Photovoltaics are installed within a complex framework of regulations, funding arrangements and planning policies. The framework not only varies between countries but also between provinces and even municipalities. In general the framework is designed to promote the use of renewable energy, including photovoltaics, and to reduce carbon emissions. However with national, regional and municipal governments involved and different departments responsible for different parts of the framework the general result can be somewhat fragmented with a general trend towards the promotion of renewables but with some policies and regulations working against the general trend and having negative impacts on the implementation of PV.
The main elements of the framework that impact on PV are:
* Building regulations
* Codes for “Green buildings”
* Capital subsidies for renewable systems
* Enhanced feed-in tariffs for renewable systems
* National, regional and local planning policy for renewable systems
Building regulations exist in all countries; generally they are neutral regarding their impact on the installation of PV systems, covering such topics as structural safety and insulation levels. However they can be used to require the installation of renewable energy systems. In Spain many larger buildings are now required to have a PV system (this includes: commercial buildings, showgrounds, offices, hospitals, clinics, hotels and hostels) and all buildings are required to have a solar thermal system. In Germany, the building regulations give credit for renewable systems that generate thermal energy, but not for electrical generation systems such as PV. This tends to encourage the installation of solar thermal systems which receive credit under the building regulations, instead of systems that generate electrical renewable energy such as photovoltaics.
Codes for “green buildings" are available in many countries. In contrast to the compulsory building regulations which have to be applied to all buildings these are optional. They tend to give credit for the installation of photovoltaic systems and can be an important driver for the inclusion of PV system in buildings. For example in the UK the Code for Sustainable Buildings credits PV systems and other renewable systems. A minimum Sustainable Buildings rating is now often required by funding bodies that may support regeneration projects or the construction of social housing. This is an important driver in the renewables market in the UK.
Capital subsidies for PV systems are not as common as they were and have been replaced by feed-in tariffs in some countries. Capital subsidies through competitive grant application mechanisms are still available in the UK through the Low Carbon Buildings Programme and in local and regional schemes in Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. An income tax credit system is also available to private individuals in France.
Enhanced feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic systems are available in Spain, Germany and France which provides a premium rate for all PV electricity. The German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) assures a fixed feed-in-tariff for grid-connected solar electricity over a time span of 20 years. Via the feed-in-tariff (currently ca. 46 cent/kWh, depending on the kind of system) the investment in a PV-system can be recovered during its lifetime with a reasonable return on investment. A limited feed-in tariff based support system is also available in Austria, but it has a limited budget so that only the first few applicants receive funding.
National, regional and municipal planning policy for renewable systems Planning policies promoting renewable energy tend to be developed, at least at the detailed level, at a municipal or regional level. This may or may not link to a national planning policy for renewable energy.
* In Austria there are no nationwide directives for the use of RES in the urban planning process or any rules or targets which set a certain percentage of electricity generation from RES for new buildings. Municipal bylaws may include planning requirements to increase energy efficiency of new or retrofit buildings and/or the use of renewable energy sources.
* In Germany local authorities may define urban areas where solar energy should be used based on a national legal framework. It is up to the local authorities to use the legal possibilities to realise urban planning with a focus on a solar development. The City of Marburg is about to launch the first solar obligation concerning thermal systems. This has caused some legal complications and controversy.
* In France there is no specific national policy to encourage the use of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) in the urban planning process. In response to this lack of national policy, some local authorities have implanted local policies. For instance, Greater Lyon, drew up on a voluntary basis a local policy to enforce the Rational Use of Energy and the use of RES in new buildings.
* In the Netherlands the emphasis in the urban planning process is with the municipalities. City Councils prepare structural plans which provide details of how to transform national and provincial policy into concrete plans. This leads to the development of an urban design which may prescribe energy performance, sustainability aspects, etc.
* In Spain land use legislation and energy planning are the responsibility of the Spanish Regional Governments called “Autonomous Communities” (AC). Within each AC, urban planning is developed at a local level by the Town Councils. The General Urban Distribution Plan is the main tool for urban planning in Spain. Once developed and approved by the Town Council, the proposal must receive the final approval by the Government of the AC, in order to come into effect. Regional legislation depends on the Regional governments (Autonomous Communities). For example, in the case of Madrid’s AC, the Energy Plan 2004-2012 aims at doubling the energy contribution from Renewable Energy Sources and a 10% reduction of CO2 emissions. Amongst the actions foreseen related to Photovoltaics, the promotion of PV systems in domestic and services sectors, and the support of municipal bylaws are mentioned. In September 2005, there were more than 30 municipal bylaws concerning solar technologies, most of them only dealing with Solar thermal. The region of Catalonia is by far the most active in this field, followed by Madrid and Valencia.
* In the UK a National Planning Policy Statement specifies the encouragement of renewable energy at a local level. In response local authorities draw up Local Development Frameworks. There is an increasing trend for authorities to include renewable energy rules in these. A typical rule is that all new large developments (10 or more dwelling or > 2000m2) must generate a percentage of their energy requirements from on-site renewables, percentages range from 10% - 40%. This is one of the main drivers in the installation of renewables in the UK at present.
Further information on the planning polices and regulatory frameworks in each of the participating PV UP-SCALE countries are given in the pdf documents which can be downloaded below:
* The Austrian planning process
* The German planning process
* The French planning process
* The planning process in the Netherlands
* The Spanish planning process
* The UK planning process
Further information on the economics of PV is available from the economics section of PV UP-SCALE and from the IEA PVPS Programme which produces both annual reports and yearly Trends in Photovoltaic Applications (look under “PV Trends”); which includes a review of the latest policy and regulatory framework for deployment. National reports are also available on the IEA PVPS website under “National Reports.”.