Renewable Energy Sector (Ministerial Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 February 2024.

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Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions the net zero secretary has had with ministerial colleagues regarding the role of the renewable energy sector in meeting its net zero ambitions. (S6O-03074)

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition regularly meets with ministerial colleagues to discuss how to maximise the role of the renewable energy sector in meeting our net zero ambitions and delivering wider benefits for the Scottish economy. The energy transition offers significant economic opportunities for Scotland and is essential to reducing our emissions. We must also ensure that it delivers for the people, workers, communities and economy of Scotland. It is critical that we work together to deliver a just transition to a net zero energy system.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

Recent reports that renewables technologies generated the equivalent of 113 per cent of Scotland’s overall electricity consumption in 2022 were welcome. How will the Government’s planned green industrial strategy bring about the investment that our renewables industry needs to build on that success and fully deliver our net zero ambitions?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Those statistics show that the actions that we are taking to scale up renewable energy capacity to transform and expand Scotland’s clean energy generation sector are working. Developing a green industrial strategy is a signal that we are serious about capturing for Scotland the economic benefits of the global transition to net zero. The strategy will sit alongside and support our just transition plans, and we will set out our plans to secure a fair transition to net zero for specific high-emitting sectors of the economy. It will offer a clear view of the economic sectors and industries where we have the greatest strength and the most potential and of what the Government will do to support them, so that we can give the private sector confidence to make decisions and invest in Scotland.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

It can take more than a decade for offshore wind farms to complete the planning and consent process. The Government wants to cut that time, but industry is sceptical that enough specialists and planners will be recruited. What can the minister tell industry to reassure it that the Government has made progress on that? In other words, how many more planners have been recruited in the last while?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The member is quite right that the planning system has a crucial role to play. We have engaged extensively with the United Kingdom Government to seek the devolution of the necessary powers to Scotland to provide a modernised grid consenting regime that is fit for purpose. The member is correct that planning and consenting are key to unlocking our energy potential, and the Scottish Government is working hard to do so.

Photo of Stephanie Callaghan Stephanie Callaghan Scottish National Party

We know that solar energy is a crucial contributor to achieving an affordable energy mix and a just transition. While the Scottish Government’s commitment to enhance solar energy generation by 2030 is incredibly welcome, there is a notable constraint while the current cap on energy generation is set at 50kW. Can the minister provide reassurance that the Government is working towards removing such output restrictions, so that people can reap the benefits?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

While policy and regulation in respect of electricity networks is reserved to the UK Government, we have established a local electricity networks co-ordination group, which brings together representatives from different sectors to find ways forward on exactly such issues. In some places, where there is a wish for a generation project greater than 50kW to be connected to the distribution network, the distribution network operator is required to seek approval from the electricity system operator. That is because there may be a wider system impact on transmission as well as on the distribution network. We recognise that that can result in cost and time delays in connecting such projects.