THERE IS a lack of 'practical policies' to support the growth of Scotland's solar energy sector, industry chiefs have warned.

Responding to the Scottish Energy Strategy published by the Scottish Government last week, Scotland's Solar Trade Association said it had 'mixed feelings' because the strategy's general commitment to renewables hadn't been matched by targeted policy that would specifically encourage more solar installations.

STA Scotland noted that London's administration and other UK 'metro mayors' were producing dedicated solar action plans and urged Scottish ministers to follow suit.

The ScotGov strategy confirms its ambition that renewables will supply half of the country's energy by 2030 – and STA Scotland chair Chris Clark insisted that solar should be key to achieving that vision: “Whilst the Scottish Government recognises that solar has a role to play within the new Energy Strategy, it is disappointing that we are still missing the firm policy measures we need to boost the Scottish solar market.

"We need to maximise the potential for solar across all markets, especially on all suitable roofs of newly constructed buildings," said Mr Clark. "This is why we want to see a dedicated Solar Action Plan for Scotland. The solar industry in Scotland is still in its infancy and the synergy solar provides with other technologies and smart systems, means this technology needs more prominence in the Scottish Government’s energy strategy.

"It is within the Scottish Government’s gift to boost solar and to empower communities all over Scotland with clean energy. Too many key policy decisions for solar are being kicked into the long grass when action is needed today, so we look forward to working with the Government to expedite progress.”

However, the STA found some elements of the new strategy to its liking, particularly new moves to have grid operators address system issues, as even modest sized solar systems can face issues connecting to the grid, and ambitions on electric vehicles, which fit in well with local solar deployment.

Scotland currently has the second lowest concentration of solar in the UK, with deployment of less than 0.5GW, representing less than 4% of total installed UK solar capacity. STA Scotland's own analysis indicates that the country, with the right encouragement, could deploy around 6GW of solar within the next 12 years, creating 10,000 jobs by 2030 and contributing a colossal £1.5 billion toward the Scottish economy.

'Supportive actions' that STA would like to see ScotGov push on with include – providing a route-to-market for large-scale solar, upping building regulations in line with existing EU laws to require all public buildings to be near zero energy by 2018, and confirm 'permitted development' to all rooftop solar PV installations, so that rooftop schemes over 50kW do not need to apply for planning permission, as already happens in the rest of the UK up to 1MW in size.