The Scottish arm of the Solar Trade Association (STA) has called on the Scottish government to consider a series of ‘key asks’ on solar to support the industry and help reach the country’s renewables targets.
The Holyrood government plans to meet 100% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020 and has already achieved half of this target with 7.5GW supplying the nation. While 5GW comes from onshore wind, STA Scotland says solar can make an important contribution towards meeting this goal, as well as an “essential balance” to the mix of renewables in Scotland.
To do this, the organisation has called for the establishment of a Solar Action Plan for Scotland, which would set targets for deployment of both solar PV and thermal systems. It suggests 2GW and 200,000m2 or 141MWth respectively for the two technologies by 2020 would be “ambitious and achievable” targets.
In policy terms, it also asks for financial support mechanisms for all solar projects to be implemented using the devolved powers of the Scotland Bill following a widespread withdrawal of support by the UK government. These would bridge the gap to subsidy-free solar projects, which STA Scotland estimates will emerge in the early 2020s.
The list of measures also includes changes to tax reliefs for companies producing renewables and community energy projects; a Green Deal replacement scheme covering both domestic and commercial properties, which would encompass energy efficiency and renewables; removal of the need for planning permission for rooftop solar; and a raft of other policy suggestions.
Internationally, the Scottish government are encouraged to support the case against a rise in VAT rates for solar technologies due in August. It is also called on to mobilise EU representation to oppose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs and by extension, the Minimum Import Price undertaking, on imports of PV modules and cells from China.
Other ‘asks’ include addressing major grid constraints in Scotland; actively supporting the implementation of energy storage for both electricity and heat; and adopting a rollout of solar on the Scottish Public Estate.
John Forster, chairman of STA Scotland and of Scottish solar business Forster Energy, said: “There are a number of simple, practical things the Scottish Government can do to boost solar north of the border, whether it is encouraging wind and solar to share grid capacity or changes to planning.
“We are optimistic that the next few years will be good for solar in Scotland. There is scope for Scotland to lead the way within the UK, encouraging markets for solar on residential homes, commercial rooftops, new build homes and buildings and solar farms.”
Despite the considerably larger wind generation industries in Scotland, solar is thought to have a strong base of support in the country. In September 2015, the Scottish Government used its devolved powers to keep ‘grandfathering’ support for solar under the Renewables Obligation in contrast to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.
WWF Scotland has also called for sustained growth in Scotland’s solar deployment, particularly in light of the growing global trend towards a low carbon future. Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “Thousands of Scottish homes and businesses are already seeing the benefits of having installed solar panels. And, although the total installed solar capacity is small when compared to wind energy, we should remember that collectively these solar panels are helping to prevent thousands of tonnes of climate-damaging emissions being emitted every year.
“Following the global agreement reached at the UN climate talks in Paris last year, alongside energy saving measures, we’re going to have to see an even greater uptake of solar and other renewable technologies here and globally."