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Scottish Solar Industry: Ministers Urged to Lift Planning Barriers

 SOLAR ENERGY SCOTLAND MEDIA RELEASE

The solar industry in Scotland has today urged the Scottish Government to sweep away legacy planning barriers to solar developments, large and small. With these barriers lifted, the industry is set to play a much greater role in reducing household bills and supporting increased energy independence while helping Scotland make the urgently needed transition to a low carbon economy.

This call comes as the closing date for the National Planning Framework 4 consultation looms [1], and industry reveals that there are now 687MW of utility-scale solar projects already in the Scottish planning system, with a further 1,388MW of capacity in other stages of development [2].

If all these projects are approved, Scotland could benefit from more than 2.5GW of solar capacity, not including new rooftop-scale solar projects: this would be greater than the capacity of all of Scotland’s hydropower plants combined [3]. Scotland’s total renewable installed capacity is 12.2GW, as of September last year [4].

A report last year by the International Renewable Energy Agency confirmed that the cost of utility-scale solar has fallen by 85% over the previous decade. Alongside onshore wind, utility-scale solar is now cheaper than the cheapest fossil fuel generation systems [5].

Solar Energy Scotland, the trade association for the industry, has raised concerns about the draft National Planning Framework. Including a need to prioritise projects which reduce climate emissions and a recognition that clean energy generation is required to meet other Government objectives on housing, transport, heat, and power.

The industry has also made the case that rooftop-scale solar should be granted the correct development status and remove unnecessary obstacles to solar development from planning policy.

Thomas McMillan, Chairman of Solar Energy Scotland, said: “With the right policy environment, Scotland’s rapidly-growing solar sector has the potential to help meet so many of the Scottish Government’s objectives, not just decarbonisation. The intense pressure on domestic energy bills cannot be tackled as long as we remain so dependent on gas, and security of supply is now rightly even higher on everyone’s agenda.

“We cannot afford to delay. It is entirely possible for our industry to add 4-6 gigawatts of solar projects across Scotland by 2030, but to get there we will need Ministers to recognise that potential, and to make these modest changes to planning policy.”

Josh King, Vice-Chair of Solar Energy Scotland and Director of Moray-based manufacturer and installer AES Solar [6], said: 

“It’s entirely right that Scottish Ministers have set 2030 ambitions now for both onshore and offshore wind power. That will help shape increased grid capacity across the country over the next eight years. It’s now time to do the same for solar power.

“Over the last ten years, the cost of going solar has fallen more sharply than any other form of power generation. It is now cheaper than any fossil fuel generation system, and competitive with onshore wind.

“Solar does not need subsidy to be economic. We just need to be able to build sensible projects without disproportionate barriers being put in our way. A solar boom of the sort we believe is possible will also bring substantial job opportunities, not just in installation and maintenance, but across a wide range of supporting roles. I’m confident that Ministers will see the need to let us get to work.”

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Download the NPF4 document here