Category Archives: legislation

Permitted development arrives for non-domestic microgeneration

A new Part 43 has been added to the permitted development regulations that finally allows microgeneration on non-domestic properties. This comes into force from 6th April but applies in England only.

There are a few major differences from the equivalent domestic permitted development, such as:

solar panels cannot be installed within one metre of the edge of a roof, solar panels cannot be installed on the roof of a building within a conservation area, wind turbines and air source heat pumps are not included.

Also included is a minor change to the existing wording of Part 40 for domestic installations that has minimal effect.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2012


HM Treasury have published the final proposed Finance Bill 2012 changes that will affect businesses who wish to make use of the First Year Allowances (FYA) of Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) and Annual Investment Allowances (AIA) in relation to plant and machinery that can also benefit from Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) subsidies.

A short explanation of the changes is: you can’t have both a tariff income, from either FiTs or RHI, and also claim a FYA write-down for the same plant.

The relevant section starts on page 480 of this document: Finance Bill 2012 – draft clauses and explanatory notes

FiTs loophole closure changes now implemented

DECC snuck out The Feed-in Tariffs (Specified Maximum Capacity and Functions) (Amendment No.3) Order 2011 at the end of September, while everyone was distracted by the RHI fiasco. This implements the changes that were required to remove the ‘loophole’ that allowed a solar-farm developer to install 50kW now and then extend to 5MW within 12 months whilst staying on the ‘old’ tariff and thereby side-stepping the fast track tariff reduction.

Unfortunately the amendment is written using legalistic ‘short hand’ that makes it almost impossible to understand directly. You have to take the changes back and apply them to the original legislation in order to see exactly what they mean.

But the impact is to remove the ability for an extension to an existing FiTs system, if made within the 12 month window that was previously allowed, to enjoy the existing tariffs. From the 18th October they will only be able to claim the tariffs that apply at the Eligibility Date for the extension. That doesn’t make an immediate difference for sub-50kW PV, for example, as the rates haven’t changed.

But it will be critical for anyone who was thinking of extending a, say, 2.5kW PV system which was installed in May this year, to a 4kW system before the 12 months runs out and expected to get paid the 43.3p rate for the whole system (plus whatever RPI uplift is to be added to that next April). They will only get the extension’s generation paid at whatever the new rate will be from next April. And this is widely rumoured to be substantially less than the current figure.

Here’s a before and after of the main amended section, showing which parts have been removed.

Another small update to FiTs legislation

DECC have announced another set of small amendments to the FiTs legislation. These come into force from 1st August 2011.

Of special note is that the period that microhydro systems (not more than 50kW) can be eligible for FiTs via ROO-FIT, instead of MCS, has been extended until 31st March 2012.

It also tidies up some other minor wordings to allow for tariff codes (used by OFGEM) to reflect year on year changes in rates and a change to Article 13, which is now amended to effectively say:

13. On or before 1st March immediately before the beginning of each FIT year (except FIT year 1), the Authority must publish in accordance with clause 3.3 of Part 1 of Schedule A to Standard Licence Condition 33 the FIT payment rate table which is to apply for that FIT year (subject to the Secretary of State substituting a new FIT payment rate table in Schedule A to Standard Licence Condition 33).

I do sometimes wonder if anyone at DECC has got a GCSE in English.

DECC issue consultation on Feed in Tariff loophole change

DECC have announced a short consultation on the changes they intend to introduce to plug the ’12 month extension’ loophole (see previous post). The consultation is now open and closes on 31st August.

Details of these changes are on the DECC page.

There is a subsidiary change proposed to the FiTs legislation that will remove the ‘terminological inexactitude’ that was introduced in the original FiTs SI that I have pointed out before. This relates to the date used to determine the start of the 12 month period. This will be changed from either Confirmation Date or Commissioning Date to Eligibility Date. Something that it should probably have been from the beginning.

DECC to plug Feed in Tariff loophole

DECC are apparently rushing to plug a loophole in the Feed In Tariff regulations that would allow a solar developer to extend an existing system within 12 months of the original installation and still qualify for the original rates.

I’ve mentioned this loophole several times on various fora – right from back in March this year when the fast-track review was first announced.

Pity DECC don’t seem to read all my posts.

1: Electricians Forum 20th March 2011
2: Navitron Forum 31st March

PV installs and Building Regs

There appears to be much disquiet at the moment over exactly how PV installation works are covered by Building Regulations.

Many Local Authority Building Control (LABC) departments are advising concerned callers that a Building Notice application is required at a cost, in some instances, of over £350 – even where the installer will be both MCS accredited and a member of a Part P electrical competent person scheme – in order to cover the non-Part P elements of the work, which would normally be Part A, covering any structural work on strengthening the roof. And it seems that this situation has not been helped by some rather unguarded comments issuing from the NICEIC.

As far as I can see any Building Notice required under Part A would be for notifying that strengthening works are to be or have been carried out on a roof – as a result of a structural survey.

There is no need to notify LABC that a roof is simply being assessed as to its suitability to carry a higher load or that a higher load is being imposed – with no need to strengthen it.

And any building work that is associated with Part P work (which is what a PV install is as far as the Building Regs are concerned) is automatically covered by the Part P CPS self-certification. This is written into the Building Regs legislation and has been since day 1 of Part P. In fact the wording to cover associated building work under CPS self-certification was first introduced way back in 2002.

So, as far as the legislation is concerned, if an installer is competent to self-certify for the Part P electrical work then they are also considered competent for all the other work carried out at the same time and, as far as the LABC should be concerned, is covered by the same self-certification.

This all comes hot on the heels of the recent news that some Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) were advising homeowners that their planned PV installation required planning approval even though it would usually be covered by the revised Permitted Development legislation that has been introduced by central government over the past few years – specifically to remove this particular barrier to the wider roll-out of microgeneration.

I suppose that this sort of reaction by LABCs and LPAs is a result, in these days of financial restraint, of scrambling to get as much revenue in from their customers as possible. But this is not the right (or legal) way of doing it.

The relevant parts are included in paras 17 and 20 of Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations 2010.

FiTs legislation updated

The following changes to Feed-in Tariff legislation will be coming into force 30th May 2011.

The Feed-in Tariffs (Specified Maximum Capacity and Functions) (Amendment) Order 2011

There are three main changes in this:

1. changing the maximum 5MW limit for FiTs to apply to total installed capacity (TIC) instead of declared net capacity (DNC) as in the original legislation.

2. amending the hydro eligibility rules to allow <50kW non-MCS systems until 1st October 2011.

3. rewriting and clarifying the rules on state aid and de minimis aid. Additionally this now imposes cut-off dates for systems where the aid must be accepted before 1st July 2011 and the system must be first commissioned before 1st October 2011. It appears that after these dates that even de minimis aid will now no longer be available to system owners who want to avail themselves of FiTs.

The existing legislation: The Feed-in Tariffs (Specified Maximum Capacity and Functions) Order 2010

Northern Ireland finally welcomes microgeneration

Northern Ireland will introduce permitted development legislation for some microgeneration systems from 6th April 2011 – finally bringing it in line with the rest of the UK.

A few details are different and are worth highlighting:

- planning permission will still be required for solar panels on roof slopes in conservation areas where they face roads
- conditions that require minimising effects on appearance or amenity have not been included
- Air Source Heat Pumps and wind turbines have not been included

Permitted development for non-domestic renewables in Scotland

The Scottish parliament have introduced legislation that will allow solar installations to be permitted development on non-domestic buildings from 18th March 2011.

Similar restrictions apply as for domestic roofs – 200mm above the roof plane, listed buildings, etc and the total of all electrical renewables on a single site cannot exceed 50kW. So if you want to go bigger then you will still have to apply for planning permission.

Work associated with heat pumps and biomass are also included – but wind turbines and ASHPs are not.