Energy reforms ‘put solar power plan in doubt’

Andrew Lyle: Fledgling industry dealt a hammer blow. Picture: Contributed
Andrew Lyle: Fledgling industry dealt a hammer blow. Picture: Contributed
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THE HEAD of a Scottish renewable energy firm believes the fledging solar industry in Scotland risks being dealt a hammer blow by sweeping changes to UK government support.

Andrew Lyle, director of Edinburgh-based renewables firm Locogen, said the government’s plans to limit support for large scale solar farms favour the south of England rather than Scotland and present huge problems for the industry in the north.

He has spent the last 18 months drawing up plans for one of Scotland’s first large-scale commercial solar farms on land near Falkirk.

The 15 megawatt scheme would produce enough energy to power around 3,500 homes but yesterday he said it would probably be scrapped if changes currently out to consultation come into force.

These include fast-tracking plans to scrap an established form of subsidy, renewable obligation certificates (ROC), for solar farms generating more than 5MW in favour of a new subsidy scheme called contracts for difference (CfD).

Developers of larger solar farms will have to compete with each other for the CfD subsidies at auction and some fear the “uncertainty” created by the new scheme could scare off investors.

Lyle said: “There has not been sufficient time given to plan for this. These sudden and dramatic changes to the industry cause great uncertainty to developers like ourselves and investors in the sector.

“Scotland does not have the same solar resource as the south of the UK. We need larger projects to benefit from economies of scale. Unfortunately this consultation targets larger projects.

“We are now concerned that our project in Falkirk will not be able to compete in the auctions under the CfD scheme and as a result we don’t know if it can be built. It is very disappointing as we have spent a lot of time, effort and cost developing this project.”

Stephanie Clark, policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “This highlights, yet again, the uncertainty caused for the renewable energy industry when the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) changes the goalposts for developers at such short notice.

“In the longer term, we support the UK government’s aim of moving from the ROC to CfD transition. However, this transition process has to be managed properly.”

A DECC spokeswoman said: “Solar photovoltaic is an integral part of the UK’s energy mix and we want to see this success story continue in Scotland as well as the rest of the country. Our recent solar strategy will ensure we remain a leading destination for investment and deployment of solar energy.”