SCOTLAND'S farm renewables sector needs the UK Government to commit to continuing Feed-in Tariffs beyond 2019.

An industry delegation, co-ordinated by Scottish Renewables, and including NFU Scotland’s North-east region renewables co-ordinator David Smith, met with UK Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Clare Perry, in London this week.

Production from community and locally owned renewable energy sites in Scotland, including farms and estates, already accounts for almost 20% – some 1,664 gigaWatt hours – of total Scottish renewable energy production, bringing substantial benefits to farm businesses and the rural economy.

But the delegation stressed that growth will only be maintained with an early Westminster commitment to continue FiTs beyond 2019 .

Mr Smith, of Skelmonae Windfarm, a family run four-turbine installation near Ellon, said: “It is most disappointing that, as things stand, FiTS are being phased out at this important time for renewable energy development.

"As the technology becomes more affordable and efficient, there is greater potential for rural communities and businesses to grab the opportunity and take advantage of the free wind, sun and water to cheaply and efficiently heat their homes, schools and village halls.

“At a farm level, dairy farmers, poultry and pig producers as well as the horticulture sector are all dependant on using large volumes of electricity and heat, and the ability to produce and use their own power would help them to become more efficient and reduce their costs," said Mr Smith.

“Energy storage is also becoming more efficient and affordable. This has the potential of spreading the power produced, when the sun shines and the wind blows, throughout the whole day, as and when the peak demand requires it, such as at milking time or a couple of hours before the local church or village hall opens."

He added that, for important local facilities like church halls and community centres, the ability to store cheap renewable energy would mean they could be kept warm and dry at all times.

The total installed capacity of renewables electricity in Scotland has trebled since 2008 and is now equivalent to 68% of Scotland’s energy consumption.

Since June 2016, the largest proportional increases in operational capacity have been in the community group and housing association ownership categories, with capacities increasing by 21% and 25% respectively.

On their own, 600 renewable energy installations on Scottish farms and estates have a capacity of 266 Megawatts (around 3% of Scotland’s total renewable energy capacity), 78% of which comes from wind, with a further 10% coming from biomass.

“To cut FiTs at this time risks putting the brakes on investment and planning for future developments," warned Mr Smith. "There is still a lot more potential and possibilities for renewable energy in the future, but FiTs are an essential part of making new projects economically viable."

Politically, while FITS might seem like further expenditure to Government, the delegation stressed that there will be an opportunity in many cases to recover much of this investment over the years in the form of taxation and council rates.