June 5, 2024

Scots to Enjoy New Incentives For Rooftop Solar Installations

Scotland has removed the requirement for planning permission for rooftop solar panels, which was previously necessary for installations over 50 kilowatts.

Planning Permission No More Required

The Scottish solar energy industry supports the government’s decision to abolish the planning permission requirement for rooftop solar panels, which was previously necessary for installations over 50 kilowatts. This change, along with the removal of non-domestic rates for rooftop solar last year, is expected to ease access to solar installations.

Under the new rules, flat roof systems can be installed as permitted developments, with specific criteria for installations in conservation areas, excluding World Heritage sites and listed buildings. This simplification is expected to accelerate the deployment of rooftop solar panels and help meet Scotland’s climate and solar deployment goals.

Flat roof systems may also be constructed under allowed development, as long as they do not protrude more than 1m from the roof surface. Solar development in protected zones is authorised under specific conditions, such as not being on primary elevations or adjacent to roadways. Only World Heritage sites and listed buildings are excluded from the new regulations.

Other Incentives

Additionally, free-standing solar panels within the curtilage of non-domestic buildings (up to 12 square meters) are now allowed, and restrictions for solar canopies have been relaxed.

Thomas McMillan, the Chair of Solar Energy Scotland, remarked that with persistently high energy costs, solar energy is a highly effective way to lower expenses for both residential and commercial buildings. He noted that the Scottish Government’s change simplifies and accelerates the installation process, which is greatly appreciated.

“With energy costs being persistently high, solar remains one of the most effective means of decreasing the charges of running residential and commercial buildings: this adjustment by the Scottish Government improves the process of installing solar faster and easier, which is enthusiastically welcomed,” McMillan stated.

In April, the Scottish Government announced plans to ease permitted development rights (PDRs) for rooftop solar installations. These measures aim to support the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 and enable consumers to access cheaper electricity.

Impacts of the New Regulation

According to Energy Lives News, the changes will eliminate the 50kW upper limit on most domestic and non-domestic buildings, meaning most rooftop solar projects outside of World Heritage sites or listed buildings will no longer require planning consent. This includes many projects within conservation areas.

McMillan welcomed the announcement, noting that simplifying the planning process for rooftop solar is a significant step towards achieving Scotland’s target of 6GW of solar capacity by 2030. With energy costs remaining high, he emphasized that solar is an effective way to reduce expenses for residential and commercial buildings, and the government’s changes will streamline the installation process.

These changes align Scotland with similar measures introduced in England on November 30, 2023, although some differences remain based on building types. Detailed planning guidelines for each nation should be followed to ensure compliance with permitted development rights.

Targeting 70GW of Solar Power by 2035

Scotland and England have recently removed an upper limit on their PDR rules. There are some changes depending on the type of construction, thus each nation's regulations should be observed to avoid planning breaches.

This will avoid the current ‘costly planning delays’ on solar panels, with applicants having to wait more than eight weeks, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

The DLUHC says the move will drive down energy bills for homeowners and businesses that install solar panels, as well as driving down emissions to support the government’s net zero commitments.

Minister for energy security and net zero, Graham Stuart, highlighted that lifting the 1MW restriction for industrial rooftop solar will contribute to achieving the target of 70GW of solar power by 2035. This move will also support the growth of skilled jobs in the British renewable energy sector and lead to reduced energy bills for consumers utilizing solar panels.

Scotland's removal of planning permission for rooftop solar panels and other incentives signal a significant stride towards renewable energy goals, streamlining processes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These changes align with England's efforts, aiming to drive down energy costs, support renewable energy sector growth, and advance towards net zero commitments by 2045.

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