The Solar Trade Association (STA) Scotland, the Scottish arm of the solar industry trade body, has put forward a set of key asks on solar  to support the Scottish Governments ambitious plans to meet 100% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020  and to feed into the new Energy Strategy for Scotland. Scotland is currently over half way to reaching this target and has over 7.5GW of renewables, of which over 5GW is onshore wind. Solar can make an important contribution to the rest of the 100% target and provide an essential balance to the mix of renewables in Scotland.
Despite the Department of Energy and Climate Changes (DECC) recent reduction in support for solar , there remains strong support for the technology in Scotland, both politically and commercially. In September of last year, the Scottish Government used its devolved powers within the Renewables Obligation to boost investor confidence in large-scale solar in Scotland .
STA Scotland is proposing that the Scottish Government achieves its renewables targets by putting together a dedicated Solar Action Plan for Scotland and suggests targets for both solar PV and solar thermal for 2020. The action list also contains specific recommendations on business rates, social housing and community energy, and covers both solar PV electricity and solar thermal hot water heating.
STA Scotland launched in March 2015 and has assembled some of the leading solar businesses in Scotland, to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland remains at the forefront of the solar market, not only protecting the more than 3,000 solar industry jobs in Scotland, but supporting the growth of the industry, potentially tenfold, over the term of the next Scottish Parliament. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP has already been working with STA Scotland and is supportive of the bodys work.
John Forster, Chairman of STA Scotland and of Scottish solar business Forster Energy, said:
There are a number of simple, practical things the Scottish Government can do to boost solar north of the border, whether it is encouraging wind and solar to share grid capacity or changes to planning.
We are also keen that the Scottish Government look at options to establish its own financial support mechanisms for solar to bridge the gap between now and the early 2020s when we hope to see mainstream solar projects become subsidy-free.
We are optimistic that the next few years will be good for solar in Scotland. There is scope for Scotland to lead the way within the UK, encouraging markets for solar on residential homes, commercial rooftops, new build homes and buildings and solar farms.
The full solar asks for the Scottish Government are as follows:
- Put in place an ambitious Solar Action Plan for Scotland, for both solar PV and solar thermal, and establish Scottish targets for both technologies. We suggest that a target of 2GW for solar PV and 200,000m2 or 141MWth for solar thermal by 2020 are both ambitious and achievable.
- Establish Scottish financial support mechanisms for all solar projects under the transfer of powers as set out within the Scotland Bill. This would ensure that Scotlands renewable energy mix is balanced with a sufficient amount of solar energy generation and would bridge the gap to the early 2020s when mainstream solar rooftops and farms can become subsidy-free.
- Actively support the implementation of energy storage for both electricity and heat at all levels. Recognise its role in relieving pressure on the grid, extending the contribution of renewables to baseload power, and its potential to alleviate fuel poverty. Ensure solar thermal storage and space heating are permitted under the Renewable Heat Incentive, and that hybrid PV-thermal is supported.
- Recognise the benefits of co-locating solar, wind and storage and sharing grid connections. Note in particular the highly complementary output characteristics of solar and wind, both when co-located and within the same broad geographical area. Ensuring the proper assessment of this effect will increase the use of existing grid assets, and allowing solar to proceed without requiring additional grid connection.
- Address major grid constraints in Scotland for distributed power generation at local, regional and national level. Help establish a detailed long term UK Grid Strategy that is fair and enabling for distributed power, with a control mechanism that will ensure the delivery and coordination of the collectively agreed programme of works. Engage with the National Infrastructure Commission on this issue and the move to smarter energy networks.
- Reconsider the proposed removal of the Renewable Energy Generation Relief Scheme from 1st April 2016. Further, confirm and clarify the policy with regards to schemes in community ownership, particularly with regards to eligibility criteria and levels of relief.
- Introduce a Scottish replacement for the Green Deal covering both domestic and commercial properties that leverages available resources and empowers people to take responsibility for reducing their own carbon emissions. The programme should encompass both energy efficiency measures and renewable technologies.
- Support the case to HM Treasury/HMRC that the 5% reduced rate of VAT be retained for all domestic solar retrofit, particularly for solar thermal, roof integrated PV and renovation as part of a social policy, as per their recent consultation on raising this to 20%.
- Mobilise the Scottish Governments representation to the EU in Brussels to push for the removal of damaging anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs, and by extension the artificially high Minimum Import Price undertaking, on imports of PV modules and cells from China.
- Recognise solar technologies as reasonable measures within the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) programme. Bring forward legislation within the next Scottish Parliament to extend similar standards to the private sector within Regulations of Energy Efficiency in the Private Sector (REEPs) and include solar as a reasonable measure within this.
- Assess the capacity and adopt an ambitious target for the rollout of solar on the Scottish Public Estate. The Scottish local authority estate in particular has significant potential, including public buildings, schools, leisure facilities and local authority offices. We propose a clear mandate by the Scottish Government to direct local authorities in the development of solar installations across their portfolio.
- Ensure that official centralised guidance is issued to assessors to ensure clarity, consistency and fairness throughout Scotland on the interpretation of legislation on business rates for rooftop and ground mounted solar. Set guidelines to ensure realistic installation costs with annual reviews to reflect reducing prices. Consider changing the relevant legislation so that buildings in Scotland with solar are treated in a balanced manner akin to the rest of the UK.
- Extend permitted development to all rooftop solar installations, as proposed in the ongoing consultation on permitted development rights for non-domestic solar. Clear guidance should be distributed to each individual local authority building control department clarifying that Building Warrant is not required in the absence of any structural alteration to the roof, in line with the rest of the UK.
- Put forward ambitious regulations to further decrease on-site carbon emissions from new buildings in the next round of Scottish Building Standards and set a clear trajectory for meeting the 2020 requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
- Modify Scottish Building Standards so that heating systems for new homes are required to include solar-ready thermal storage (e.g. a hot water cylinder), and where existing thermal storage is replaced in existing buildings that this is with solar-ready storage.
- Review and update planning guidance in Scotland with regards to solar in Conservation Areas and on Listed Buildings. Consider extending permitted development rights within set criteria as has been done in England and Wales. Jointly develop criteria and guidance for listed buildings based on a presumption of acceptance.
- Ensure that planning policy and guidance for ground-mounted solar provides a positive and consistent framework for deployment while protecting the environment, embracing the principles of responsible development and the STAs 10 Commitments for Solar Farms.
- Ensure that the Scottish Government Good Practice Principles document for Shared Ownership of Onshore Renewable Energy Developments offers workable recommendations for solar and embraces the broad range of options for community investment. Adjust the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) loans so that they are more supportive of solar projects.
- Make the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) register for domestic and non-domestic buildings publicly available, as is the case in England. Promote its availability to raise awareness of carbon emissions and steps that can be taken to reduce them.
- Actively support knowledge transfer in the public and private sectors in Scotland to enable greater up-take of solar and accelerate a cost effective transition to a low carbon economy using the successful example of the NFU Renewable Development Initiative project.