Solar Energy Scotland calls on government to remove legacy planning barriers

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The cost of utility-scale solar has fallen by 85% over the last decade, making it cheaper than fossil fuels and competitive with onshore wind.

Solar Energy Scotland has called on the government to remove legacy planning barriers for both large and small solar developments.

The call is being made as the closing date for the National Planning Framework 4 consultation looms, with the trade association having identified a number of modifications that are required to truly boost solar in Scotland.

These include the need to prioritise projects with the potential to reduce emission and a recognition that clean energy is required to meet other government objectives on housing, transport, heat, and power.

If barriers are removed, solar can play an even larger role in reducing household bills and supporting increased energy independence. These points are particularly key currently, as the price cap today jumps by 54% amid volatile energy prices driven by international gas shortages and the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sunsequent sanctions. 

Currently, there is 687MW of utility-scale solar projects in the Scottish planning system, and a further 1,388MW of capacity in development.

“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,” said Thomas McMillan, chairman of Solar Energy Scotland.

“We cannot afford to delay. It is entirely possible for our industry to add 4-6GW 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.”

If all of the utility-scale solar projects currently in development were to come to fruition, Scotland would have more than 2.5GW of solar capacity.

This does not include new rooftop-scale solar projects, which the trade association has also argued should be granted the correct development status and the planning process eased.

Josh King, vice-chair of Solar Energy Scotland and director of Moray-based manufacturer and installer AES Solar highlighted the dramatic drop in the cost of solar – with utility-scale solar costs having fallen by 85% over the last decade – making it cheaper than fossil fuels 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,” he said.

The call from Solar Energy Scotland follows a motion highlighting the need to scale-up the technology being put forward by Fergus Erwing MSP in December. The trade association also called on the government to set a minimum target of 4GW of installed solar capacity by 2030 last year, although up to 6GW of solar would be possible it said.

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