Solar Energy Scotland has called on the government to set a minimum target of 4GW of installed solar capacity by 2030, as it asks it to raise its game.
The Scottish government is already proposing 8-12GW onshore and 11GW offshore wind targets, but there is not a target for solar. An ambition of up to 6GW of solar would be possible, although for the moment the trade association is calling for 4GW.
In order for the country to deliver its ‘fair share’ of UK solar power potential, as well as to support thousands of new jobs and generate low-cost energy, the government much increase its ambition.
“For too long solar has been largely overlooked and suffered unconscious bias that Scotland's weather better suits other renewable energy technologies that harness power from wind and water,” said Thomas McMillan, chair of Solar Energy Scotland.
“As a technology, solar can generate both electricity and heat, it is modular so can be deployed as a micro-renewable or at utility scale. It can be located in rural locations or urban centres. It can be partnered with a broad range of other technologies such as wind, battery, hydrogen and electric vehicles. It can make more efficient use of the electricity grid. Most importantly it has reduced in cost by 60% since 2010 making it low cost and affordable.”
Solar Energy Scotland identified a number of government policy interventions that could boost solar deployment, and level the playing field between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
This includes increasing permitted development rights for commercial rooftop installations from the current 50kW to 5MW, maintaining complementary conservation grazing and biodiversity for farmers and removing the need for building warrants on rooftop schemes that duplicate and add cost to existing requirements for quality control.
Additionally, onsite solar and storage should be made exempt from non-domestic rates and energy policy should be made to spread the cost of electricity grid reinforcements between solar, energy storage and wind generation.
The call echoes that made by the trade association ahead of the Scottish election early this year, when it wrote to the major parties calling for a boost to solar.
Following the UK committing to a net zero electricity system by 2035, the need to grow renewables to meet increasing demand is particularly important. Currently, Scotland only has 380MW installed, while comparable markets like Wales, Northern Ireland and Denmark boast more than four times that.
“In the midst of a climate emergency and unprecedented concern over the costs and risks posed by a fossil fuel dependent economy, it’s time to act to realise solar’s full potential,” added Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK.
“The UK Climate Change Committee recommends 40GW of solar energy capacity by 2030 for the UK as a whole to be on track for net zero UK and Scotland has the potential to deliver a good proportion of that. A Scottish government commitment to a minimum of 4GW by 2030 deployment target is required, with an eye to reaching 6GW. Such deployment could support at least 3,000 direct jobs, with the potential for many more throughout the supply chain and £2.5 billion in economic activity.”