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PROPERTY

Do I need a permit to install solar panels in Spain?

Which Spanish regions do and do not require a building permit from people who want to install solar panels at home? And what other paperwork has to be factored in?

Do I need a permit to install solar panels in Spain?
On October 10th 2021 the autonomous community of Madrid became the latest region to scrap planning permission from its requirements for installing solar panels. Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

With huge spikes in electricity prices, more and more Spaniards are considering installing solar panels in their homes to save money, or simply to switch to greener electricity.

While the process is getting easier, you may still have to get past a few administrative hurdles such as getting planning permission. Here’s what you need to know.

For a long time, installing solar panels in private homes was made excruciatingly difficult due to what was known as ‘the sun tax’, as well as the various administrative procedures it required.

Luckily, the controversial law was scrapped in 2019 and other measures were introduced to make energy self-sufficiency easier, but some administrative requirements, like getting planning permission from a local authority, continue to make the process difficult.

Where do you no longer have to request planning permission?

Whether or not you can skip this step depends on where you live.

Rules vary across Spain’s comunidades autónomas (autonomous regions). Many of them no longer require you to get planning permission in order to facilitate the process of installing solar panels and encourage people to switch to renewables.

In October 2021, Madrid became the latest region to scrap this bureaucratic step from its requirements for installing solar panels.

READ ALSO: What you should know before getting solar panels for your home in Spain

Communities no longer requiring planning permission: Community of Madrid, Andalucía, Aragón, Catalonia, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencian Community, Extremadura, Galicia, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Navarre.

Communities that still require planning permission: Asturias, Cantabria, Basque Country, La Rioja, Murcia.

In these five regions where a building permit is still required for the installation of solar panels at home, residents face a harder uphill battle to become self-sufficient.

For starters, it takes on average three months to get a licencia de obras (building permit) in Spain, and it isn’t just a case of requesting it; applicants often need to provide plenty of paperwork to obtain it.  

However, people with property in regions where building permits aren’t required still have to check with their local authorities if they require any of the following documentation to install solar panels at home:

  • Diseño del sistema de la instalación (plan of the installation system), including for small installations for personal use.
  • Permiso de acceso y conexión (Access and connection permit) if the installation is carried out outside of the municipality or when they exceed 15kWh.
  • Autorización administrativa previa y de construcción (Previous planning authorisation): This is compulsory for larger photovoltaic installations.
  • Autorización ambiental y de utilidad pública (Environmental and public utility authorisation). The corresponding authority should be consulted as this procedure is not usually necessary for installations under 100kWp.
  • Certificado de fin de obra (End of construction work certificate).
  • Autorización de explotación (authorisation of use), except for installations under 10 kW.
  • Inspección inicial e inspecciones periódicas (Initial and periodic inspections).
  • Registro de la instalación de autoconsumo en la Consejería de Industria autonómica (Registration for self-consumption installation in the Regional Ministry of Industry.
  • Contrato de acceso para la instalación de autoconsumo (Contract for access self-consumption installation).
  • Contrato de suministro de energía para servicios auxiliaries (Energy supply contract for auxiliary services).
  • Contrato de compensación de excedentes (Contract for compensation of surplus energy).
  • Contrato de representación (representation contract).
  • Licencia de obra e impuestos (ICIO y tasa urbanística). In some cases this consists of simply notifying your town hall, especially if the solar panels are low power.

Always make sure to double check the paperwork you need with your local Ayuntamiento and also with your comunidad de vecinos if you live in a housing community with a Body Corporate. 

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For members

ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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