Skills and finance shortage may hamper Scottish renewable energy targets

The Scottish Government's ambitious renewable energy targets are at risk because of a skills and finance shortage in small businesses, an inquiry has found. 

The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee found that targets to make Scotland Europe's 'green capital' could still be met but only if issues highlighted by the report were acted upon.

The Government has pledged to generate all of Scotland's electricity via renewable energy by 2020, and 11 per cent of the demand for heat from renewable sources by the same year.

The Committee argues that the reluctance of some banks to invest to small and medium sized renewable projects could lead to slow growth in the industry.

Deputy Convener of the Committee, Dennis Robertson, said: "The overwhelming message from investors was that strong leadership and a robust and reliable investment climate and subsidy regime is critical for the targets to be met."

The Committee also recommended that low take up of subjects such as engineering, maths and science in colleges and universities needed to be addressed in order to fill a renewable energy skills shortage.

Elsewhere, the report found that local authorities were under increasing pressure with a high volume of planning applications from projects, while concerns were raised about the ability of Scotland's infrastructure to support new renewable energy.

Fears over the impact of renewable projects such as wind farms on the tourism industry were, according to the report, unfounded.

The Committee calls for the Scottish and UK Governments to work together to:

  • Simplify the planning process for businesses on consideration of local economic benefits
  • Improve academic and workplace courses to plug the skills gap
  • Address infrastructure issues to better harness renewable power from Scotland's islands
  • Gather evidence from visitors to Scotland on the impact of renewable projects 
  • End the delay of the domestic renewable heat incentive, which could offer support to households looking to replace their current heating systems with biomass boilers, heat pumps and solar panels.