A few days later, the government announced a much-needed £20m grant aid programme to stimulate the installation of photovoltaic cells in buildings.
Fronted by energy minister Brian Wilson, the grants of up to 65% of the cost of the installation are available to qualifying individuals or organisations. All of this sounds like a jolly good idea.
In the UK, building developments of any significant size or complexity take from 18 months to four years to get through the planning, design and construction stage.
Everybody agrees that, when considering PV installation, the PVs should be designed in as an integral part of the building, in the roof or wall cladding, for instance.
Here is where the problems with the current grant rules lie. The grants are allocated on a competitive bid basis. Ideally, therefore, you should apply for your grant prior to designing the building if the viability of the PV installation depends on receiving a grant.
If you are lucky enough to be successful in your application, you have to spend the money within 12 months. This does not leave sufficient time to properly plan and design your PV installation in the building.
The likely result of these rules will be that the installations that will qualify for a grant will be retrofits or afterthoughts.
We are currently involved with a large new-build leisure project for a local authority that is very keen to integrate PVs into the building design. However, the timescales for the project do not allow an application to be made at the planning stage, and because the PV installation depends on receiving grant aid, the building has had to be designed without them.
Surely if the government is serious about encouraging renewable energy projects, it would devise a scheme to encourage fully integrated PV installations at the design stage.
Paul Ross, regional partner, Silcock Dawson & Partners, via email.