June 3, 2014

Parliament Seminar Ups Solar Awareness in Scotland

A consortium of solar industry and academic groups held an event at Scottish parliament yesterday to advocate solar energy in Scotland’s renewable energy policy.

The seminar, ‘Transforming Scotland with Solar Energy’ presented a solar vision document to attendees from industry, academia and government with the aim of engaging different sectors to discuss solar as part of Scotland’s energy future.

The Scottish Institute for Solar Energy Research (SISER), the Scottish Solar Energy group (SSEG), the Energy Technology Partnership, AES Solar; and the Scottish Universities Insight Institute released the vision document Solar Energy – A Viable Contributor to Renewables in Scotland yesterday.

The vision document identifies the scale of solar in Scotland at present and in comparison with the UK and EU, possibilities for the future, the benefits and barriers and what action is needed to move forward, particularly, addressing the potential role of solar to meet Scotland’s sustainable building and renewable energy targets, combat fuel poverty, unemployment and energy security.

The document encourages short-term adoption with a longer road map, integrating solar energy into the 2020 Scottish Renewables Strategy.

The vision document also predicts solar PV will grow from 116MW to 860MW by 2020, and the social benefits include creating 1,500 to 2,000 jobs.

Solar power hardly featured in the 2020 Scottish Renewable Energy Strategy, published in 2011, which aims for 100% renewable energy by 2020, but is mentioned slightly in the update published on 19 December 2013.

The December 2013 update revealed Scotland had 13 solar projects consented and awaiting construction totalling 5MW, and one project under construction with one solar power project in planning. It also showed 4MW of community and locally-owned solar PV in operation and 13MW of solar thermal as of June 2012.
Director of SISER, Neil Robertson, quoting the International Energy Agency’s prediction that solar will be the dominant power source by 2050, said: “Solar energy is coming to Scotland whether we realise it or not, but we can properly plan for this to maximise the benefits.” 

Robertson says solar was left out of the 2020 strategy because of costs of solar at the time “before solar was too expensive, now thanks to the rate of change and costs coming down, it is suddenly viable and so are the social benefits, solar is now affordable.”

The next step says Robertson is to form a leadership group bringing government, industry and academics together to include solar in Scotland’s energy policies.

MSP Clare Adamson who attended, praised the engagement between industry and government, and said she is “interested in reducing fuel poverty for constituents and improving fuel efficiency and energy security with solar PV”.

There are also currently 900,000 households in fuel poverty, a recent review cited in the seminar said 100 Scottish social housing tenants could use solar to reduce fuel poverty.

MSP Mike MacKenzie told Solar Power Portal: “It’s the first time solar has been presented in parliament, I hope the industry will engage more as solar does not yet have the profile because this engagement has not been done before.”

“A working group is a good idea and will encourage more engagement with the Scottish government and parliament” MacKenzie said.

As part of the seminar, Robertson stated the need to focus on rooftops, with less solar farms and meadows. Throughout the question and answer discussion there appeared to be consensus from various attendees. The preference for rooftop solar over ground mount is in keeping in line with the recently announced UK Solar Strategy. However speaker Finlay Colville, from research analyst NPD Solarbuzz, responded in the discussion that “it is unclear if GWs on rooftops is a real goal, or just a diversion from GWs on the ground. We want large rooftops, but now solar farms will be split under 5MW and over for a contract for difference (CfD) auction, we don’t know if it will be worth it yet as a financial bid.”

The discussion also raised concerns over grid connection costs, DNO waiting lists and grid capacity.

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