Paul Wheelhouse, the new Scottish energy minister, has told a business conference this week that the UK government singled out the solar energy industry for sweeping subsidy cuts.
The net effect has been a significant drop in support for the industry, with the number of residential installations now dropping below anticipated levels. The government's own caps are also now unfulfilled, and the industry slowdown has resulted in around 12,500 job losses, according to research commissioned by the Solar Trade Association and delivered by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
The new MSP admitted that Scotland's solar power sector was facing difficulties but stressed that these were not the doing of his predecessor or himself. He explained to the attendees from the solar industry that he understood the pressures that they faced and that the Scottish government now faced challenges that were largely not of its own making, including deployment caps, degressions and slashed tariffs.
He added, however, that the solar energy industry had faced challenges in the past and remained strong and resistant to difficult conditions. Wheelhouse also said that Scotland was in the fortunate position of being the richest nation in Europe for natural energy resources and that it would continue to support renewables.
On the topic of Brexit, he said that the referendum result had resulted in greater uncertainty, and he asked the industry to raise its concerns with his energy department to allow these to be relayed back to the UK government as part of ongoing negotiations. Regarding the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, he said he hoped that common sense would prevail.
Holyrood is requesting that the renewable heat incentive be amended to include solar thermal energy and is continuing to negotiate to retain its strong renewables position with Europe.