Red tape slashed to ease rooftop solar panel installation

Form 4 no longer to be required; agreement expected to add hundreds of megawatts to electricity grid

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Solar panels on the roof of the Knesset, March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Solar panels on the roof of the Knesset, March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Officials have announced an agreement to remove a key barrier to the placement of solar panels — the need to present a special form issued by a local authority that confirms the completion of a building’s construction and allows occupancy to begin.

Many buildings, among them old ones erected before the relevant planning requirements existed, do not have the so-called Form 4 despite having been built legally and receiving occupancy permits.

The Energy Ministry discovered that at least 10 percent of public buildings for which municipalities had requested solar panel loans, through the state lottery, lacked a Form 4.

The agreement to scrap the Form 4 requirement for rooftop solar panels on buildings that are already connected to the electricity grid was reached last week by the energy and justice ministries and the Electricity Authority.

An Energy Ministry statement said the move was expected to bring “hundreds more megawatts” of renewable energy installations on roofs “in the short term.”

The exemption would not only bring bureaucratic relief for entrepreneurs and local authorities, the statement went on. Less open space would need to be lost to solar farms if more urban rooftops could be used instead. And the production of energy via solar panels, close to where it is consumed, would cut the costs of expanding the grid.

Power-generating solar panels on the rooftop of a house in central Israel. (Chen Leopold / Flash 90

Today, most solar energy is produced in southern Israel, while population density — and electricity demand — is in the center.

The government is committed to providing 25% of electricity from renewable sources by 2025, rising to 30% by 2030.

But by the end of 2022, it was generating only 9.2% of electricity from renewable sources, the Knesset Economy Committee heard in January, despite a previous government aim of hitting 10% by 2020.

The lack of Form 4 has been cited as a particular obstacle for Arab communities in Israel, where building permits are often denied by the authorities, but construction takes place anyway.

However, an Energy Ministry spokeswoman said that the relatively poor likelihood of connecting solar panels to the national electricity grid in Arab areas was a bigger problem.

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