LIB DEMS: Green minister is holding back Scottish solar power 

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie, right,  has described the situation as “astonishing” after Green minister Patrick Harvie wrote to him to refuse to raise limits on the size of solar power projects eligible for business rates relief.

Scotland’s planning system currently restricts development of solar panels on commercial properties more tightly than the rest of the UK. Currently there is a limit on the size of solar panel projects before they have to go through a planning application. In Scotland this limit is 50kW, while in the rest of the UK it is double that. Projects must produce less than 50kW in order for the business which installed it to be eligible for rates relief.

Solar Energy Scotland, a body representing the industry, have warned that the 50kW limit is outdated because as solar technology has developed, the area required to generate this amount of power has reduced significantly.

However responding to a letter from Mr Rennie, raising the issue on behalf of businesses in his North East Fife constituency, minister for zero carbon buildings Patrick Harvie would only say that the government’s “non-domestic rates policies are kept under review”.

Economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “Every solar panel installed on a building in Scotland is a blow struck against the energy crisis and Vladimir Putin’s fossil fuel blackmail. 

“Raising the cap on rates relief for solar developments is a common sense measure that could help businesses to bring down costs and support them through the tough winter ahead.

“The need to expand renewable energy and to move to cheaper forms of electricity production are both more urgent than ever. Solar power can help on both of these fronts.

“The UK Government has announced it will lift the 50kW cap for business rates relief. It means businesses won’t pay rates if they do their bit for the climate. It’s astonishing that the Scottish Government are not leaping at the opportunity to boost domestic solar power.

“Patrick Harvie is holding back Scottish solar power. His sole role in government seems to be greenwashing SNP failures.”

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