Guide to Green Energy and the Rules That Apply in the UK

When domestic solar panels first became available in the UK, many families were keen to “green” their homes and save on electricity. Unfortunately, thousands were put off by the need to apply for planning permission from their local council before they could install the panels.

Happily, this is no longer the case for most people thanks to a major reform of the country’s planning rules. One of the changes approved by government a a couple of years ago means that you can now <#66#>install solar panels on your house<#> without getting Town Hall permission – provided that the proposal won’t impact on other people.

Differing Rules

It’s important to note that the relaxing of restrictions applies to private houses – if you live in a flat or some type of community development then different rules may apply. If your home is a listed building you will still need listed building consent and if you are in a Conservation Area, there are additional restrictions.

While planning permission for houses is not needed, there are still some rules that you need to follow. For example, the panels should not be installed above the roof ridgeline and they shouldn’t stick out more than 200mm from the wall or the roof surface.

In addition, they should always be installed where they will have the least effect on the appearance of the building.

Other Green Installations

The government also wants to encourage micro-generation technologies such as ground source heat pumps and in most cases they no longer need planning consent.

Ministers say they are also planning to remove the need for planning consent for air source heat pumps and domestic wind turbines fitted to detached properties (although permission is needed from the EU before these rules can be changed.)

Hydro Electricity

If you are planning a hydro-electricity project you will still usually need planning permission whereas a biomass system won’t normally need consent if you meet certain conditions.

In most cases you can also install an internal micro combined heat and power system, subject to conditions about the external flue

Building Regulations

But although you can now install solar panels and certain other technologies without planning consent, it’s important to remember that this is totally different to Building Regulations Approval.

In most cases, you will still have to get approval under Buildings Regulations before the work starts.

In the case of solar panels, for example, it’s important that the roof structure is capable of supporting the panels and any electrical work will need to be specified.

Contact Your Local Council

And since there are exceptions to the new planning permission rules, it is always worth speaking to your local planning department at the earliest design stage. That way, you can be sure that your installation is not breaching any rules.

In many cases where planning permission is not needed, Building Regulations Approval will be given very quickly so it won’t hold up your work for long.

Independent Contractor

Alternatively, under the new regulations, you can hire an Approved Inspector who can self-certify that the work meets the standard required. You will need to inform the local council of this but your inspector can then check your plans, oversee the work as it progresses and issue a final certificate.

The Green Deal, ECO and RHI Initiatives

Following an EU directive to reduce carbon output – each member state has been given its own target. The UK has implemented 2 main initiatives towards complying with this and hitting its targets. The aim is to get householders saving as much energy as possible (and staying warm in winter) in an affordable way. The ECO (Energy Companies Obligation) and Green Deal Schemes will help people in the form of:

  • Free installations of insulation measures and/or boilers(ECO)
  • Grants towards insulation and boilers (Part Green Deal)
  • Loans easily repayable through your energy bill (Green Deal)

There is also a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for ‘off the gas grid’ houses to implement renewable heating measures such as biomass, ground & air source heat pumps and solar thermal.

Consumer and Installer Protection

To protect consumers and installers, a full assessment report will be carried out – detailing which measures are applicable to a specific household. All installers will need to be PAS2030 accredited before they can carry out any work under the ECO or Green Deal schemes. For renewable heat measures, installers will also need MCS (Micro generation scheme) accreditation.

If You are an Installer

If you are an installer looking take up these opportunities, there are two aspects you need to demonstrate you can do to certain standards in order to achieve PAS2030 accreditation: (1) Paperwork (2) Physical implementation. Both aspects are inspected by an approved certification body on the same day. The paperwork aspect is the one that most installers have a problem with as you need to demonstrate the full quality management process- and as an installer, you may want to look at purchasing an approved system, such as QMS Manager (this is the one we’re most familiar with).

There is a lot of information about Green Deal/ECO for households but we’re interested to know how it’s impacting builders, developers and installers particularly those undertaking renovation projects. Is it fitting in with your ‘sustainable’ projects? Please comment here or on our facebook page.