Canberra Liberals Vow To Repeal ACT Solar Access Laws

Solar Access Laws - ACTImage: BigStock

The Canberra Liberals said on the weekend they would repeal current solar access laws in the ACT if they win next year’s election.

The laws were introduced a couple of years ago with the intention of maximising energy efficiency of new homes and to provide land buyers confidence access to sunlight would not be compromised by a neighbour to the north.

Building regulations in the ACT are primarily meant to promote better solar passive design, but also to ensure access to sufficient sunlight for installations of solar panels.

However, it appears the changes in 2013 (Variation 306) have had some unintended consequences and are driving the costs of building up; significantly in some cases – sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Where land is level, the regulations aren’t a problem. But with Canberra’s valley floor built out; all that remains are the slopes. This has resulted in some blocks requiring more excavation than they otherwise would in some cases and more retaining wall works required.

There have also been complaints the regulations sacrifice privacy for sunlight.

“The ACT Government has actually created worse solar access when it comes to block design,” said Opposition spokesman Alistair Coe yesterday.

“These blocks are now inefficient and we want to reverse this to once again get back to good design principles.”

Mr. Coe says more houses are now being built with their long sides facing east and west, which would add to energy bills; particularly during summer when the afternoon sun bakes west facing walls..

The Canberra Liberals originally tried to block the changes to planning regulations in 2013, but the laws were passed with the support of the Greens.

It seems the ACT Government isn’t blind to the flaws in the rules. In June, the government said it would revise the regulations; but that process is yet to be finalised.

Solar issues, energy efficiency and renewable energy generally are hot topics in the ACT, which also has its sights set on 100% renewable energy by 2025. in August this year, Environment Minister Simon Corbell stated the Territory was on track to reaching its 2020 90% goal. Minister Corbell said the ACT will achieve 60 per cent by 2017 and 80 per cent by 2018.

According to Energy Matters, a 4.5kW solar power system installed in Canberra can return a financial benefit of $866 – $1,252 a year.