THE renewable energy sector has hit out at the UK Government for “trying to pull the rug” from solar projects in Scotland.

The UK Government has announced plans to remove support from wind and solar projects under the Renewables Obligation, cutting subsidies and undermining investor confidence.

In a new report, property consultant Carter Jonas found the removal of support from April 2016 had “significantly reduced” expected rates of return, meaning a five megawatt solar farm is no longer attractive to investors.

Until now such projects had been among the “most attractive technologies” and industry figures have hit out at Westminster for “jeopardising” Scottish jobs and efforts to meet carbon targets.

Jonathan Selwyn of the Solar Trade Association told The National: “We have got constant battles with the policy makers in London. Short term policy changes are hard to deal with.

We are just getting going in Scotland, there are all sorts of really good projects and just at the time we look like we are going to, by providing good amounts of power, it is trying to pull the rug from solar.

“If they haven’t gone into planning already, there won’t be any more.”

Research shows certain areas of Scotland are particularly suitable for solar developments, including Tayside and Dumfries and Galloway.

Data from industry body Scottish Renewables shows 10 solar parks awaiting construction, with planning permission submitted for a further seven.

Those approved include a 31 megawatt project in a former airfield near Dundee, and a 19mw scheme in a Montrose field.

Others still before planners include a 17mw scheme on agricultural land near Perth, as well as 9.5mw scheme near Abroath.

Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Last month the UK Government announced that support for larger solar installations of less than five megawatts will end a year earlier than previously planned, under plans which have been drawn up for consultation.

“More than 140mw of solar at this scale is awaiting construction or is in planning in Scotland alone.

“Parts of Scotland enjoy solar radiation levels as high as parts of the Midlands and Devon, and falling technology prices and our longer daylight hours now mean our country is seen as a viable place for solar.

“It is frustrating that support for one of the cheapest and most accessible forms of renewable energy is being withdrawn at such a crucial time in its path to being subsidy free – news that came as a further blow to a renewables industry already damaged by cuts to onshore wind support.”

Selwyn, who is also the managing director of Lark Energy, said the industry term for its treatment by regulators is a “solarcoaster”.

He said: “We have had incredible ups and downs. We want to build a successful business with many employees and it’s very difficult to do that when you can’t plan more than three months ahead.

“As an industry we have been telling the government by 2020 we will be the first energy industry not to require any subsidy at all.

“Nuclear has never been effective. The government is about to pump huge amounts into it.

“We know we can make it work. It’s not in every part but a lot of Scotland is very suitable.”

Dumfries and Galloway MP Richard Arkless said news that investors were backing off the industry was concerning for his constituency.

He said: “I am aware of developers within the constituency who would like to build solar farms. This throws it all up in the air. The government changes have jeopardised that investment in Dumfries and Galloway.

“We have got employment issues and the renewables sector has become a significant employer in the last ten years and we had hoped that would continue with solar parks but it looks like it is on the verge of being lost.”

Solar power met 15 per cent of UK’s energy demand on the afternoon of Friday July 3.

Developments attract far fewer objections than wind farms due to their reduced visual impact and are often placed on rented agricultural land, with farmers still able to utilise the sites for animals or crops like hay.

Scottish Government energy minister Fergus Ewing said he was committed to action in the solar sector, saying: “The Scottish Government were not consulted about the UK Government’s decision to close the Renewables Obligation early.

“The Scottish Government is continuing to discuss the proposals with the solar industry.”