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Removing outdated barriers will help roll out solar power in Scotland, MSPs say

Solar energy would lower bills and create thousands of jobs, experts say (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)
Solar energy would lower bills and create thousands of jobs, experts say (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

A cross-party group of MSPs has urged the Scottish Government to put its words on solar energy deployment into action by removing “outdated” policy barriers.

The group of MSPs from all five of the Scottish Parliament’s parties have co-signed a letter to Energy Secretary Michael Matheson to call on the Scottish Government to work with industry experts to remove legacy planning barriers.

The intervention follows a Scottish Parliament debate last month where all parties expressed their support for the solar industry in Scotland but flagged a range of concerns which are holding the industry back.

Benefits of solar energy include lower consumer bills, greater energy security and diversified income for farmers.

Coronavirus – Tue May 26, 2020
Energy Secretary Michael Matheson has been urged to help remove the barriers of deploying solar energy across Scotland (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

But permitted development rights and non-domestic rates are adding unnecessary regulatory burden and cost onto local authorities and Scottish businesses, the debate heard, while long wait times and high grid connection costs make it difficult to complete projects.

Now Solar Energy Scotland is urging the Scottish Government to set an ambition of 4-6GW deployment by 2030 in its energy strategy, which is expected in the autumn.

If constraints are removed, experts suggest more than 8,500 jobs would be created by 2030.

In the letter, MSPs told Mr Matheson: “A consensus is forming, and the solar industry is ready and willing to work with Scottish Government to meet their legally binding targets for a just transition.

“It is time to give solar a seat at the table.”

The letter was signed by SNP MSP Paul McLennan, Conservative Brian Whittle, Labour’s Monica Lennon, Mark Ruskell, a Green MSP and Liam McArthur from the Liberal Democrats.

Thomas McMillan, chair of Solar Energy Scotland, said: “The debate in the Scottish Parliament demonstrated the strong consensus across party lines that solar can deliver for Scotland.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to act and convene a working group that will look at how to lift the outdated policy barriers that are holding Scotland’s industry back.

“There’s a real appetite for solar energy and all the benefits it can deliver – lower consumer bills, greater energy security, diversified income for farmers and landowners and thousands of high-quality green jobs.

“Solar is subsidy-free and ready to grow.

“We have an essential role to play in delivering a just transition in Scotland and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to achieve it.”

A Scottish Government spokesman pointed to a committed £2 billion in low carbon funding to create “green jobs”.

He said: “The Scottish Government recognises the importance of energy generated from solar power in contributing to the decarbonisation of our energy supply.

Solar farm
A letter said it is ‘time to give solar a seat at the table’ (PA)

“Solar energy as a source of renewable electricity and renewable heat is encouraged and promoted across various policy initiatives and projects, which includes funding for solar projects through the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES).

“To date this scheme has provided support to over 600 community and locally owned renewable projects throughout Scotland.”

He added: “Following detailed scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament and public consultation, we are currently considering views on the draft National Planning Framework 4.

“The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth, Tom Arthur MSP, has written to the Convenor of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee to notify them of our intention to lay a final NPF in the Scottish Parliament in the autumn.

“We have committed to delivering our first Just Transition Plan as part of the forthcoming refreshed Scottish Energy Strategy, and will work in partnership with businesses, workers and communities to ensure this provides the certainty needed for investment in our net zero journey.”

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