Two dozen Scottish companies have written to their ministers calling for urgent alterations to planning law and tax rules to boost solar capacity and help tackle unprecedented energy costs.
The letter urged the Scottish Government to increase the installation capacity of solar panels exempt from obtaining prior planning permission from 50kW to 5MW. This would allow a capacity five times larger than England, which permits installations of up to 1MW without seeking permission and has still experienced growth in commercial rooftop installations.
The Scottish companies, joined by trade association Solar Energy Scotland, also highlighted the benefits of exempting the payment of non-domestic rates on new solar panels on a 12-year rolling basis. This would, the letter conveys, “help speed adoption and bring in additional revenue for local government over the rest of the working lifetimes of solar panels installed on industrial and commercial premises”.
Managing Director of Deans Shortbread, Bill Dean, described the company’s reluctance to invest in solar PV panels for the past six years because “the business rating system penalises businesses for trying to help themselves control their energy cost.” Echoing these misgivings, Solar Energy Scotland called for the removal of legacy planning barriers for solar developments to incentivise solar power investments earlier this year.
Figures from the recent Scottish Business Monitor report by Fraser of Allander, were also included in the letter. They stated that 91% of Scottish businesses faced concerns about energy costs and 40% expected to have to reduce their operations as a result. The speed of solar power installation, Solar Energy Scotland has said, means that bills and carbon can be cut “from day one” which will help Scottish businesses face rising costs and inflation.
Reacting to the pledge made by the Scottish Government to reform planning rules for solar energy this month, Thomas McMillian, chair of Solar Energy Scotland stated: “Ministers have promised a solar vision document by the end of the year, but right now we cannot find out what they expect to include within it.”
Looking to the 2030 net zero target McMillian speaks of the necessity of recognising the importance of solar targets and urges that “these minor changes to planning and tax rules would make a major contribution to meeting a target of that sort”.
Recent solar power developments in Scotland include Solar Energy’s announcement earlier this year that reaching the solar sector’s 6GW target could create over 8,500 new jobs.