Microgeneration strategy for Scotland

Following on from the Renewables Routemap 2020, this is a sectoral routemap for microgeneration.

4 Planning and Regulation

Successes and Actions To Date

  • The Scottish Government has:
    - introduced permitted development rights for most microgeneration technologies for domestic and non-domestic properties.
    - provided updated online planning advice for microgeneration.
    - published low carbon technical guides for solar PV, solar thermal, air source heat pumps, and biomass.
  • SNH has provided new guidance on small-medium scale wind turbines alongside its guidance on micro-renewables and the natural heritage
  • SEPA has provided guidance for Run of River Hydro

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) supports investment in renewable energy projects at all scales of development, including microgeneration. The Scottish Government aims to remove barriers to the uptake of renewable energy and promote an ethos where the Government provides proportionate advice where there is a genuine need, allowing local solutions and avoiding duplication.

Planning and building standards take a holistic approach to improving the carbon footprint of buildings. Energy efficiency measures are usually the easiest and most cost effective way of reducing emissions. Microgeneration technologies will work best on well insulated homes, an approach supported by the advice and guidance available on planning and building regulations.

4.1 Planning Advice for Microgeneration

The existing established online format of renewables planning advice, which offers scope for regular updates, offers numerous advantages including keeping pace with the frequent changes in the renewables sector, particularly in terms of new technologies, innovations, new national policy initiatives, targets, incentives and planning practice. This approach has met with a favourable response from stakeholders.

In 2012, we carried out a review and replaced 'Annex 1: Planning for Micro renewables', with input from a targeted core reference group, including SNH, SEPA, Historic Scotland, Scottish Renewables, Energy Saving Trust, and the Microgeneration Strategy Stakeholder Group.

The launch of this updated online planning advice supplements the Directorate's existing suite of online renewables planning advice and it is intended to follow the established preferred format. This takes the form of the following:-

  • a 'snapshot' on where microgeneration lies and the dynamics which are influencing change;
  • 'suggested areas of focus' where Planning Authorities are expected to be focussing their effort;
  • 'opportunities within the planning processes' which provides practical tips chronologically at each stage of the planning process to maximise opportunities for microgeneration;
  • sections on technical information, typical planning considerations and useful references.

Typical planning considerations in determining planning applications for microgeneration include:

  • landscape and visual impact including the scale and number of installations. A landscape and visual assessment may be requested, but planning authorities must be alert to impacts on scheme viability in terms of time and cost and therefore all such requests should be proportionate to the proposal.
  • impacts on wildlife and habitat, ecosystems and biodiversity : Micro-hydro schemes require consent by SEPA under the Controlled Activities (Scotland) Regulations 2011, and there is guidance available on SEPA's website for information requirements needed to support an application. SNH's guidance note on 'Micro-renewables and the Natural Heritage' also provides further guidance to applicants.
  • impact on communities and other third parties - common issues to be addressed generally relate to siting, design/ appearance, amenity, public safety, and noise.
  • the historic environment: Permitted Development Rights do not apply to buildings that are listed or located in Conservation Areas, or sites of archaeological interest.
  • Aviation and Defence : It is recognised that all scales of wind energy, even micro-turbines, have potential to adversely impact on both civilian and military aviation interests.
  • Cumulative Impact: Assessing the cumulative impact of a range of technologies installed close to each other requires consideration of their effects in combination. As the number of microgeneration installations increases, so also does the need for cumulative impact to be assessed. In relation to microgeneration technologies however this is likely to be relatively localised and any cumulative impact assessment should not therefore be required to be extensive.

Small-scale wind

The level of interest from rural businesses, especially farmers, communities and individuals in small-scale wind means that cumulative impacts have the potential to increase in some areas. In March 2012, SNH provided additional guidance for small scale wind turbines to add to its suite of guidance on onshore wind, to assist planning authorities deal with the growing number of enquiries in particular:

This guidance will help planning authorities to assess individual proposals and the overall cumulative impact in an area, at a proportionate level to the scale of the impact. The Scottish Government and planning authorities have set up the Small Wind and Planning group to provide a forum where we can sit down with representatives of Heads of Planning to hear their concerns and identify key actions that could support effective decision making on wind turbine planning applications.


SEPA is supportive of renewable energy developments and has a hydro team focussing on streamlining and assessing applications for hydro developments. It is SEPA's duty to license hydro schemes and to make sure that the benefits delivered from renewable energy generation balance against any environmental impact. With this in mind, SEPA has designed screening guidance for hydro schemes that allow developers to tell at the scoping stage whether a development is potentially consentable. This is particularly tailored for smaller schemes. SEPA has also revisited the information requirements needed to support an application for a small scheme, and a developer should not have to carry out expensive survey work. In fact, in most cases for small schemes, developers will only need a walk over of the site, with photographs, if they can demonstrate their scheme passes the guidance.

All the guidance documents can be found on SEPA's website including

4.2 Permitted Development Rights

The Scottish Government introduced permitted development rights for most micro renewables on domestic properties in 2009 and 2010. This lifted or reduced the requirements for planning permission for most domestic microgeneration technologies:

  • installation of solar PV and solar thermal equipment that would be attached to a wall or roof of a dwelling house or a flat.
  • installation of free-standing solar PV and solar thermal equipment for a dwelling house
  • the installation, alteration or replacement of a Ground source heat pump or water source heat pump within the curtilage of a dwelling house or a building containing a flat.
  • Installation of free-standing wind turbines and air source heat pumps, subject to some restrictions such as the installation being not less than 100 m from the curtilage of another property.
  • Installation of flues for biomass and CHP systems, subject to some restrictions such as if the installation is in an Air Quality Management Area.

Permitted development rights were given to some technologies for use on non domestic buildings in March 2011.

4.3 Legislation

Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (CCSA 2009) is for implementation by Planning Authorities through their local development plans. As of 1 April 2010, Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 inserted a new section (3F) into the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997:

There is also a notable opportunity for Planning Authorities to discharge all or part of their Section 3F responsibilities for low and zero carbon generating technologies through microgeneration. There is particular reference to how Development Plans can identify potential for microgeneration developments in order to assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and address Planning Authorities' obligations in relation to low and zero carbon generating technologies.

Sustainability labelling was introduced to the building standards system on 1 May 2011 to reward new buildings that meet the 2010 standards with a Bronze level label. Further optional upper levels of sustainability are defined as Silver and Gold and these build on improvements to energy use and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The Bronze Active level and Silver Active level require the use of a low and zero carbon generating technology. This level of sustainability can assist local authorities to meet their obligations under Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 by identifying the use of LZCGT.

4.4 Building Standards

The Scottish building standards system allows for wide range of work to be done to new or in existing buildings without first gaining a building warrant. Routine or low risk work to one or two storey houses is exempt from requiring a warrant when the existing structure of the house is sufficient for the equipment loadings. Exempting these installations from the warrant process will remove unnecessary bureaucracy and assist with the achievement of carbon reduction targets.

Building standards promote the use of energy from renewable sources to meet Scotland's targets in relation to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and energy demand in buildings. In 2007, " The Sullivan Report - A Low Carbon Building Standards Strategy for Scotland" recommended staged improvements in energy standards in 2010 and 2013, with the aim of net zero carbon buildings in 2016/17 if practical. The current standards published in October 2010 require a 30% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from new buildings compared to the 2007 standards. The improvements made by the 2010 standards support the use of localised or building-integrated low carbon equipment as part of cost-effective solutions to meeting the standards. The review of energy standards for 2013 is currently underway, examining the potential for further emissions reduction.

The Scottish Government's Building Standards Division has produced a range of technical guides for low carbon equipment 2 including solar thermal, air and ground source heat pumps and biomass. A further guide on solar PV is under development.

4.5 Energy Performance Certificates

Renewable technologies will work best on well insulated, energy efficient houses. Under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required on construction, sale or rental of a building. This is a document which states the energy efficiency of a building based on an established UK methodology which includes a standardised way the building is used, allowing comparison between different buildings, and also provides the building owner with advice on a number of ways in which the efficiency could be improved in a cost-effective manner. The EPC is also used to support a range of Scottish and UK carbon and energy saving policies.

Under the FIT, it is now a requirement for buildings - both domestic and non-domestic - to have an EPC of Band D or better to be eligible for the full tariff for solar PV. More information on EPCs can be found on the Scottish Government's website.

From October 2012, the Scottish Government will record all EPCs produced for existing buildings on a single, central register, with lodgement of EPCs for new buildings following suit in 2013. In addition to enabling a more efficient implementation of the EU Directive, this central source of information will support a wide range of Scottish and UK policies on carbon and energy reduction, many of which are identified within this document.

4.6 Key Actions

Action 7 The Scottish Government will continue to engage with Heads of Planning Scotland and planning authorities on a regular basis to identify key actions that could support effective decision making on wind turbine planning applications.

Action 8 The Scottish Government's Building Standards Division will extend its Technical Guides for Low Carbon Equipment to include solar PV and consider other technologies for future guides, where appropriate.

Action 9 The Scottish Government is reviewing the energy standards for buildings, examining the potential for further emissions reductions in 2013 and will consult on its proposals later this year.


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