Microgeneration strategy for Scotland

Following on from the Renewables Routemap 2020, this is a sectoral routemap for microgeneration.

3 Technologies

Successes and Actions To Date

  • The Scottish Government's support for renewables has created the right environment to encourage investment in manufacturing of microgeneration. Small-scale wind, air source heat pumps and solar thermal technologies are being made in Scotland, creating new jobs.
  • Increasing demand for biomass for heat has led to a growing list of suppliers delivering to local heat markets, particularly in rural areas, and significant investment in manufacturing of high grade wood pellet by companies such as Hot Stovies, Puffin Pellets, Balcas and Verdo Renewables.
  • The Energy Technology Partnership ( ETP), with £3m funding from Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council, European Regional Development Fund, Scottish Enterprise and ETP Member Universities, has established a Knowledge Exchange Network which, inter alia, will support Scottish microgeneration SMEs by linking them with the world class research being carried out in Scottish universities.
  • RenewNet is an industry engagement platform funded by the Scottish Funding Council and European Regional Development Fund, and Member Universities. RenewNet offers specialist electrical power engineering advice and guidance to Scottish microgeneration SMEs, enabling these companies to gain access to University expertise and facilities and accelerate their technology.
  • The Scottish Energy Installers Alliance is represented on the Steering Group for the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, to strengthen links between existing industry competencies and microgeneration standards.

Microgeneration covers a wide range of technologies which generate heat or electricity. Choosing the right technology best suited to a particular property and application depends on a number of factors. Some technologies such as air source heat pumps can be used on most properties while others such as micro-hydro depend on a suitable site being available.

Key determinants are likely to be the location and design of the building for which the energy is being generated and its existing energy demand. Design encompasses both how the technology is integrates with the building's energy system, how it will be used and, as well as its appearance, with some microgeneration technologies introducing new features, shapes and height into the landscape.

We set out below the most common technologies in use and also look at Scottish investment and innovation in the future of microgeneration and home energy systems.

3.1 Today's Microgeneration Technologies

To generate electricity

Solar panels ( PV)

Solar electricity systems, commonly known as solar photovoltaics ( PV) capture the sun's energy using photovoltaic cells. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run household appliances and lighting.

Wind turbines

Wind turbines harness the power of the wind and use it to generate electricity. Small systems known as 'microwind' or 'small-wind' turbines can produce electricity to help power the lights and electrical appliances in a typical home.


Here, running water is used to generate electricity, whether it's a small stream or a larger river. Small or micro hydroelectricity systems can produce enough electricity for lighting and electrical appliances in an average home.

To generate heat

Wood-fuelled heating

Heat and hot water from wood-fuelled stoves and boilers. Wood-fuelled or biomass heating systems burn wood pellets, chips or logs to power central heating and hot water boilers or to provide warmth in a single room.

Solar water heating

Solar water heating systems use free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water, with a conventional boiler or immersion heater as backup, to make the water hotter or provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground. This is usually used to heat radiators or underfloor heating systems and hot water.

Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air. This heat is usually used to heat radiators, underfloor heating systems, or warm air convectors and hot water in your home.

To generate electricity and heat

Micro- CHP (micro combined heat and power)

'Micro- CHP' stands for micro combined heat and power. This refers to a heating technology which generates heat and electricity simultaneously, from the same energy source, in individual homes or buildings.

More info:

  • The EST's Home Energy Selector can help select the most suitable technology for your property and the EST's website has real life examples of the technologies in use in Scotland.
  • Scottish Government Building Standards Low Carbon Technical Guides provide details on the technical aspects of the installation, operation and maintenance of microgeneration technologies.

3.2 Quality and Standards

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme ( MCS): This is an industry-led scheme focussing on ensuring the quality of micro-renewable technology and installations.

The UK Government's Microgeneration Industry Contact Group Action Plan sets up working groups to look at a number of key areas including:

  • The Microgeneration Certification Scheme: This taskgroup aims to maximise the effectiveness of the MCS scheme in ensuring high-quality design and installation of microgeneration systems and improve consumer confidence. MCS is working with SummitSkills and other stakeholders to include formally the national competency framework for environmental technologies in the MCS installation standards.
  • Insurance and Warranties: This taskgroup aims to ensure that effective consumer protection schemes are identified and fully communicated to the market and is providing input to the UK Government on the development of consumer protection mechanisms under Green Deal

The Scottish Government liaises with the Microgeneration Government Industry Contact Group and the Scottish Energy Installers Alliance is represented on the MCS Steering Group and working groups.

3.3 Design

As with any energy systems, good design is essential for the efficient and effective operation of microgeneration. The Scottish Government supported the Energy Saving Trust's field trials of domestic wind turbines, heat pumps, and solar water heating systems. These field trials were on a scale never undertaken before in Scotland and the rest of the UK, and investigated how well these systems worked in real homes and how householders interacted with the systems. The findings have helped to improve industry standards, consumer guidance and government policy, for example Microgeneration Certification Scheme standards for heat pumps and wind turbines have been updated in light of the findings and improved consumer guidance on making the most of these systems has been rolled out through the Energy Saving Scotland advice centres and on the EST's website.

3.4 Investing in Scotland

Business support

The Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise offer a range of business development services to companies engaged in the microgeneration sector.

  • The Business Gateway provides a 'one stop shop' facility for individuals seeking to start a new business as well as a broad range of advisory and support services for existing businesses seeking to improve their performance.
  • Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Island Enterprise support companies in Scotland that have significant growth potential and aspirations through providing access to advice and funding for innovation, investment, training and infrastructure development. As well as supporting existing companies, the Enterprise agencies also work to enable new businesses to break into microgeneration supply chains. Examples of companies assisted include Gaia Wind, Kingspan and Solar Energy Scotland.
  • One particular speciality is the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service which provides specific and direct support for businesses seeking to expand and/or improve their manufacturing operations.

Tomorrow's Microgeneration Technologies

Scotland has a world-class reputation in energy research. The Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) is an alliance of independent Scottish Universities, engaged in world class energy-related Research, Development and Demonstration ( RD&D), and is the largest research partnership of its kind in Europe. Currently the ETP is:

  • supporting 10 PhD studentships developing innovative approaches to microgeneration, including the use of advanced thermoelectric technologies for generating electricity from waste heat; energy storage techniques to allow greater penetration of intermittent energy generation into the grid; use of microgeneration to power water treatment plants; and improvement to the effectiveness and integration of microgeneration in the built environment.
  • offering support to several SMEs developing next generation, horizontal axis wind turbines for use in the built environment - a potential very large market - to overcome the technical challenges of previous models.

The Scottish Institute for Solar Energy Research (SISER) is an alliance of solar energy researchers, over 100 academics, research assistants and PhD students, across 10 Scottish universities. SISER was set up to enhance solar technology development collaborations within Scotland and between Scotland and the wider global community. SISER provides expertise and facilities to support up-and-coming R&D and future commercialisation in the field and is particularly interested in developing solar technologies that are relevant to Scotland and Northern Europe.

Other research and development on solar technologies in Scotland includes

  • Power Textiles develop and optimise textile fabrics on which solar (photovoltaic) cells have been directly integrated. Such fabrics have a wide variety of applications, including agricultural, disaster relief, architectural and military uses.
  • Sunamp are currently focused on research and development of an integrated heat store and processor, incorporating heat batteries with heat pumps. The technology is highly adaptable, able to be rapidly scaled and tuned to many different applications, including solar.
  • The Scottish Solar Energy Group (SSEG) promotes the use of solar in Scotland, Membership is open to all with an interest in solar energy.

Work is also being carried out by a number of Universities in operational environments where microgeneration technology can be brought together and tested in real scenarios. Integration of microgeneration technology would allow a building to use these technologies in an intelligent, sustainable and efficient operational manner. For example the Autonomous Building Research Programme led by Dundee University School of Architecture is constructing a Live/Work building operating independently any electrical energy grid connections, which will be monitored to review and refine the operational effectiveness of these technologies.

Micro- FC CHP (Micro Fuel Cell Combined Heat and Power)

Micro- FC CHP is a promising alternative to a wide variety of power generation appliances, promising high efficiency and extremely low environmental impact. They convert hydrogen to electrical and thermal energy, free off emissions - the only output by-product is pure water. Micro FC CHP is in a pre-commercial state, with 15,000 fuel cells under test in Japan. About 1,600 fuel cells CHP have been deployed in Europe and full commercial deployment is expected in 2015.

Micro Fuel Cell Combined Heat and Power on Shetland

A pioneer project on Fuel cell CHP is currently under development in collaboration between the Pure Energy® Centre based on Unst (Shetland), Lews Castle College in Stornoway (Western Isles) and KTP (knowledge Transfer Partnership). It aims to develop an innovative high efficient Fuel Cell system for the production of electricity, heat and cooling.

Scotland has significant experience of fuel cell micro- CHP. Berwickshire Housing Association installed Europe's first natural gas fuel cell CHP into a domestic property in Eyemouth in 2005. Companies such as Burdens Energy, Intelligent Energy CHP, Logan Energy, and the Pure Energy® Centre (see Box) are based in Scotland and work with a rapidly widening range of suppliers and technology developers to deliver cost-effective micro-generation solutions at domestic and industrial scale.

3.5 Grid

We fully recognise that there are challenges in respect of grid. These challenges are not unique to microgeneration technologies, as all forms of renewable energy generation present challenges in accommodating intermittency on the grid, and in connection to the grid in the first place. The Scottish Government will continue to work with key stakeholders to address these issues so that Scotland can benefit from a flexible electricity system that will securely deal with the increased penetration of renewables.

To take this forward, we have launched a collaborative working group comprising the Scottish Government, community groups and the Scottish distribution network owners ( DNOs). This group will identify pilot projects that will allow the DNOs and local communities to work together to test innovative ways of maximising existing grid capacity, incorporating community-owned renewable energy and influencing customer behaviour in terms of use of electricity.

3.6 Key Actions

Action 5 The Scottish Energy Installers Alliance will continue to work with MCS to strengthen links between existing industry competencies and microgeneration standards.

Action 6 The collaborative working group comprising the Scottish Government, community groups and the Scottish distribution network owners will work together to identify innovative ways of maximising existing grid capacity.


Scotland is well placed to become a European leader in harnessing the energy from a diverse mix of renewable energy resources. Here are examples of renewable energy technologies being manufactured in Scotland.

Sustainable Technologies

Sustainable technologies is a young company that were established 2 years ago. The company spent the first two years developing their own solar panel. They began production in 2012 and currently employ 4 members of staff. The company is run from a rural location, where they source all materials as locally as possible and operates from a zero-emission factory.

AES Solar

AES Solar was established in 1979 and was the first UK solar system designers and manufacturers in Scotland. They currently employ 9 staff and are involved in both small domestic scale systems and large commercial developments. Installations are carried out throughout the UK.

AES installed solar thermal collectors on the roofs of seven B listed Georgian tenements for Edinburgh Housing Co-operative delivering CO 2 emissions savings of between 14,159 - 32,043 kg CO 2/year


Mitsubishi have a factory based in Livingston where they produce their air sourced heat pumps. The air conditioning factory was set up in 1993 and they now employ over 460 people at that site and also have a training facility, opened in 2004, providing engineers with the qualification to install their range of Ecodan air source heat pumps. These have already been fitted to a block of flats in Glasgow.

Kingspan Wind

Kingspan Wind was established in 2011 - a branch of Kingspan Renewables & Environmental - and they manufacture small scale wind turbines from their production and technical facility in Stewarton, Ayrshire. The turbines that they manufacture were designed, developed and certified in Scotland, with Kingspan operating globally to newly accredited installer networks in a number of continents with countries ranging from New Zealand, Hong Kong, North America and Europe. The facility employs 14 full time members of staff and offers graduates undertaking their MSC studies the opportunity to gain further insight and experience within the sector. In addition to manufacturing and installer support operating from the Scottish facility - 90% of the companies supply chain are also based in Scotland.

Gaia Wind

Gaia wind is a manufacturer of small wind turbines and employ 40 staff in their Glasgow location after moving their headquarters to Scotland from Denmark. They also operate internationally with offices in Denmark and Italy and distributors in England, Ireland, France and USA. The employee skill set ranges from manufacturing, distribution and engineering to R&D, sales, marketing and administration.


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