STA welcomes Gov move to remove planning permission for roof-top solar PV up to 1MW

New DCLG consultation could tackle an important barrier to deployment ----- Broader action needed urgently to tackle failure of large roof-top market & sector uncertainty

The STA has welcomed moves promised in DECC's recent Solar Strategy to extend permitted development to all non-domestic roof-top solar PV schemes up to 1MW in size. The proposal is contained in a newly published consultation [1] by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on technical planning issues. Currently planning permission is not required for solar schemes of up to 50kW in size, in most circumstances. If the move is successful this would mean that schemes 20 times this would not need planning permission in most circumstances.

250kW - 1MW roof top schemes are highly cost effective, requiring less support than many centralised technologies. They are also exceptionally efficient providing day time power when it is needed, at the point of use. There is frustration in the solar sector that, despite strong political rhetoric in support of the large roof-top sector, this is not matched by the policy framework [2]. As a result, just 65MW of roof top solar PV schemes in the 50kW - 5MW band were built from June 2013 - June 2014. This amounts to just a handful of large roof-top solar PV schemes each year. For example, the Bentley car factory roof is 5MW in size.

STA Chief Executive Paul Barwell said;

"We are pleased to see Government is taking an important step to help deliver the strong solar PV roof-top market set out as a key objective in the Solar Strategy. We very much welcome this move. Solar power enjoys the highest levels of public support and it is an attractive addition to many warehouses, supermarkets and commercial buildings. However, the very poor levels of large roof-top deployment show that much more needs to be done to put the promised 'rocket boosters' under this market. Larger roof-top schemes still face more deployment risks than they should and they risk being deprived of resources even when they are highly cost-effective. We will continue to press DECC to comprehensively tackle the barriers to its roof-top revolution set out in its Solar Strategy."

There is a wide range of reasons for the failure of the mid/large solar PV roof-top market in the UK, including the commercial EPC D requirement and the rapid degression time for FITs - this makes it hard to confidently stack up finance for larger projects, which take longer to plan and install. Having to wait for planning permission adds to these risks and is one factor in deterring investment. The STA has been highly proactive in defining 15 barriers to roof top deployment, many of which are reflected in DECC's Solar Strategy.

The DCLG consultation is focussed on solar power. However, the STA is also keen to see permitted development for larger solar thermal schemes too.

The need to unlock the mid/large roof top market has become urgent for the solar power industry, given major shake-ups to large-scale solar support. Despite the highest levels of technology popularity and exceptional cost reductions, DECC propose to excessively inhibit the large-scale solar industry compared to other technologies. This has created high levels of uncertainty and concern across the industry and it is important that the market has somewhere to go if UK solar firms are to retain their strength and cost-reduction trajectory. The STA is urging DECC to provide a level playing field for solar power. The industry is aiming to be subsidy-free before 2020, but this can only be achieved under a stable policy framework with sufficient volume in the market.

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