Solar industry supports the ‘more progressive path’ detailed in the Scottish Budget 2023-24

The budget also includes new prescribed plan and machinery exemptions for onsite renewable energy generation and storage to be introduced in April 2023. Image: Adrien Olichon (Pexels).

Solar Energy Scotland has welcomed the Scottish Government’s inclusion of solar energy systems in the non-domestic rates regime, announced in the Scottish Budget 2023-24 last week (15 December).

The budget – described by deputy first minister John Swinney as “a different, more progressive path for Scotland” – and will see new solar schemes exempted from non-domestic rates until 2025.

This change will allow renewable businesses to “gain the full financial benefit of onsite generation,” said Solar Energy Scotland.

The benefits of excluding solar from non-domestic rates was recently highlighted in a letter from 24 Scottish companies to their ministers, which called for urgent alterations to government solar policy to support the sector. The exemption, the letter urged, would “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”.

New prescribed plan and machinery exemptions for onsite renewable energy generation and storage have also been included in the budget from 1 April 2023 until 31 March 2035 to further incentivise investment in renewable energy.

“The announcement adds to a number of very positive moves by the Scottish Government over the course of the last 18 months, for example to accelerate and expand permitted development rights for rooftop solar and to improve the planning system to support more deployment,” said Emily Rice, policy analyst at Solar Energy Scotland.

“There remains a clear gap, however. We need to see a target in the forthcoming Energy Strategy so that solar is given the same treatment as other technologies such as heat pumps, electric vehicles and onshore and offshore wind. A solar target would provide policy certainty, support investment and inform decision making.”

Solar is one of the most financially efficient forms of renewable energy generation and the Scottish Government has repeatedly been urged to “realise solar’s full potential” and support the sector throughout the current energy crisis. Last week for example, saw record-high EPEX Day Ahead prices at £2,585/MWh.

Unprecedented high energy costs have put a significant strain on the solar industry. The recent Scottish Business Monitor report from Fraser of Allander found that 40% of businesses in Scotland expect to reduce operations due to the unprecedented energy costs and only 5% have forecast strong growth next year.

Chair of Solar Energy Scotland, Thomas McMillan, added: “Solar energy is the most affordable source of energy, creates green jobs, and contributes to Scotland’s legally binding decarbonisation targets. Relief from business rates empowers Scottish businesses to lower their energy costs and decarbonise by installing onsite solar energy generation. This is a welcome step for the solar industry, Scottish businesses and Scotland’s climate targets.”