Skip to content
Previous news article
Next news article

Commercial property has the power to boost UK’s clean energy

Commercial property has a vital role in boosting the UK’s bid to become a clean energy superpower by utilising roof space to install solar panels, believes a Reading-based sector specialist at property consultancy Vail Williams.

David Thomas, the firm’s Head of Energy & Sustainability and Thames Valley Regional Managing Partner, says the changes to EPC Regulations on April 1 could provide the spark needed for businesses to act in the UK’s push to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

From April, all rented commercial property will need to have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of band E or better to be let or sold and failure to achieve this will see landlords face potential fines of up to £150,000.

David said: “There has never been more of an incentive to embrace solar power – by occupiers and landlords alike – with buildings unlettable if they don’t meet have the required EPC rating.

“Thus, there is a significant opportunity to drive more solar energy in the UK, by over-cladding existing commercial property with PV (photovoltaic) cells. 

“According to the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA), there is more than 424 million square feet of warehousing space on premises spanning over 100,000 sq ft.

“This alone could deliver nearly 10,000 acres of space for solar PV use, not to mention the potential in other property uses such as office buildings, supermarkets, and so on.”

The UKWA also says UK warehousing has the roof space for up to 15GW of new solar, which would double the UK’s solar PV capacity. This could meet National Grid’s minimum requirements for solar expansion by 2030.

With 15 GW of solar fitted, the warehouse sector could generate 13.8 TWh (terawatt hours) of renewable electricity per year – transforming the sector from net consumers to net producers.

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.

The logistics business could save £3 billion per year, through energy savings and additional income from energy sales. This could avoid emissions for up to 2 million tonnes of CO2 (e) per year by reducing reliance on grid electricity, which is still heavily supported by natural gas.

David added that Solar PV could also make lettable space cheaper to power and heat, attracting tenants and buyers with reduced business running costs, whilst giving the property a competitive advantage over similar properties without it.

“This, together with the potential of solar PV installation to increase the value of the asset, all whilst reducing carbon footprints and improving EPC ratings, makes it a compelling power proposition.”

Vail Williams works in partnership with AI-driven solar technology business Absolar to comprehensively support businesses in the analysis and installation of solar PV projects.

This ranges from the initial survey exploring the potential of solar PV for a building or portfolio, to examining lease terms and negotiating with the landlord, addressing potential planning issues and project managing the engineering aspects of the installation.

Absolar uses LiDAR, photogrammetry, satellite imagery and AI-powered irradiance modelling to filter and rank roof space based on payback periods and the effectiveness of solar across wide portfolios.

Dr Phil Wu, Chief Executive Officer of Absolar, said: “Solar PV energy systems are affordable, reliable and low impact, but it can be hard for occupiers and landlords of commercial property to understand what their potential is, in terms of return on investment.”

David, also Vail Williams’ Thames Valley Region Managing Partner, added that there were key considerations to take into account before embarking on any solar PV journey – the potential requirement for planning permission, lease terms/landlord consent and the need for resources to project manage the installation process.

Approximately 500 solar farms in the UK contribute to the UK’s total solar capacity of 14.6 GW, but 30,000 square kilometres of land – 12% of the landmass – would be needed to fully power the UK using solar energy alone.

Residentially, there are around 1.2 million UK homes with solar panel installations ­– just  4.1% of the 29 million total. In 2021, solar PV supplied more than 4% of the UK’s entire electricity demand.

Looking further ahead, commercial landlords also need to be aware of future proposals for the minimum standards to be increased to band C by 1 April 2027 and band B by 1 April 2030, with some exceptions.

Send us your news

Members can feature their news alongside regional and national news from the Chamber and the British Chambers of Commerce. Submit your news through the Members Zone, or email

We also provide comment for local and regional newspapers, radio or TV stations and websites.

If you would like a comment from the Chamber or a business in our region please contact our Press Office on 01753 870513

Sarah Irving

Head of Marketing & Communications

Direct dial: 01753 870500

Back To Top