Scottish Government warned on plan to remove new building solar PV mandate. Image: Pxhere NC.

The Scottish Government has been warned that its plan to remove the need to install solar PV systems on new properties and instead install heat pumps could have “major unintended consequences,” said Solar Energy Scotland.

Under plans detailed in the Scottish Government’s second consultation on the “New Build Heat Standard”, the government intends to remove the need to install a solar PV system on new homes and other buildings from 2024.

Instead, the newly built homes would incorporate heating systems which produce zero direct greenhouse gas emissions at the point of use.

The impact of this could be £900 of needless expenditure on energy per property each year, according to calculations made by Solar Energy Scotland. This could worsen fuel poverty in new homes in Scotland.

“If this standard is enacted and solar PV is not mandated on new build housing with heat pumps, this will damage a successful Scottish business sector,” said Solar Energy Scotland policy analyst Emily Rice. 

Solar Energy Scotland argues that combining a heat pump with solar power can slash bills and greenhouse gas emissions together. In contrast, the risk of allowing developers to install a heat pump alone could raise costs for consumers substantially. 

“We cannot stress enough that unless solar is added to the heat pump notional house specification, to reduce overall energy bills, the interaction of the two will make energy bills higher for residents,” said Solar Energy Scotland in response to the consultation.

“This will lead to the first change in building regulations in history that does not reduce bills. This directly contradicts the policy objective of reducing the rate of energy poverty in Scotland.” 

Last week, Scotland revealed it is set to reform its planning rules for solar energy to incentivise rooftop installations at business and other non-residential properties across the nation.

The Scottish Government stated that it pledged to consult on lifting the need to obtain planning permission for larger solar installations on non-domestic buildings early next year, bringing it in line with planning rules in England.

By implementing policy that does not require planning permission for non-domestic solar installations, this could make the process simpler and could rapidly scale the Scottish solar industry much like the rest of the UK.

In October 2021, Solar Energy Scotland also called on the government to set a minimum target of 4GW of installed solar capacity by 2030, as it asked it to raise its game.

The Scottish Government had already been proposing 8-12GW onshore and 11GW offshore wind targets, but there hadn’t been a target for solar. An ambition of up to 6GW of solar would be possible, although at the time, the trade association was calling for 4GW.