Microgeneration moves to mainstream in Scotland

Micro-renewables are set to become a standard part of any new development north of the border if the Scottish Executive approves a new planning policy.

The policy would require all new build to generate at least 10% of its energy on site.

If the draft planning policy on renewable energy gets the green light from the executive, Scotland will become the first country in the UK to require all new housing to include integrated power generation.

The policy will also apply to commercial and industrial developments.

Back in May the executive announced it would be providing extra funding to support microgeneration (see related story) but this revision of planning guidance turns aspiration into obligation.

The move comes as an attempt not only to increase the use of renewables, but also to reduce the need for large-scale renewable generation, such as wind farms, in environmentally and politically sensitive locations.

“Scotland has enormous natural renewable sources,” said Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm.

“We have a golden opportunity – uniquely in the UK – to harness this for the benefit of all our communities.

“Our target is to generate 40 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but I would like see us go beyond this and make further impact in reducing harmful carbon emissions.

“Planning has a vital role in ensuring that we get this right at the outset.

“A thriving renewables sector also has the potential to enhance Scotland’s manufacturing capacity, to develop new indigenous industries, particularly in rural areas and to provide significant export opportunities.

“It is important that the planning system provides greater certainty to communities and the renewables industry.

“This policy sets out a framework for the future identifying areas where development is most likely to be supported and those areas which should be avoided.

“At the same time it also tackles issues about the cumulative impact of wind farms, and the potential harmful effect on local communities, tourism, scenery and historic buildings.

“We also want to encourage more householders to consider micro-renewable options for generating power on top of their home or in their back yard and how we can remove unnecessary red tape. We are positively considering how we use permitted development rights for micro-renewables.

“Micro-renewables, like solar power and wind turbines and biomass, also offer potential for a range of residential, commercial and leisure developments.

“For new developments, we propose that a minimum of ten per cent of their energy needs are met by on-site renewables.

“Scotland is the first country in the UK to propose such a requirement – so we are keen to hear everybody’s views on how and where it should apply.

“Micro-renewables also offer affordable and sustainable power for communities across Scotland – particularly in more remote areas.”

In an effort to demonstrate how unobtrusive microgeneration can be, Mr Chisholm launched the draft policy at a sheltered housing development in Edinburgh which has installed a “silent” rooftop horizontal access wind turbine to power heating, lighting and other shared electric services.

Tenant James McInnes, whose flat is just below the turbine, said:

“I don’t hear it and it’s right outside my window. I think it’s a good thing, particularly if it reduces the bills for the tenants. We should adopt more of these things, especially if it reduces climate change.”

Copies of the draft Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) 6: Renewable Energy can be found by following the link.

Sam Bond

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