SNP promises boost to community energy schemes in 2016 manifesto

Scottish community energy projects would experience a huge surge under another Scottish National Party (SNP) led government after the party set out wide ranging plans to boost community schemes in its manifesto, published yesterday.

The 76 page document promises a number of new SNP policies designed to promote community ownership schemes, including the pledge to argue for Scottish control of its share of feed-in tariffs to help promote community ownership schemes.

By 2020, an SNP government would also ensure at least half of newly consented renewable energy projects will have an element of shared ownership, with plans for 1GW of schemes like these by the end of the Parliament and 2GW by 2030.

The incumbent party would also explore the potential to create a government owned energy company to help grow local and community energy projects. This would allow communities to use the income generated from energy developments to support others in developing their own schemes.

This would see the government supply clean energy to investors from community projects in a similar way that Mongoose Energy has proposed this week.

The creation of a Scottish Renewable Energy Bond would also be considered by the SNP to allow savers to invest in Scotland’s renewable energy sector.

While the manifesto does not specify which technologies would be used for these projects, it does promise that the SNP would “work closely” with the Solar Trade Association (STA) to advance proposals for expanding solar in Scotland.

The Scottish arm of the STA has already advised this year that Scotland would need to see 2GW solar PV and 200,000m2 of solar thermal systems deployed by 2020 to meet its targets.

Sonia Dunlop, who leads the STA’s work in Scotland and supports the STA Scotland group, said: “We are delighted to see a manifesto pledge to work with us on our proposals – in essence our key solar asks – for boosting solar in Scotland.

"We have been working with all the political parties in Scotland to push our twenty point ‘action plan’ for how to increase solar deployment north of the border, and have had support all round. It is key that we get this cross party consensus in order to be able to set long term targets and strategies, such as our suggested and ambitious goal of 2GW by 2020.”

All of the measures outlined by the SNP would help it meet existing targets of 100% electricity consumption from renewables by 2020. According to the SNP’s manifesto, total output of renewable electricity has more than doubled since 2007 and now supplies 57.7% of electricity in Scotland.

However, a recent report claimed that subsidy cuts paid to new solar installations are likely to cause Scotland to fall short of its aims, despite the flurry of activity experienced in the run up to the early closure of the Renewables Obligation on 31 March.

Not content with meeting its current targets, the SNP has also announced that it would “seriously and carefully” consider a target of 50% of all energy to come from renewables by 2030.

In addition to the boost to community ownership of energy schemes, the SNP says it would adopt a “whole system approach” encompassing demand reduction, energy efficiency, a balanced energy generation mix, a role for storage, and the requirement for a low carbon transition in transport and heat use.

“The SNP is developing an ambitious and long term Scottish energy strategy which we will implement over the next Parliament and beyond. The strategy will aim to make electricity cleaner, more affordable and more secure for all consumers,” the manifesto said.

The party has also pledged to seek assurances from the new owners of the Green Investment Bank - headquartered in Edinburgh - that the institution will continue to hold to green investment projects.

It would also seek to deliver a Low Carbon Travel and Transport programme attracting £62.5 million of investment to create low carbon infrastructure.

The Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto, launched last week, contains far less energy policy related to renewables. It offers to find ways to incentivise the expansion of our energy storage capacity to accommodate “Scotland’s electricity generation increasingly relying on intermittent sources of energy”.

Scottish Labour launches its election manifesto next week.

The article has been amended since its first publication to include comment from the STA.