Restrictions in finance and delays to both planning and grid connections are preventing Scotland’s rural communities from achieving the full benefits of renewable energy – according to a warning from a UK land agency.
Nick Green, Head of Energy for Savills in Scotland, said that while the recently-released Agri-renewables Strategy for Scotland (issued 17 February 2014) provides a positive roadmap for the industry, there are still key barriers to entry in the form of finance, planning and grid capacity.
He said: “Land has been used to power industry for thousands of years. And renewable energy has the potential to fundamentally transform the profitability of business in the rural sector.
“Until recently, however, it has been seen by some as difficult, risky and expensive to get community, farm-scale and rural renewable projects off the ground.”
According to the most recent Savills Estate Benchmarking survey, 70% of landowners have assessed the renewable energy potential of their estate, with another 12% planning to do so within a 12 month period. However, a staggering 72% felt that capital cost and availability of funds was the main challenge to proceeding with a renewable project, while a further 22% citied planning hurdles.
In addition, the Scottish Land & Estates investigation into the Economic Contribution of Estates in Scotland (released April 2014) has reported that more than 60% of respondents involved with renewable energy have seen increased income, while 49% of estates see it as a sector with potential for growth.
Green added: “Farm and community-scale renewable energy generation offers significant opportunities for Scotland’s landowners and managers to diversify their risk, deliver additional revenue streams and hedge against future energy price rises. Indeed, land is the key asset in order to produce energy.
“Scotland is very strong when it comes to renewable energy generation; not least due to the country’s natural resources, the entrepreneurial spirit among landowners and developers, changes to the planning framework and the momentum created by strong political support. However, there are challenges to overcome and access to finance and grid capacity are at the top of that list.”