Inability to secure grid connections and planning permission limitations are severely restricting the role that farmers, crofters and landowners are having in delivering the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets, NFUS Scotland has argued.

By 2030, the Scottish Government aims to generate 50% of Scotland’s overall energy consumption from renewable sources and by 2050 to have decarbonised our energy systems almost completely. It hoped to achieve this via a range of options including making it easier to invest in local and small-scale renewables.

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However, the current experience of farmers and crofters on the ground is that connectivity restrictions are significantly limiting investment and growth of renewables. The union had received several reports from members who had been seeking to invest in, or increase their use of renewable energy but are restricted due to local connectivity issues.

At the same time, planning requirements around small-scale ground-mounted solar, or wind installations for self-supply were holding back those who were looking to address soaring energy costs in a positive manner.

NFUS' climate change policy manager, Kate Hopper, said: “It is clear from member feedback that connectivity issues and rules and regulations around planning are limiting the contribution that Scotland’s farmers and crofters can make to the nation’s energy supplies and that frustration is growing.

“NFU Scotland is seeking assurances from the Scottish Government that businesses seeking to increase their production and use of renewable energy are enabled to do so; to help to tackle climate change and deliver on Scottish Government objectives.

“We are looking to the Scottish Government’s forthcoming 'Energy Strategy' and 'Just Transition Plan' to champion local energy as a vital part of a vibrant national energy network and our future energy mix, prioritising locally owned and shared ownership opportunities between farmers, crofters, landowners and providers.

“On farm energy and agri-renewables spell exciting opportunities for NFUS members, with the potential to support Just Transition, boosting both the economy and energy efficiency in rural Scotland as well as supporting farms to become carbon neutral. But many of those looking to produce energy are being stifled.

“To move forward, Scottish Government must resolve the significant issues that farmers and crofts are facing and the barriers to installation of on farm renewables. These includes the prohibitive costs associated with development of, and connection to the distribution network by operators for all types and all scales of energy generation.

"We also need investment in engineering and technological solutions to deliver decentralised energy, such as electrolysers, battery storage, and grid connectors.

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“At the same time, we are calling for legislative changes to enable fast-track installation of ground mounted solar and on shore small turbines where these are being installed for self-supply,” she argued.

Meanwhile, Gordon MP, Richard Thomson, has written to the UK Government with concerns that connectivity restrictions to the national grid have been significantly limiting investment and growth of renewables and asking that it intervene with the energy transmission companies to ensure new capacity is available.

He told The SF: “Here in the North-east, we’ve seen the challenge of playing our part in the expansion of renewables and the opportunities that brings being enthusiastically taken-up over the past two decades. However, capacity on the transmission network can be an issue.

"We’ve seen welcome investments from SSEN over recent years in new sub-stations and transmission facilities at Kintore, Rothienorman and Keith, which has and will greatly enhance capacity and resilience. But we need to ensure that no part of the country is left behind.

“I’m aware that the NFUS has voiced concerns based on the experience of some of its members about their experience with grid connectivity. I have, therefore, written to the UK Government urging them to ensure that the energy transmission companies have a robust plan in place for increasing connectivity as we strive to meet our climate obligations.”