Solar has a place in the new Scottish Energy Strategy, Ewing tells first industry conference

John Forster, Chairman, Solar Trade Association Scotland
John Forster, Chairman, Solar Trade Association Scotland

The Solar Trade Association Scotland held its first annual conference last week in Edinburgh, where keynote speaker Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister, received a very warm welcome after he sent up clear signals that ‘there is definitely a place for solar’ in the emerging Scottish Energy Strategy.

This strategy will be launched in Autumn 2016 by the new Scottish Government, where Fergus Ewing is expected to again be the Scottish Energy Minister in an SNP-led Scottish Government in Holyrood.

He told delegates: “I will continue to work very closely with the Scotland Trade Association Scotland – an industry which employs some 3,000 people.

“I have heard the ’20 Solar Asks’ and will study them sympathetically. Solar will play a part in Scottish energy – but I cannot, and will not, make any promises as a politician unless I am sure myself and the Scottish Government can deliver on them.

“I am very happy to work with the solar industry – and any other energy sectors, such gas, oil and wind – because often the best solutions to business issues come from the industry itself, and not politicians or civil servants.”

John Forster, Chairman of the Solar Trade Association Scotland, said the big aim for the industry is to expand installed capacity from 50 MW tenfold to 0.5 gigawatt by 2020.

Ewing also singled out some solar industry leading lights as examples of ‘tremendous minds and a determination to apply innovation’ – such as Sunamp at MacMerry – ‘the Tesla of Scotland’ – and Edinburgh University’s Pure Li-Fi spin-out which aims to combine broadband ISP services with solar power systems.

Combing solar LI-ght with Wi-FI has the potential to turn every solar PV system into a broadband receiver.

The Minister added: “There are also potential ‘new energy’ solutions in smart-grid and demand-management systems, as well as heat-pump developers like Glasgow’s Star Energy, which has installed a heat-pump driven district heating system in Oslo – these are all the kind of things we wish to see in Scotland’s energy, as well as developing energy storage systems to solve the problem of intermittent weather-dependent renewable power generation.

Peter Randall, of Edinburgh-based Solar Kingdom added that ‘there is a massive opportunity in battery storage technologies’

Fergus Ewing, MSP
Fergus Ewing, MSP

Ewing added: “And because I am Scotland’s Business Minister – not just Energy Minister – I know that the three ‘General Asks’ from industry is for clarity, certainty and continuity of policy and regulatory-regimes; which is why we decided not to remove grand-fathering in Scotland, unlike DECC in England.

“This is also why I do not agree with what the UK Govt. is doing on energy – particular wind and solar renewables – for its abrupt and, frankly, irrational removal of the renewables obligation and feed-in-tariff degressions which have led to a loss of investor confidence and which will make business development for solar industry extremely challenging’.

“But no energy industry has been as resilient as solar power in responding positively to inconsistent (UK) government actions.

The 20 Solar Asks which the Scottish sun-power industry want the government to deliver include:

  • Recognise solar technologies as ‘reasonable measures’ within the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social House (EESH)
  • Set more-ambitious (must-tick box) requirements for solar power on the 10,000-plus buildings in the public realm (eg schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, courts, polis and local cooncil buildings) – an ‘ask’ strongly supported by Chris Clark, Director of Emtec Group’s energy services division.
  • Scrap red-tape rules which allow local cooncils to ban solar power rooftop installations
  • Establish nationwide criteria for fitting solar PV panels to listed buildings and in conservation areas to bring Scotland into line with best-practice in England
  • Roll-out more best-practice to transfer knowledge in the public and private sectors to increase take-up of solar power to accelerate the universally-agreed transition to a lower-carbon economy using the NFU’s Renewable Development Initiative

Stuart Elmes, Chief Executive, Viridian Solar, commented: “We need people to think that a home without solar power is as unacceptable as a home without hot water, clean cold water and an inside WC!”

Alan Mortimer, Director of Innovation at Sgurr Energy (part of the Wood Group plc) said in his presentation that there was good potential for solar and wind turbine farms to ‘co-locate’ on same sites so as to share, hence lower, grid connection costs.

* SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE conference, 26 May 2016

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