solar does not compete with farmland. 

Solar panels are also becoming an increasingly affordable source of renewable energy. 

What UKWA is asking from government

Based on the new report, UKWA has created a compelling evidence-based policy paper for government to demonstrate that solar PV on warehouses delivers clear environmental and cost benefits, not only to businesses in the sector, but to the UK as a whole.

On funding, the government’s super deduction on capital investment including solar panels can provide significant investment savings, however this is due to end in April 2023. UKWA proposes this is extended to 2030 to support levelling up the UK's warehousing and help address upfront investment concerns.

On planning, UKWA will highlight the barriers presented by grid permits and recommend that the approach to DNO (Distribution Network Operators)/DSO (Distribution System Operators) and connection planning should be reformed. The aim is to ensure part of the review of the electricity market arrangements by BEIS, and Ofgem's review of DSO governance model, enables the widespread installation of commercial rooftop solar with minimal barriers.

On tax, solar energy is excepted from business rates, UKWA says this must be preserved and maintained, in recognition of the important role solar plays in supporting improved EPC ratings.

UKWA will also promote and support local energy schemes to encourage closer cooperation between businesses and communities, helping to increase the value for exported solar power, while also minimising impact on the wider grid infrastructure.

The report includes consideration of the possible barriers to solar PV installation – such as upfront investment, payback time, grid connections - and provides an independent assessment of the viability as well as the benefits of solar PV for the UK warehousing sector. 

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

Accordingly, UKWA has developed a solar PV installation tookit, 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.

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