EXCLUSIVE: ‘Disappointed’ Scottish solar industry demands business rates exemption in SNP-Govt’s Scottish Energy Strategy

EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News

The Solar Trade Association Scotland has given a luke-warm welcome to the Scottish Energy Strategy – sneaked out by the Scot-Govt on the last day of parliamentary term before the festive holiday.

Instead, STA Scotland – among other key renewable energy stakeholders – have urged the Scottish Energy Minister to develop a dedicated and comprehensive plan for solar energy in Scotland to help realise their vision.

STA Scotland analysis shows that Scotland could deploy around 6GW of solar within the next 12 years, creating 10,000 jobs by 2030 and a colossal £1.5 billion toward the Scottish economy.

Chris Clark, Chairman, STA Scotland, said: “The strategy confirms the Scottish Government’s ambitions for renewables to supply half of energy needs from renewables by 2030.

“The strategy also highlights smarter local energy as a priority, but the solar industry – which is key to delivering this – has been left disappointed by the lack of timely and practical policy measures.

“Solar is key to achieving the three principles that make-up the Scottish vision – a whole system view, an inclusive energy transition, and a smarter local energy model – but the role of solar, which is the world’s largest clean energy market, is not given due recognition or sufficient practical policy support. 

“Whilst the Scot-Govt. recognises that solar has a role to play within the new <Scottish> Energy Strategy, it is disappointing that we are still lacking firm policy measures to boost the Scottish solar market. 

“We need to maximise the potential for solar across all markets, especially on all suitable roofs of newly constructed buildings. This is why we want to see a dedicated Solar Action Plan for Scotland. 

“The solar industry in Scotland is still in its infancy and the synergy solar provides with other technologies and smart systems, means this technology needs more prominence in the Scottish Government’s energy strategy. That is particularly the case if Scotland is to reach the target of 50% energy from renewables by 2030.”

The Scottish renewables sector has not established as strong a working relationship with the current Scottish Energy Minister (Paul Wheelhouse, MSP) compared to his popular predecessor (Fergus Ewing, MSP).

Chris Clark
Chris Clark

Clark added: “It is within the Scot-Govt’s gift to boost solar and to empower communities all over Scotland with clean energy.

“Too many key policy decisions for solar are being kicked into the long grass when action is needed now.”

Scotland has the second lowest concentration of solar in the UK with deployment of less than 0.5GW, representing less than 4% of total installed UK solar capacity. The STA has already presented its  detailed policy asks to the Scottish Government – but will be pressing – again – for prompt supportive actions. These include:

Route-to-market for large-scale solar: The Scottish Energy Strategy published today commits to providing a route-to-market for onshore wind – but large-scale solar has similarly been cut out of national policy support and also requires a route to market.

Building regulations: the STA wants to see Building Standards raised in line with existing EU laws which require buildings to consume nearly zero energy by 2020, with all public buildings to be near zero energy by 2018 (using onsite renewables).

Permitted development for rooftop solar: After over two years of consultation, the Scottish Government has an opportunity to confirm permitted development to all rooftop solar PV installations under a current live consultation, so that rooftop schemes over 50kW do not need to apply for planning permission (as happens in the rest of the UK up to 1MW in size). Scotland currently has only around 1000 larger commercial rooftop installations.

Exempt solar from business rates in Scotland, like gas CHP:  A key reason for poor rooftop deployment is high business rates which has put the Scottish industry and its investors at a competitive disadvantage – such taxes are not applied across Europe.

Furthermore, onsite gas CHP, the only widespread alternative for onsite power generation, has long been excepted from business rates, representing a bias against clean energy. STA Scotland is urging Scottish Government to expedite progress to level the playing field after action was stymied with a further five year consultation on business rates. 

*See also: Scotland’s Renewable Future delivers draft new Scottish Energy Strategy


4 Jan 2018

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