Solar Energy UK's Bold Vision vs. Political Promises: Who Will Lead the Way?

United Kingdom


In anticipation of the UK general election, Solar Energy UK (“SEUK”) have released a detailed manifesto outlining the solar industry's priorities. This article summarises the key points of SEUK’s manifesto and compares them with the solar initiatives proposed by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

SEUK’s Manifesto

The UK’s solar energy capacity is expected to reach approximately 20GW by the end of 2024, as well as 8GW of energy storage capacity. SEUK advocate for a significant increase by 2030, targeting 50GW of solar power and 30GW of zero-carbon energy storage. These targets are consistent with the Government's plan for 70GW of solar capacity by 2035 and the National Infrastructure Commission’s advice that the UK should develop 60GW of short-term energy flexibility by the same year to cope with the intermittent nature of renewable energy.

Solar Energy UK's 2024 manifesto highlights five key actions to drive the growth of solar energy in the UK:

1) Embracing UK Solar

SEUK are calling for the UK to increase its 1.5 million small-scale solar installations to meet 2030 targets and ensure low-income households can access solar and storage technologies. This requires an urgent overhaul of building standards and the introduction of peer-to-peer energy trading to motivate local investment by communities, businesses and schools.

2) Bringing the benefits of solar and storage to new homes

SEUK have emphasised the need for reforms to attract investment and make solar technology accessible to low-income households. Despite investor interest, inconsistent planning standards pose a long-term risk. The industry body explains that a planning overhaul isn't necessary and instead advocates for clear, consistent policies and ministerial leadership, noting that solar development refusals are frequently overturned on appeal, indicating systemic inefficiencies. SEUK also urge the next government to signal support by approving three Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, potentially greenlighting over 1GW of solar energy.

3) Turbo-charging the network for net zero

The manifesto identified grid connections as a major barrier to connecting renewable energy assets, especially commercial-scale rooftop solar, stating that the poor connection pace endangers current and future energy targets. To address this, SEUK recommend that Ofgem facilitate greater and faster grid investment, improve coordination between network operators and developers, and modernise grid management practices. Enhanced grid infrastructure and streamlined processes are essential to avoid delays in consumer and business savings from solar energy and to meet the 2035 and 2050 renewable energy targets.

4) Building skills for British green jobs

SEUK’s manifesto also underscores the need for governmental collaboration with the industry to expand the solar energy job market, projecting the creation of thousands of jobs over the next decade. In 2022, the sector employed 1 million people, contributing to a global total of 13.7 million renewable energy jobs. The next government should promote clean energy job opportunities by establishing Regional Green Skills Hubs across the UK, providing comprehensive training in low-carbon technologies. Additionally, increasing resources and upskilling local planning authorities and inspectors will expedite project assessments and connection times, addressing workforce and training challenges in the sector.

5) Implementing a renewables-first approach to market reform

SEUK also support the idea of ‘renewables-first’ reform to the market to boost British solar energy and storage. It urges government action to make the Electricity Generator Levy, Capacity Market, Balancing Mechanisms and Review of Electricity Market Arrangements attractive for investment. Despite 11GW of approved solar capacity, less than 2GW is to be funded during Allocation Round 6 of the Contracts for Difference scheme. The manifesto emphasises reforming policies to match international standards, attract private investment and meet the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2035 target of 60GW energy flexibility. It also calls for equitable tax treatment, reduced revenue risks, stable charges and extended Contract for Difference lengths.

Conservative Party Proposals

The Conservative Party’s 2024 manifesto targets installed solar generating capacity of 70GW by 2035, focusing on large-scale projects integrated into the national grid. Policies emphasise balancing agricultural land use for solar farms while maintaining food production and investing in grid modernisation and energy storage to handle increased solar inputs reliably. The manifesto proposes lowering green levies on household bills to reflect the decreasing cost of solar and commits £6 billion over three years to an energy efficiency voucher scheme for households to install energy-saving measures and solar panels.

However, the manifesto’s approach to solar energy deployment contrasts with SEUK’s proposals in some respects. The Conservatives advocate using non-agricultural land, such as brownfield sites and rooftops, and revised planning regulations to prevent multiple solar farms in one area, aiming to protect rural landscapes and prioritise agriculture over solar projects. This perspective differs from SEUK’s belief (which aligns with the National Farmers’ Union) that energy production and agriculture can coexist, urging the government to acknowledge and promote the advantages of dual-use in planning policies.

Labour Party Proposals

The Labour Party's 2024 proposals for solar energy and energy efficiency highlight ambitious targets and substantial investments, with the goal of tripling solar capacity by 2030 being central to their energy aims. To facilitate their ideas, Labour plan to create a publicly owned clean energy company called GB Energy within their first year of government, committing £8.3bn over the course of five years. The company will own, manage and operate energy generation projects, as well as invest into them alongside the private sector. The company will dedicate part of its initial £8.3 billion funding to partner with energy companies, local authorities and cooperatives to install thousands of solar projects.

A key component of Labour's manifesto is the Warm Homes Plan, which involves an additional £6.6 billion investment over the next parliamentary term to upgrade homes with energy-efficient measures. These measures include insulation, solar panels, batteries and low-carbon heating systems and will offer both grants and low-interest loans to facilitate said upgrades, aiming to significantly reduce household energy bills.  Labour’s partnership approach with authorities, local and devolved governments, and the private sector is designed to accelerate the implementation of home upgrades and low-carbon heating solutions, which also includes that private rented sector homes meet minimum energy efficiency standards by 2030 potentially saving renters substantial amounts on energy costs annually. Whilst the party’s proposals are positively ambitious, there is ambiguity regarding how the proposed grants and loans will differ from existing schemes, such as the Home Upgrade Grant or the Smart Export Guarantee, and clarity on eligibility criteria remains lacking.

SEUK’s proposals and Labour’s proposals both focus on advancing the role of solar within the UK’s energy transition, yet they diverge in their strategic approach and specific emphasis. SEUK’s roadmap is highly detailed, stressing the need for clear, consistent policies and rapid government approvals for large-scale projects, pointing out systemic inefficiencies and advocating for market reforms to attract investment. Labour’s proposals, while similarly ambitious, are framed within a narrower context of energy efficiency and household improvements; the party calls for immediate financial incentives and broad-based home improvements, whilst SEUK’s emphasises the need for systemic and infrastructural reform to scale UK solar.

Liberal Democrats Proposals

The Liberal Democrats' proposals for advancing solar energy focus on a strategy to foster a ‘rooftop solar revolution’ by expanding household incentives for solar panel installations, as well as ensuring a guaranteed fair price for electricity sold back to the grid. Their approach aims to reduce energy bills, lower emissions and eliminate fuel poverty by requiring all new homes and non-domestic buildings to meet zero-carbon standards, which include solar panel installations. These standards will progressively increase as technology improves.

The party seeks to remove what they describe as the Conservatives' unnecessary restrictions on new solar and wind power projects, while also supporting investments in tidal and wave power innovation. Their goal is to make solar panel installation more accessible and to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources so that 90% of power is generated by renewables by 2030.

Retaining an ambitious net zero target for 2045, the Liberal Democrats propose the establishment of a new Net Zero Delivery Authority to coordinate climate action across government departments. They also advocate for national and local citizens’ assemblies to engage the public in climate decisions and intend to restore the UK’s international development spending to 0.7% of national income, with a focus on climate change initiatives.

Similarly to Labour’s proposals, the Liberal Democrats’ faith in solar aligns with SEUK’s initiatives, but their approaches differ. SEUK's detailed, industry-specific recommendations aim to directly address current barriers and streamline the adoption of solar energy, whereas the Liberal Democrats emphasise accessibility, community involvement and a wider range of renewable sources.


In conclusion, whilst the manifestos of the major political parties each present high-level overviews of their solar energy policies, the detailed implementation of these policies remains uncertain. Despite the varying specifics, all parties demonstrate a commitment to progressing towards net-zero emissions, reflecting a collective recognition of the urgency to address climate change. That said, the detail behind the policies and the feasibility of their integration into wider legislative frameworks will inevitably have to wait for the outcome of the election on 4th July. The unified goal of achieving net-zero targets, despite political differences, offers a hopeful outlook for the advancement of solar energy and broader renewable energy initiatives in the UK.


Co-authored by Cameron Finlay-Hylton – trainee at CMS.