The pandemic has slowed down the approval process for renewable energy schemes, with paperwork left “sitting on desks for weeks and weeks” due to a lack of staff, MSPs have heard.
A Holyrood committee was told the planning process for new schemes like wind farms was too slow, with the problem made worse by staff being redeployed due to coronavirus.
Morag Watson, director of policy at trade body Scottish Renewables, said the number of projects given consent had actually decreased since a “climate emergency” was declared in 2019.
The length of time for planning consent and the unpredictability of the process was a “major area of concern”, she said.
Ms Watson told Holyrood’s Energy Committee: “What we’ve seen, particularly during the current situation, is because staff in local authorities have been pulled on to other things, because people in the Scottish Government have been pulled on to other things – paperwork will literally sit on someone’s desk for weeks and weeks and weeks on end.
“We’ve spoken about how renewable energy projects can contribute to a green economic recovery.
“If they’re stuck sitting on somebody’s desk, that can’t happen.”
She said that while Scottish Renewables “fully understands” the need to put certain work on hold due to coronavirus, they remained concerned about delays to the fourth National Planning Framework – a strategy aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
The committee, which heard from a number of witnesses involved in renewable energy, was told it took an average of 11 years to get an offshore wind farm from the beginning of the planning phase into production.
Ms Watson said the 11-year timeframe would make meeting the Scottish Government’s climate change targets “challenging”.