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Fergus Ewing challenges Scottish Government over solar power ‘lack of ambition’

Former minister Fergus Ewing is one of group of MSPs challenging the ‘lack of overall ambition’ for solar power in Scotland (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
Former minister Fergus Ewing is one of group of MSPs challenging the ‘lack of overall ambition’ for solar power in Scotland (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Former energy minister Fergus Ewing is among a group of MSPs challenging ministers over the “lack of overall ambition” for solar power in Scotland.

The former SNP cabinet secretary has joined with others from across Holyrood to urge Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson to back a target of having a more than tenfold expansion in solar capacity by the end of this decade.

The group of MSPs said such a move could support thousands of jobs and added that retrofitting homes with solar panels could help households make savings on their energy bills of “up to £1,500 or more” at a time of soaring costs.

The MSPs, including Conservative environment spokesman Brian Whittle and Labour energy spokesman Colin Smyth, have urged the Scottish Government to “follow political will with concrete action” on solar energy.

Fitting solar panels on homes could help households save on energy bills (Andrew Matthews/PA)

In a letter to Mr Matheson, they urged ministers to set the target to have a “deployment ambition” of producing four to six gigawatts (GW) of electricity from solar power by 2030.

The group, which also includes Thomas McMillan, chairman of Solar Energy Scotland, stated: “The Scottish solar industry is ready to help deliver a just energy transition, but key policy barriers remain.

“These must be removed to meet Scotland’s climate targets and alleviate fuel poverty. First among these is the lack of overall ambition for solar deployment in Scotland.”

Setting such a target of four to six GW could “support nearly 9,000 Scottish jobs by 2030”, the politicians said in their letter, including for solar installers, site planners, manufacturing technicians and others.

The group of MSPs – which also includes the SNP’s Paul McLennan, a co-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as Green MSP Mark Ruskell and Liam McArthur and Willie Rennie from the Scottish Liberal Democrats – demanded the planned Scottish energy strategy “must include a solar energy deployment ambition of four to six GW by 2030”.

They told Mr Matheson: “As you will be acutely aware, millions of people and businesses are worried about how they will pay their energy bills, which are being kept high by our reliance on fossil fuels.

“We all agree that solar energy has a much bigger role to play in reducing running costs for households and businesses, and we believe much more can be done to support consumers and businesses to reduce bills and take action on climate change.”

Solar Energy Scotland chairman Mr McMillan, meanwhile, said having a goal of four to six GW from solar power by 2030 would ” be consistent with the Scottish Government’s existing targets for onshore and offshore wind”.

He added: “As a signal of intent, it would also encourage investment in the burgeoning sector – and meeting the target would be an instrumental tool not just in meeting climate emission reduction targets, but also to help alleviate fuel poverty and reduce business running costs.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the importance of solar power in contributing to our net zero journey and we remain committed to continuing to work with the solar sector to provide a supportive policy framework to help it continue to grow and deployment.

“We have been working closely with industry in recent months to co-design our draft solar vision which will be published for consultation in our Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.”