Local councils key to meeting Scotland’s renewables target says new report

A new report has called for the next Scottish government to tap into the potential for solar deployment within local authority areas, which it says could play a pivotal role in achieving the country’s renewable energy consumption targets.

The briefing from Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) claims local authorities are still supportive of deploying solar panels, despite subsidy cuts damaging the financial case to do so.

It adds that while many have been installing solar PV on social housing due to what was an attractive feed-in tariff, recent cuts have caused only a short hiatus in new projects while councils adjust to the new support framework.

These findings support comments made recently by councillor Alan Clark of Nottingham City Council, who said: “The change in FiT has hit our ability to meet our ambitions. That was clearly a blow to us as much as it anyone else in this field. But we are determined to continue to install renewable energy wherever we can make the business case.”

Scotland has a target of meeting 100% of its electricity consumption needs by 2020 however due to subsidy cuts, the report claims the latest estimates on progress towards this target show that the country will now fall short.

It estimates that only 180MW of solar is currently deployed in Scotland, although a flurry of activity in the run-up to the early closure of the Renewables Obligation on 31 March 2016 means this figure is likely to be lower than actual deployment. However, it is still likely to be well below the 2GW estimated by the Solar Trade Association Scotland to be needed to meet the country’s targets.

Predicted renewable capacity is expected to now only generate 87% of the equivalent annual demand for power by 2020, but NFLA says this could be turned around by greater solar deployment within local authorities.

According to the report, there are over 10,000 public buildings in Scotland including schools, GP surgeries and police stations. If just half of these buildings installed a 60kW system (the average size being installed by the Edinburgh Solar Co-op) it would add 300MW of capacity and would mark a significant increase on current levels.

NFLA is therefore calling on the Scottish government in place following this May’s Holyrood elections to work with councils and develop feasible economic solutions to delivering new solar projects.

Pete Roche, director at Edinburgh Energy and Environment Consultancy and author of the report, said: “The Scottish government has been focused on big offshore wind and tidal until and hasn’t paid much attention to solar, although it’s starting to. They need to put more focus on solar now.”

The report recommends this goal can be achieved through the development of battery storage schemes and wider use of private wires for solar projects which in combination with falling solar costs will make the technology an attractive offer to councils throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.