Industries join the call for Scottish solar energy reforms

Electrician working at a solar farm

Companies from various industries have backed the solar industry’s demands for urgent changes to Scotland’s planning law and tax regulations.

More than 20 companies and trade bodies have written to ministers arguing that trade tariffs and permissible development rights need to be reformed.

A joint letter states that companies currently “are unable to deliver solar energy at the required rate.”

He argues that the changes would help companies reduce energy costs and decarbonise.

The signatories include representatives from agriculture, storage, distillation, food and solar.

The letter asks the Scottish government to allow the installation of solar panels with a capacity of up to 5 MW without having to ask for planning permission. The current “development allowed” threshold is 50 kW.

He says, “This limit artificially limits the potential for commercial rooftop solar.

“The space of a roof will automatically constrain the maximum size of a solar energy project, which in any case will be subject to all other relevant planning requirements.”

The letter, which was drafted by the commercial body Solar Energy Scotland, also calls on ministers to exempt companies from paying non-domestic tariffs on new solar panels on an ongoing 12-year basis, as is the case in England.

“Entrepreneurs installing solar shouldn’t have to pay a premium to decarbonise their business,” he says.

“The Scottish Government is risking its ambitious climate mitigation targets by effectively penalizing Scottish companies wishing to install affordable, reliable and renewable energy on site.”

solar panel installer

solar panel installer

Signatories include Aberdeenshire-based shortbread biscuit maker Dean’s.

Chief Executive Bill Dean said, “We’ve put off investing in solar photovoltaic panels for more than six years, entirely because the corporate rating system penalizes companies that try to help themselves control their energy costs.

“If this had been addressed years ago, companies would most likely have invested in fully covering their roofs with solar panels and would have been in a much better position to deal with the energy price crisis.”

Other signatories include Black Isle Brewery, Browns Food Group, Uddingston-based Emtec Group, Harbro feed company, The Scottish Salmon Company based in Edinburgh, Scottish Timber Trade Association, Federation of Small Businesses and UK Warehousing Association.

‘Simple changes’

Solar Energy Scotland President Thomas McMillan said: ‘Solar energy is now the cheapest energy source available to Scottish businesses and can be used quickly, improving our energy security and reducing our carbon emissions.

“As we face a growing climate crisis, geopolitical instability and skyrocketing costs, I hope these simple changes can be achieved by the end of the year.”

The Scottish government said it has provided relief on non-domestic tariffs for small-scale solar power producers and has supported microgeneration producers and businesses that have adapted micro-renewable schemes to meet some of their energy needs.

A spokesperson said: “We will continue to consider how this support can develop.

“Decisions on any non-domestic pricing policies will be established in the Scottish budget along with other government priorities in light of affordability.”

He added: “We have been working closely with industry over the past few months to develop the solar vision which will be published in our energy strategy and just transition plan later this year and will provide the certainty needed for investment in the our energy transition.

“We are also pursuing our consideration of permitted development rights for domestic and non-domestic renewable energy equipment, including non-domestic solar panels, and intend to consult on this in early 2023.”

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