Updates
General 09/11/2023

House letter Tightened preference order sun: what does it mean for you?

On Thursday, Oct. 26, outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge sent the parliamentary letter "Tightened preferential solar order" to the House of Representatives. In this letter additional requirements are presented for the development of solar parks on natural and agricultural land. These additional requirements came about as a result of the Administrative Consultation on Spatial Planning. Novar has received many questions about the room letter and media reports about it. Below we have listed the most frequently asked questions:

Chamber letter

An Administrative Consultation is a collaboration between the central government and other (government) organizations. The purpose is to exchange information and reach a decision on a specific policy issue. In this case, it was about spatial planning. Solar panels on land are one of them.

Five organizations participated in the Administrative Consultation on Spatial Planning:

  1. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK).
  2. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK).
  3. The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG).
  4. Interprovincial Consultation (IPO).
  5. Netbeheer Nederland 

A number of additional requirements for solar on agricultural and natural lands were presented in the room letter "Tightened Preferred Solar Order. A number of already existing items are also mentioned. Below are the additional requirements for a solar farm on agricultural and natural lands:


The legally binding 'solar ladder'

It is an oft-used term in solar and energy transition: the solar ladder. The solar ladder originated from the National Environmental Vision (NOVI). This contains agreements on the spatial planning of the Netherlands. The solar ladder consists of four steps. Each step indicates a preferred location for solar energy development. Steps one, two and three are preferred. If it turns out that step four is necessary to achieve the goals of energy transition, this remains possible.

The solar ladder is not "sequential. Sequentiality would mean that steps one, two and three should be developed first. If it turns out later that step four is necessary, it can only be used in the future. Given the urgency of energy transition, this was deliberately not chosen. Steps one, two and three are preferred, step four can and may be used if necessary. So all four steps are worked on simultaneously. Below are the four steps of the solar ladder:

  1. Roofs and facades
  2. Unused land in built-up area
  3. In rural areas (garbage dumps, roadsides of railroads and highways)
  4. Agricultural and natural lands

 

Illustration Solar Ladder


The 'No, unless' policy

There are additional requirements for developing a solar farm in tier four - agricultural and natural lands. This is called the "No, unless" policy. If research shows that stage four is necessary, a solar park can be developed if one of the following exceptions applies:

  1. Agri-PV. This is combining an agricultural activity with solar energy generation.
  2. Transition areas. When an area is in transition, for example, a piece of land with the zoning 'agricultural' will eventually change to 'nature', then a solar park may be built there temporarily. This way, while the land is in transition, it can remain of value.
  3. Grid neutrality. If a solar farm contributes to reducing grid congestion, it may be built. There are two forms of grid congestion: there is (temporarily) too much power on the electricity grid or too little. In both cases a solar farm, for example supplemented with a battery or a direct cable to an industrial estate, can offer a solution.

Additional incentives step one, two and three

The minister writes that placing additional requirements on solar parks on agricultural natural lands (step four), leads to fewer new solar parks. Of course, this also means that less renewable energy can be generated. To compensate for this, the aforementioned steps one, two and three are given additional financial incentives. How this will look in practice is still unclear. One option is to do this through the existing SDE++ or by enabling other government budgets.


Existing boundary conditions solar parks

Finally, the letter also re-emphasizes three pre-existing preconditions for a solar park. These are:

  1. Good landscaping. Consider a line of trees around the solar farm and enough space between the panels for soil quality.
  2. Compatible with the power grid. A solar farm generates renewable energy. When this power is supplied to the electricity grid, it has an impact. In order to spare the electricity grid, many (technical) things are already being applied. These include storing electricity and 'capping' maximum production.
  3. Striving for 50% participation. Support in the energy transition is important. The solar sector embraces the aim of the Climate Accord to involve the environment in solar parks. This always takes into account the needs of the environment.

The results of the Administrative Consultation on Spatial Planning are a kind of "working agreements" between the parties involved. These agreements are not legally binding. For that, the agreements must be adopted in provincial (environmental) regulations.

As of Jan. 1, 2024, the new Environment Act will be in effect. Many things are going to change under the Environment Act. This is important for the development of solar parks as well as the exceptions mentioned in the room letter. However, this law has already been postponed several times. Recently, the Senate passed a motion to postpone the Environment Act again. For now, this has not happened. Novar is preparing for both scenarios.


Scenario one: the Environment Act is in effect from Jan. 1, 2024

To capture the outcomes of the Administrative Consultation, provinces must amend their provincial environmental ordinances. Each province must do this individually. The Provincial Council, the general government of the province, is authorized to do this.


Scenario two: the Environment Act is postponed

If the Environment Act is postponed then nothing will change (yet). The provinces can then still adopt the outcomes of the Administrative Consultation, this time through a "normal" regulation.

In either case, the provinces can adopt the outcomes.

The room letter writes the following about ongoing projects:

Projects whose participation processes are already at an advanced stage and have not been designed (entirely) in accordance with the agreements under four [point 4 in the room letter, the "No, unless"] may proceed.

This means that ongoing projects can continue. Applications for new projects that are submitted -before the provinces adjust their (environmental) regulations- still fall under the old (read: current) laws and regulations. As soon as provinces amend their (environmental) regulations, the additional requirements from the Administrative Consultation will be legally binding.

Novar chose to submit some projects scheduled for the last quarter of 2023 to the municipality earlier. This seems contradictory. If Novar is developing solar parks in line with the exceptions mentioned in the Administrative Consultation, why were these projects submitted earlier anyway?

As a renewable energy project developer, we take our role in the energy transition seriously. Trust is more than important. Therefore, this decision did not happen overnight. Political sentiment in the provinces is unruly. The province of Overijssel, for example, has pressed the pause button for new solar parks for six months.

This is not good for Novar and the solar industry, but it certainly hits local businesses hard. The social damage is great. For this reason, in cooperation with the parties involved, Novar has submitted a number of projects earlier. This way, these projects will not be unnecessarily delayed and the energy transition can continue.

We want to emphasize that with an accelerated permit application there is still plenty of room to make changes together regarding the spatial integration and the participation plan. Nothing is fixed. This means that an accelerated application has no effect on the further course and possible realization of the renewable energy project.

Nothing will change for local residents. The letter emphasizes existing policies that are relevant to local residents. Novar remains committed to good participation processes to involve and inform local residents about the projects. Support is vital for solar projects and the entire energy transition. We have to do it together. This is why Novar supports the goal of 50% participation as mentioned in the Climate Agreement.

The environment can contribute financially and participate in important aspects of the solar parks. Our environment and project managers are the point of contact for this.

 

Nothing will change for landowners. The letter highlights existing policies that are relevant to landowners. Novar remains committed to good participation processes to involve and inform the environment about the projects. Support is vital for solar projects and the entire energy transition. We have to do it together. This is why Novar supports the goal of 50% participation as mentioned in the Climate Agreement.

The environment can contribute financially and participate in important aspects of the solar parks. Our environment and project managers are the point of contact for this.

Much will change for the municipality as of January 1, 2024. The new Environment Act and the resulting provincial environmental regulations will create a new way of working. With the new Environment Act and the outcomes of the Administrative Consultation, much will change in the municipality-province relationship. Municipalities will have more powers under the new Environment Act. At the same time, the province can, under the new Environment Act, take control of the development of a solar park. In addition, when granting permits, municipalities must check whether this is in line with provincial environmental regulations.

Novar is a developer of renewable energy systems. Solar systems, both on roofs, carports and land, is part of this. The extra incentive, as mentioned in the room letter, which will be available for these categories (steps one, two and three) is positive.

Novar's strategy is in line with the exceptions covered by the "No, unless. Novar does not develop new solar parks that do not meet any of these conditions. The (legal) impact on new and ongoing projects is therefore small.

At the same time, sentiment about the realization of solar energy does worry. Solar energy plays an important role in the energy mix of the future. The energy transition is crucial to combat climate change. Novar therefore calls on policymakers to emphasize the importance of solar in the energy transition and not pursue policies that undermine it.

 


Read more

Dorkwerd
General 14/02/2024

Solar as solution to increasing sustainability of Dutch heat demand

Read more
General 15/12/2023

'No more solar farm without a battery'

Read more
Agri-PV
Press Release 13/11/2023

First study of combination solar farm and dairy farm launched

Read more

Want to tackle this challenge together?

Do you want to work with us, do you have questions or do you want to pass on a change? Then contact us – we’re happy to help.

Contact us

Contact us – we’re happy to help.

Contact

Get in touch

Questions? Call or email us.

Contact