Regulations and Government Policies

Building regulations that incorporate obligations for solar hot water are the single most powerful tool for promoting increased use of renewable energy in our homes.

A decade ago, the idea of making the use of solar or renewable energy compulsory sounded radical to most parts of the world, but now solar obligations have been adopted or are being discussed in a number of countries, regions and municipalities in Europe. The European Solar Thermal Industry is also leading the way in countries overseas with regards to promoting the use of renewables, specifically solar, in new buildings.

Around the globe, there are a number of innovative and effective examples of government policies that have been implemented to advance Solar Hot Water (SHW).  BC is gradually developing similar policies.

Local Government Policy Scoping Exercise

In 2008, SolarBC commissioned Compass Resource Management to conduct a local government policy scoping exercise with a view to exploring the potential to adopt similar policies to advance SHW in British Columbia.

Compass consulted with industry, the Province, and a number of local governments in order to:

  • Identify best global practices for advancing SHW and describe their applicability within the B.C. context,
  • Identify specific policy instruments to advance SHW in BC,
  • Outline considerations for advancing SHW in civic buildings, and
  • Summarize the issues associated with integrating SHW with district energy systems.

We encourage the Solar Communities and other local governments to collaborate to:

  • Review the Best Global Policies in this report and engage the Province in exploring ways to bring those policies to British Columbia,
  • Review land use development policies available to local governments, and possibly pool resources to further define how those policies may apply to advance SHW,
  • Pool resources to develop the basis of a civic building policy that can be adopted by each of the communities.

Download The Executive Summary and the Final Report.

Among other benefits, solar regulations create critical mass, economies of scale and send strong signals to construction professionals all of which are needed to bring about the transformation of traditional building practices and energy use.

Solar Policies in the City of Vancouver

The City of Vancouver is one of many communities leading the way with solar ready bylaws. Since 2008, Vancouver has implemented a Solar Homes Pilot and Green Homes Program. This package of building by-law and new requirements for one and two family dwellings that will make the Vancouver building code for low rise residential construction the most comprehensive green building code in North America.

The Green Homes Program incorporates ‘Solar Ready’ requirements that every new house must be equipped with two 50 mm (2 inch) pipes that run from the home’s service room (where the water tank is) to the attic. This will allow for the future installation of roof-mounted solar energy generating equipment.

BC Solar Hot Water Ready Regulation

Other local governments around the province are currently passing resolutions to sign on to the new Solar Hot Water Ready Regulation. The regulation requires all new single family homes (where applicable) to be built to accommodate future installation of a solar hot water system for water heating. Communities signed on as of June 14, 2011 are:

  • Village of Ashcroft
  • City of Campbell River
  • Cariboo Regional District
  • City of Chilliwack
  • City of Colwood
  • Cowichan Valley Regional District
  • City of Cranbrook
  • City of Dawson Creek
  • Corporation of Delta
  • City of Duncan
  • Township of Esquimalt
  • City of Fernie
  • City of Fort St. John
  • Greater Vancouver Regional District
  • District of Invermere
  • Village of Kaslo
  • City of Kelowna
  • Township of Langley
  • District of Maple Ridge
  • District of Metchosin
  • Village of Midway
  • City of New Westminster
  • Municipality of North Cowichan
  • City of North Vancouver
  • District of North Vancouver
  • District of Peachland
  • City of Pitt Meadows
  • City of Port Coquitlam
  • City of Port Moody
  • City of Richmond
  • District of Sparwood
  • Squamish Lillooet Regional District
  • District of Tofino
  • Town of View Royal
  • District of West Vancouver
  • Resort Municipality of Whistler

The province of BC developed the regulation in partnership with SolarBC and in consultation with the development industry. This is, in part, to support the province’s Greenhouse Gas reduction target of 33 % by the year 2020. BC local governments are invited to "opt-in" to the Solar Hot Water Ready Regulation under the BC Building Code (read more on the province's website).  The next deadline for opting in is January 15, 2012. This type of opt-in requirement is similar to the Adaptable Housing provisions introduced in January of this year, which give municipalities the option to require building features supporting aging-in-place and persons with disabilities.

For further reading about Solar Ready, visit our Builders and Developers page.

Renewable Energy Requirement for BC

In 2010-2011, SolarBC partnered with BC Hydro, the Pembina Institute, and two of our Solar Communities: Campbell River and Dawson Creek to propose a Renewable Energy Requirement for BC.  This work was modelled on the Merton Rule developed in the London Borough of Merton in the UK.  The Merton Rule requires new buildings and buildings undergoing major renovations to demonstrate that at least 10 % of the buildings expected energy needs will be supplied by renewable energy sources.
The proposed Renewable Energy Requirement for BC reads:

All new residential and commercial buildings must meet 10 per cent of their estimated annual energy consumption with eligible on-site or community-based renewable energy. Compliance is mandatory in jurisdictions where the requirement has been adopted.

When the BC government moves forward with the Renewable Energy Requirement, local governments will have the option to sign onto the new regulation, as they did with the Solar Hot Water Ready Regulation. 
The report about the Renewable Energy Requirement for BC is available here.
The Executive Summary from the report is available here.

Examples of Solar Regulations Abroad

The following countries and municipalities are leading the way with Solar Hot Water Regulations in Europe.

You can find more information on the specific regulations in each jurisdiction on the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) website. In addition ESTIF has also developed a comprehensive analysis of the structure of solar obligations and best-practice guidelines.


At the national level, the new Spanish Technical Buildings Code (CTE) was adopted in March 2006, and its solar thermal section came into force on 29 September 2006.

The City of Barcelona has been the pioneer for Solar Regulations in Europe. The first Solar Ordinance came into force in 2000 and required that a certain share of the domestic hot water demand be supplied by solar thermal, in new buildings and those undergoing major refurbishment

Inspired by the positive experience of Barcelona, dozens of municipalities under administration of different political colours approved solar obligations in Madrid and all over Spain.


Israel is the country with the oldest solar obligation, in force since 1980. The law's success has made it largely superfluous: today, more than 90% of Israel's solar thermal market are in the voluntary segment, like installation on existing buildings, or systems bigger than required by law.


All new homes built in Germany from January 1st 2009 will be required to install renewable energy heating systems under a new law called the Renewable Energies Heating Law.

The German federal government's new renewable energy heating law, which is set to be passed by parliament next year, is part of a comprehensive package of measures that aims to reduce the country's carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 when compared to 1990. The government is allocating 350 million euros [US $517 million] each year in grants for homeowners to install renewable energy systems such as solar panels, wood pellet stoves and boilers and heat pumps. Homeowners will have to use renewable energy sources to meet 14% of a household's total energy consumption for heating and domestic hot water.

The state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany has already passed a law requiring all building plans for new houses submitted after April 1st 2008 to include renewable energy heating systems. People building new homes there will have to install a renewable heating technology that can provide 20% of the household's heating and domestic hot water needs.

The City of Vellmar set the installation of solar thermal system as a preliminary condition for the authorisation to construct in a new development area. The German Federal government, as well as the government of the State of Baden-Württemberg are currently discussing the introduction of renewable heat obligations.


Following the example of the town of Carugate, local solar obligations are in force in a number of small municipalities around Milan. A municipal obligation is in advanced state of discussion in the City of Rome.


Starting at the end of 2005, a number of Irish local authorities introduced building energy standards as part of planning requirements in their jurisdiction. These building energy standards require a substantial increase in the energy performance of new buildings (between 40% and 60% reduction in energy usage) as well as a mandatory contribution of renewable energy to their thermal energy requirement.


And neighbouring Portugal quickly followed the Spanish example with their own regulation. The new Portuguese buildings code includes an obligation to install solar thermal systems or some other form of renewable energy providing a similar energy saving. The obligation only covers certain buildings. Amongst other restrictions, it applies to buildings with a South-East to South-West oriented roof surfaces. The solar system should have a minimum dimension of 1m2 per person assumed occupancy in the building.