LCQ10: Installation of solar photovoltaic systems in private buildings

Following is a question by the Hon Gary Zhang and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):
The Government indicated in the 2018 Policy Address that it would suitably relax the restrictions on installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the rooftops of New Territories Exempted Houses (commonly known as "village houses"). Subject to the fulfilment of specified conditions, PV system with height not higher than 2.5 metres may be installed on the rooftop of village houses. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of applications for installing PV systems on the rooftops of village houses which were received, approved and rejected by the Government since the implementation of the aforesaid arrangement, as well as the number of applications awaiting to be processed, with a breakdown by the height of the PV systems involved in the applications (i.e. PV systems exceeding and not exceeding 1.5 metres high measured from the roof level of village houses) and District Council district; 

(2) given that according to the relevant requirements, the rooftops on which PV systems will be installed should be cleared of all existing unauthorised building works by the owners of village houses, of the details of the law enforcement actions taken by the Government against the cases of non-compliance with relevant requirements; and 

(3) as the current height restriction of PV systems to be installed on the rooftops of private buildings other than village houses is 1.5 metres, whether the Government has considered extending the scope of application of the aforesaid relaxed height restriction to cover other private buildings, so as to benefit more residents; if so, of the details (including the scope of buildings to which the relaxed height restriction is applicable and the implementation timetable); if not, the reasons for that? 

Having consulted the Environment and Ecology Bureau (EEB), our consolidated reply to the question is as follows:
To further support and facilitate the development of renewable energy (RE), the Government announced in October 2018 initiatives including relaxation of restrictions on the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the rooftops of New Territories Exempted Houses village houses).  Solar PV systems not more than 2.5 metres in height (Note 1) may be installed on the rooftops of village houses exempted under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (BO(ANT)O) without prior permission from the Lands Department and the Buildings Department (BD).  Also, pursuant to the Scheme of Control Agreements, the Government and the power companies launched the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) Scheme at the end of 2018 to provide incentives for the society to invest in RE. Individuals and organisations may apply to the power companies and install RE systems (including solar PV systems), and sell the RE generated to the power companies at a rate higher than the normal electricity tariff rate.
(1) In order to facilitate and promote installation of solar PV systems, as long as the requirements mentioned above are met, installation of such PV systems in village houses does not require prior permission from the Lands Department and the BD. Therefore, the two departments do not have the statistics concerned.    

According to the information provided by the two power companies to the EEB (Note 2), as at the third quarter of 2022, around 17 000 applications under the FiT Scheme involve the installation of RE systems in village houses or detached houses (with the vast majority concerning solar PV systems). Among them, around 15 800 applications have been approved, while the remaining 1 200 are being processed. No application under the FiT Scheme has been rejected by the power companies so far.  Relevant figures are tabulated as follows:
Applications for installation of RE systems in village houses or detached houses Number of applications received Number of applications approved Number of applications being processed
New Territories
Yuen Long 6 396 5 902 494
Tai Po 3 062 2 880 182
North 2 321 2 196 125
Sai Kung 1 669 1 525 144
Tuen Mun 1 234 1 188 46
Sha Tin 704 670 34
Tsuen Wan 458 414 44
Kwai Tsing 110 90 20
Sub-total 15 954 14 865 1 089
Islands (except Lamma Island) 807 745 62
Lamma Island 133 119 14
Sub-total 940 864 76
Kowloon City 33 27 6
Kwun Tong 9 8 1
Sham Shui Po 4 4 0
Yau Tsim Mong 3 2 1
Wong Tai Sin 1 1 0
Sub-total 50 42 8
Hong Kong Island
Southern 18 18 0
Central and Western 6 2 4
Eastern 1 1 0
Wan Chai 2 1 1
Sub-total 27 22 5
Total 16 971 15 793 1 178
(2) PV systems installed in village houses should fulfill the requirements in respect of size, height and weight. Also, the rooftop on which the systems is to be installed should be free of unauthorised building works (UBWs). The BD conducts on-site audit checks and investigates suspected non-compliant cases reported by the public and referred by other government departments, so as to ensure the compliance of PV systems with relevant requirements. 
In case of non-compliance, the BD will take enforcement actions in accordance with the enhanced enforcement strategy currently in place against UBWs in village houses. As at October 2022, the BD has conducted on-site audit checks in respect of 700 related cases, with around 290 cases found not in compliant with the above requirements. Removal orders are being issued to the owners concerned. If an owner fails to comply with the order without reasonable excuse, the BD will instigate prosecution in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance (BO).
(3) The BO(ANT)O stipulates restrictions on the height and roofed-over area of village houses (i.e. not more than 3 storeys, not more than 8.23 m in height, roofed-over area not exceeding 65.03 square m). The building design of village houses is relatively simple and uniform. 
Private buildings which are not village houses, on the other hand, vary in height and design, with more complex surroundings than rural areas. Therefore, installation of solar PV systems on the rooftops of such buildings involve more considerations such as impact on the building structure (e.g. allowable load imposed on the rooftop), fire safety (e.g. effects on the means of escape), effect on the environment and possible nuisance to residents in the vicinity, etc.. Hence, the height of the supporting structures for PV systems on the rooftops of these private buildings should be no more than 1.5 m, in which case the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System apply, without the need for the BD's permission before commencing works. If the supporting structure exceeds 1.5 m in height, the owner should appoint an authorised person and a registered structural engineer to submit plans in accordance with the BO to the BD for approval. Works may commence upon seeking the BD's approval and consent. The above mechanism ensures the safety of building structure, residents and the public.
Note 1: The space underneath the PV system should not be enclosed and it should not cover more than half of the roofed-over area of the village house. Also, the rooftops on which the PV system is to be installed should be free of unauthorised building works.

Note 2: The power companies do not have information on the height of the relevant systems. 
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:41