Utility Scottish Water has heavily committed to solar at its sites around Scotland, such as this one in Inverness (pictured). Image: Scottish Water.

As the Scottish election campaigns get underway, Solar Energy Scotland chair Thomas McMillan has called on political parties to up their solar ambitions.

McMillan has written to the major parties setting out key points of policy support they could enact to boost deployment of solar technologies, calling for a robust plan of action to form part of their election bids.

Currently, Scotland contributes just 2.5% of the UK’s solar energy, despite a comparable climate and population to Denmark, which has more than three times the solar capacity.

McMillan said that Scottish solar has been “sitting in the shadows of the wind sector for far too long”.

“We need to dispel the myth solar is not a major resource in Scotland. An area the size of the Isle of Hoy receives enough sunlight to meet all of Scotland’s energy needs. Solar is price competitive with wind power and accessible to homeowners who can generate their own electricity at a price that is cheaper than electricity from a utility supplier. It is time for Scotland to get its fair share of solar.”

In order to elevate solar’s potential in Scotland, political manifestos should contain plans to increase energy efficiency standards for existing housing stock and expand finance support for homeowners, local authorities and housing associations to retrofit solar onto residential properties.

Politicians should also look to make solar and battery storage exempt from non-domestic rates.

McMillan calls for the permitted development status of projects from 50kW to be extended to either 1MW as in England, or higher. Farmers who lease land for solar parks should received a Basic Payment Scheme payment, where the land is also used for sheep grazing or biodiversity enhancement.

Finally, support should be brought in for the creation of a smart grid so that solar can contribute to an efficient and well managed system.