Farmers without solar panels could be missing out on billions in energy bills

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Farmers without solar panels could be missing out on billions in energy bills

Farmers without solar panels could be missing out on up to 1 billion dollars over the next two years, according to a new analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit ECIU Solar panels.

The vast majority of England's farms do not have solar panels with only 28 per cent having the renewable power source on their fields.

ECIU has calculated that if the remaining 78 per cent had followed their counterparts, energy savings and revenues could have almost balanced out the increase in fertiliser costs over the next two years.

An estimated saving of up to 1.1 billion dollars would have been provided by this.

While gas costs are expected to remain elevated for at least the next two years, other income streams such as renewables may be essential to some farm businesses surviving.

In the second quarter of 2022, farmers paid about 98 per cent more for gas than in the first three months of 2021, and 45 per cent more for electricity.

A farm with renewables, such as solar panels, wind turbines and small hydroelectric plants, can earn extra income through power purchase agreements by selling excess energy back to the grid or leasing their land to energy generators.

The Government will cut hundreds of millions of pounds on the Energy Bill Relief Scheme support package for businesses energy bills if solar panels are installed on agricultural sites. The report from the ECIU comes amid speculation that DEFRA Secretary Th r se Coffey is going to extend the ban on solar farms in England to more farmland. It is believed that Coffey is considering extending restrictions on solar developments to cover over 40 per cent of the farmland. Farmland is graded 1 -- 5 for proposed developments with the higher numbers 4 -- 5 referring to poor quality land eligible for development and lower numbers defining high quality land essential for food security 1 -- 3 Currently, land graded 1 -- 3 a is considered suitable for development, but Downing Street is considering making 3 b ineligible for new sites to ensure food security. Most proposed ground-mounted solar is currently placed on Grade 3 b land, which is typically less isolated and hilly for installations and transmissions. Solar panels currently cover around 0.08 per cent of the UK's land area, or 0.1 per cent of UK farmland, which is only half the size of the Isle of Wight. Matt Williams, climate and land programme lead at the ECIU, said farmers are being hit by rising energy costs due to a surge in gas price and record prices for synthetic fertilisers which are made using gas. Many are losing income because crops are failing due to extreme weather caused by climate change. Some people are leaving the industry altogether as a result. As gas prices rocket, energy bills for farmers have gone through the roof, according to Robbie Moore, Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley. As long as care is taken to avoid land that is needed to produce food, they can help cut bills, bring in extra income, and achieve net zero.