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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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LIFE IN SPAIN

How to lodge a formal complaint in Spain: Hoja de reclamación

If you’ve experienced bad service in Spain that didn’t meet expectations or bought a product that didn’t do what it promised to, then you may want to fill out an official complaint form in a bid to get your money back. Here’s how to go about it.

How to lodge a formal complaint in Spain: Hoja de reclamación

At some point or another everyone has probably experienced poor service and demanded to be reimbursed, whether it was because a bus had a broken air-con in 40C heat and was two hours delayed or you bought a product from a store that broke a month later. 

The first step is obviously to try and contact the company and sort out the issue amicably, but if this method isn’t producing any fruitful results, you may want to fill out an hoja de reclamación. 

This essentially translates as a ‘claim sheet’ and is an official complaint form you can lodge against a company to try and get reimbursed for your purchase.

READ ALSO: What to be aware of before opening a shared bank account in Spain

According to the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) there are three reasons that a complaint form of this kind can help. It can:

  • Let the Consumer Administration know about your case, so they can investigate it.
  • Try and get the company to reach an agreement with you.
  • Sanction the company if it has breached any of its obligations.

What are the advantages of filling out an official complaint form?

Sometimes, just the threat of filling out an official complaint form is enough for the company to give in or propose an acceptable agreement.

Companies obviously don’t want to have lots of negative reviews and have complaints filed against them, so by filling one out, you are actually helping them improve their customer service. 

If the company still won’t do anything after you’ve submitted the form and later you go to settle the matter in court, having filled out the form will be proof that you tried to find a solution first.

Can you use this type of form for all companies?

The OCU explains that there are companies in some sectors that you shouldn’t fill out an hoja de reclamación for in the first place. Instead, you must contact the customer service department of the company itself.

This is true for banks, insurance providers, investment companies, telecommunications services, transportation companies, airlines and energy companies.

“If they do not respond in a month or respond but do not provide a satisfactory solution, then you should go down the specific dispute route that their company proposes,” the OCU states.

How do I fill out this type of complaint form?

If you are dealing with a business or service provider that does not have a specific claim channel such as a bar, store, supermarket or hotel, you can ask directly for the claim form.

The form has three copies – one for you, another for the administration and another that you must deliver to the establishment itself. 

Make sure to make photocopies of any supporting documents that serve as evidence such as contracts, tickets, invoices, guarantees, advertisements or photos.

Once completed, you must give your forms and evidence to the Municipal Consumer Information Office (OMIC) or by mail or by electronic means to the General Directorate of Consumption of your region.

Each region will have its own forms you need to complete. If you don’t ask for them from the business itself, you can find them online. The one for Catalonia can be found here, for Valencia here, for Andalusia here, and for Madrid here. For other regions, you can simply type into an internet search engine: hojas de reclamaciones + your region.

Once completed, your case will be studied and you may be presented with a resolution. If it is not successful but the administration finds that the company has breached any consumer regulations, it will open a case starting a disciplinary procedure that usually ends in a fine.

Remember that, it is not guaranteed that you will get compensation, even if the company ends up being fined.

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