Scotland’s devolved coalition government has pledged to harness more of the nation’s solar energy potential, promising to “co-design Holyrood’s draft solar vision” with installers & suppliers.

MSPs debated renewable energy in the Parliament in Edinburgh yesterday.   Richard Lochhead, minister for Just Transition & Fair Work, told MSPs that solar energy had “exciting potential.”

Solar energy is mentioned in the Bute House agreement, Lochhead reminded his audience. That’s the concord between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, whereby two Green ministers and five other Green MSPs support the Nats’ minority government.

Solar energy is “going to have a much bigger, renewed focus in the forthcoming draft Energy Strategy that will be going out for consultation,” Lochhead declared yesterday.

Thomas McMillan, chair of industry lobbyists Solar Energy Scotland, greeted the minister’s intervention.  “The debate is clearly a welcome vote of confidence in Scotland’s burgeoning solar sector”, said McMillan.

“The parliament was right in identifying issues that are holding it back, such as obtaining connections to the grid”, added the lobbyists’ chief.  “We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government in driving the industry forward.”

The minister’s pledge to spread his sunshine chimes with the Scottish government’s response to a letter from Solar Energy Scotland signed by a cross-party group of MSPs earlier this week.

It called for a target of between 4 and 6 gigawatts of PV capacity north of the border by 2030, a goal endorsed by Labour’s Colin Smyth during the debate. Adopting the target implies a tenfold step up from Scotland’s current deployment.

Among signatories to the letter is former energy minister Fergus Ewing. He sought agreement from Lochhead that the consenting process needed to be sped up.

Graham Simpson, Conservative MSP for Central Scotland agreed, saying he had had “discussions with people at Glasgow airport…who want to have quite a big solar farm but are frustrated by the planning system… We need to unblock such things.”

“To capitalise on the sunny prospectus that solar can provide, Scotland needs to be bolder, as other nations have been, and that includes setting a target for solar energy generation,” said Stephanie Callaghan, SNP MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill.

She described solar as “the most democratised form of energy. It goes on the rooftops of homes and businesses and undoubtedly has strong potential to reduce fuel poverty with targeted deployment. Yet I would argue that solar is Scotland’s most underutilised renewable resource, despite being the cheapest energy source available to Scotland’s people, at a time of rapidly rising costs.”

Callaghan said it offers a “unique opportunity” for expansion, seeing how Denmark generates five times more solar power, on a percentage basis than Scotland.

Paul McLennan, SNP representative for East Lothian, initiated the debate, in response to a report published last month by Scottish Renewables and the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector – 2022 Update underlined the sector’s potential. Scottish solar sells of £3.06bn of services & goods, employing in 2020 the equivalent of 8,450 people.

A spokesperson for Scotland’s government responded that it “recognises the importance of solar power in contributing to our Net Zero journey.

“We remain committed to continuing to work with the solar sector to provide a supportive policy framework to help it continue to grow and deployment. We have been working closely with industry in recent months to co-design our draft solar vision, which will be published for consultation in our Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.”

Contrary to public prejudice, insolation – or natural solar radiation – occurring in northern Scotland is only 20% less than the 1,050 kWh/kWp observed in southern Cornwall over 25 years to 2016 in this evaluation.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here