The Seanad has heard that planning exemptions for solar panels on farm buildings will be finalised “in the coming months”.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne said that his colleague, Minister of State with responsibility for planning Peter Burke had hoped the new regulations would be in place “much sooner”.

However, he explained that the timeline has been delayed by the necessity to comply with European environmental reporting requirements, including a strategic environmental assessment (SEA).

A four-week statutory consultation between the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and environmental authorities on the scope of the draft SEA environmental report will be completed on Friday (May 27, 2022).

The draft environmental report will then be updated to take account of submissions before the report is placed on public consultation for four weeks.

“This public consultation is expected to commence in the coming weeks,” Minister Browne said.

Once this process is completed and the SEA is finalised, the proposed draft exempted development regulations will then be put before both Houses of the Oireachtas for approval.

“Therefore, it is envisaged that the process for finalising the solar panel planning exemptions will be completed in the coming months.

“I understand every effort is being made to bring this matter to a conclusion as speedily as possible,” the minister said.

In the context of the climate action plan, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage completed a review of the existing solar panel planning exemptions.

This had a particular focus on facilitating increased self-generation of electricity which is limited by the current planning regulations.

Solar panels

The update came in response to a commencement matter tabled by Senator Victor Boyhan.

The independent senator had asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to clarify the current status of the draft regulations and the timelines involved.

Boyhan, who is a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, noted the importance of the strategic environmental assessment.

The senator said that he will be seeking “some sort of engagement” in the Seanad when the regulations come before it later in the year.