New renewable projects facing ‘uncertain future’

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TENS of thousands of solar energy schemes and small wind projects are powering Scotland’s homes and businesses, according to new data.

Industry body Scottish Renewables said the figures showed a “love affair” with home-grown energy but warned new projects face an “uncertain future” amid proposed UK Government changes.

Around 42,000 solar schemes, 2,557 wind projects, 204 hydro-electric schemes and three anaerobic digesters - which turn waste into gas - are being used by homeowners, businesses and community buildings.

The figures from Scottish Renewables and Scotland’s Rural College show Scotland has 23 per cent more small-scale renewables per capita than England and Wales.

Small-scale electricity-generating projects are generally defined as those eligible to claim the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT). They typically provide enough power for a home or business, but can be as large as 5MW - the equivalent of a hydroelectric scheme which can power around 3,400 homes.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) is carrying out a review of the scheme, with an opportunity to respond in a consultation set to close today.

Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Last month the industry heard major changes were planned for the FiT scheme - changes which would make many projects unviable.

“Today is the closing date for a consultation on the first stage of those changes, but within the next month we’re expecting further cost-cutting proposals to be announced.

“The figures released today demonstrate the extent of our love affair with small-scale renewables, but the current level of change and uncertainty is already punishing the sector.

“Without the FiT scheme thousands of homes and businesses would not have access to the affordable, clean electricity which has allowed them to stabilise their energy bills while reducing the amount of carbon emitted because of their energy use.”

She said small-scale renewables could “continue to thrive” in the UK but added that the sector needed “confirmation” that it has Government backing.

A Decc spokesman said: “Government support has driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly. As costs continue to fall and we move towards sustainable electricity investment, it becomes easier for parts of the renewables industry to survive without subsidies.

“That’s why we’re consulting on changes to the Feed-in Tariff scheme - to take control of spending and deliver a good deal for billpayers.”

The figures showed the 2014 Commonwealth Games have made the G40 postcode in Glasgow’s East End the country’s top mainland spot for small-scale renewables.

Inverurie is Scotland’s solar capital while Glasgow has 35 per cent more small-scale renewable energy schemes than Edinburgh.

The data was taken from Ofgem’s Feed-in Tariff Installation Report and the 2011 census.