Scotland looks to the sun as England, Wales turn their backs

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Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing has this week confirmed that Scotland will not follow the rest of the U.K. in scrapping the grandfathering guarantee following the closure of the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme for sub-5 MW solar farms on April 1, 2016 in a move that further distances the Scots from their British counterparts south of the border.

While the Conservative U.K. government has introduced a raft of regressive proposals – including an 87% reduction of the FIT and bringing forward the end of the RO scheme by a year for small solar farms – the devolved Scottish government has been free to set part its own agenda.

This agenda includes keeping in place the grandfathering guarantee under the RO that ensures financial stability for solar developers and plant owners over the lifetime of the project.

"The U.K. government’s decision to slash support for renewables is misplaced and actively discourages investment in clean energy," said Ewing. "The industry needs clarity and certainty to allow the necessary decisions to be taken and I will what I can to support the 3,000 solar jobs in Scotland that are under threat."

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, praised the Scottish government’s sensible and sustained support for solar.

"With next year’s elections fast approaching, we look to all parties to continue to support Scotland’s clean energy transition by committing to produce an electricity demand reduction strategy and support the continued deployment of renewables."

Banks added that, with the right policies in place, Scotland could become the first country in the EU to deliver near-100% renewable energy by 2030.

Community scheme launched

In the nation’s capital, Edinburgh, that goal has taken a step closer to reality this week following the launch of an ambitious community solar project.

With a minimum purchase of £250 ($380) per person, Edinburgh residents can buy shares in a solar cooperative created to power public buildings.

The Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op scheme is aiming to include 25 of the city’s schools, as well as leisure and community centers, where solar panels will be installed across rooftops. Investors will receive an estimated 5% return on their money based on all excess energy that is sold to the national grid as the city moves towards a target of reducing its carbon emissions by 42% by 2020.

"This share offer is a great way for residents of Edinburgh – and beyond – to become part-owner of a renewable energy scheme," said Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon. "Anyone in Scotland, in fact anyone in the U.K., can apply to buy shares, but preference will be given to people living within the city of Edinburgh Council area.

"In total we are looking to raise £1.4 million ($2.1 million) and if the offer is, as we hope, oversubscribed, Edinburgh folk will be first in line."

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