Energy Secretary prioritises food security in solar plans

By Staff
3 Min Read

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho has informed the Parliament that the government aims to protect high-quality agricultural land to ensure food security amid growing geopolitical tensions.

Ms Coutinho stated that solar energy will remain a key part of the government’s strategy for energy security and achieving net zero emissions.

However, the Energy Secretary emphasised that large solar projects should be prioritised on brownfield sites, contaminated land, industrial areas and lower quality agricultural land to avoid compromising food production.

The government expects a significant increase in solar energy capacity, aiming for a more than four-fold rise to 70GW by 2035.

To manage this growth responsibly, Ms Coutinho highlighted the importance of planning policies that consider the cumulative impact of multiple solar projects in the same area.

Additionally, the Renewable Energy Planning Database will be expanded to include data on the types of land used for existing and planned solar projects.

This update will help track the use of high-quality agricultural land more effectively, providing robust information for the planning process.

Ms Coutinho also mentioned the exploration of an independent certification scheme for Agricultural Land Classification Soil Surveys to ensure consistency and reliability in data collection.

Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Energy UK, emphasised that solar farms occupy a small fraction of the country and do not threaten food security.

Mr Hewett said: “Solar farms take up a tiny fraction of the country, which will still be the case in 2035 when the Government expects us to have four times current solar generation capacity.

“They are no threat to food security; they never have been and never will be. In fact, it’s the opposite. According to Defra, the main threat to food security is climate change, which is what solar farms are there to fight.

“Furthermore, without solar farms, hundreds of traditional farming businesses would have gone to the wall, unable to produce food without the security of a reliable income.”

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