Renewable energy generation has an important role to play in achieving net zero by 2050. There is a particular spotlight on solar, with the government targeting an increase in solar capacity to 70 gigawatts by 2035. 

Maria Connolly

Maria Connolly

Rooftop solar needs to double to achieve this goal; but it would seem that most commercial buildings do not have rooftop solar. Why is this the case when it would seem to be such a simple solution – and what can we do to make it happen?

One of the ongoing challenges is that commercial premises are often let to third-party tenants, rather than being occupied by the building owner or landlord. Considerations such as the parameters of the occupational lease, the onward sale of solar electricity and pricing, engaging a third-party solar developer and the associated complexities of the legislation that governs the supply of electricity need to be unpacked – and there are not always easy solutions.

Along with the need to secure a suitable grid connection and planning considerations, it has resulted in many building owners not seeing the associated value in rooftop solar panels.

However, with environmental, social and governance (ESG) on the boardroom agenda, there is an increasing demand for green buildings; and landlords and investors are also looking at their own ESG credentials.

For landlords, another consideration is the added benefit of the increased rental premiums derived from green buildings, versus the potentially ‘unrentable’ tag associated with a portfolio of brown buildings. The value derived from adding rooftop solar outstrips the cost of unpacking the legal issues and the capex associated with the development.

The government’s solar road map – expected in 2024 – may unlock some of the planning and regulatory challenges, and recent announcements suggest positive moves in the right direction.

In the meantime, when considering a commercial scheme, anyone considering solar rooftop panels should take steps and advice from the outset to minimise the risks and ensure the delivery of a clean energy source that will contribute towards the net zero agenda.

Maria Connolly is head of future energy and real estate at TLT