Together with provinces and municipalities, the Dutch government agreed upon a preferred order which will be used for the assessment and approval of new solar plants. This preferred order, also known as the “solar scale” (zonneladder), provides that the use of agricultural land and nature reserves will be limited as much as possible in order to stimulate solar on rooftops.
As previously noted , the Dutch parliament wishes that new solar plants will primarily be realised on unused rooftops and terrain and that agricultural land and nature reserves will be used as little as possible. On 28 May 2019, the Dutch parliament has adopted a motion in which it requests the Dutch government to assess new solar plants based on the solar scale or a similar assessment tool. In addition, the Dutch government had to decide in what manner the solar scale will be implemented in the Regional Energy Strategy (Regionale Energie Strategie, RES), ultimately on 1 July 2019. The Dutch parliament worries about the rapid advance of solar plants because this could result in agricultural land disappearing and it could have a negative impact on vulnerable nature reserves and soil life.
In his letter to the Dutch parliament dated 23 August 2019, the Minister elaborated on the manner in which the request of the Dutch parliament could be met. The Dutch government, IPO and VNG agreed that provinces and municipalities will use a preferred order when assessing and approving new solar plants. This preferred order is as follows:
In addition, it is intended to actively engage network operators in relation to the location of the new projects in order to ensure that the possibilities in relation to the connection and transportation are also taken into account. Currently, certain regions in the Netherlands do not have sufficient network capacity due to which several renewable energy projects have been delayed or may be cancelled. The Minister already indicated that he wanted to introduce the mandatory requirement of submitting a transportation indication (see our previous blog ). Lastly, the costs of the project will also have to be taken into account when choosing the project’s location.
The solar scale will be incorporated in policy. Provinces and municipalities will have to comply with these policies when choosing/approving project locations. The preferred order will be included in the National Environmental vision (Nationale Omgevingsvisie) and RESs which will be published by provinces and municipalities as of next year. In anticipation thereof, the provinces and municipalities will already conduct their assessments for new solar plants in nature reserves and agricultural land areas on the basis of the preferred order. In addition, the Minister intends to grant the municipalities more possibilities under the Environmental Act (Omgevingswet) to force civilians and companies to use their rooftops in a sustainable manner. Consequently, the Dutch government decides not to provide a mandatory framework for the environmental assessment for the implementation of solar plants (as with the scale for sustainable urbanisation). Each region is entitled to make its own assessments as to which locations will be used and how the required renewable electricity will be incorporated in a thoughtful manner and in accordance with the landscape, agricultural land and nature reserves. However, the State, provinces and municipalities will monitor how the preferred order is being used and what the national effects are for the landscape, nature reserves and agricultural land. This article was written by Stephan Sluiter (email@example.com)
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