Energy and Utilities

The UK Energy Transition | Government moves to lift ban on onshore wind

Published on 12th Dec 2022

This week we look at plans to lift the ban on onshore wind, the government's response to its Capacity Market consultation, the IEA's renewables report and the new UK-US energy partnership.

Wind and solar power farm

Government moves to lift ban on onshore wind

The government has announced that it will launch a consultation on local support for onshore wind, marking a step towards reversing the current de facto ban on new developments. The consultation will explore how local authorities respond to the views of affected communities when considering new developments, allowing decisions to be made at a local level rather than under the centralised Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime. 

Under existing rules, an onshore wind farm development can be blocked if there is only one objection, a measure introduced in 2015 by former prime minister David Cameron. Under the new proposals, the planning permission decision would be dependent on the local authority being able to demonstrate a level of local support. Applicants would also have to demonstrate that they have adequately addressed any concerns identified by the local community. There would also no longer be the requirement for sites to be designated in local plans. National parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt will remain protected. The government will also consider developing incentives such as local partnerships for supportive communities so that they can benefit from these developments (for example, via lower energy bills). 

Analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has concluded that only 0.02% of UK land would be needed to expand existing onshore wind generation capacity from 15GW to the target of 45GW by 2030. Although this would require 2.1% of UK land altogether, the wind turbines themselves take up only a small part of a relevant plot of land, leaving 99% of those areas free for farming or nature.   

BEIS publishes its response to its consultation on new technologies for the Capacity Market

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published its response to its September 2022 consultation on potential new technologies for the Capacity Market. The consultation asked stakeholders to update BEIS on the progress of vehicle-to-X technology (V2X) where X could be a home, a building or the grid. 

BEIS received seven comprehensive responses to this consultation. A number of responses noted the growth of V2X projects over the past year, however several also noted the significant barriers to developing this technology. Barriers include high equipment costs, issues entering heavily regulated energy systems and the lack of availability of EVs which are V2X enabled. 

Stakeholders also highlighted that consideration will need to be given to how to facilitate vehicle to grid technologies into the electricity system. Half hourly market settlements were suggested to assist with this, along with coordination between balancing services and Capacity Market participation. 

Another suggestion from stakeholders was a specific energy storage solution which incorporates small scale pumped hydro-electric storage and how this could assist with security of supply. 

BEIS has said that it will consider these emerging technologies and how best to assess their potential contribution to security of supply and any future participation in the CM. It also said that it will continue to use the annual open letter process to monitor the progress of emerging technologies and consult with stakeholders.  

IEA Report predicts renewable electricity generation capacity will double by 2027

The IEA has recently published its annual global report on renewables. The report details the expected growth of the renewable energy market and predicts that, by 2027, the capacity of renewable power will double and will become the largest source of electricity generation, overtaking coal. It is also anticipated that renewables will account for 90% of global electricity expansion over the next five years.  

As a result of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, countries have focussed on bolstering their energy supplies through renewables. Europe has started focussing on the rapid deployment of solar and wind to boost electricity generation, while China, the US and India are working on regulatory and market reform to make it easier to combat the energy crisis and increase renewable energy production. China is expected to account for almost 50% of renewable power capacity additions between 2022 and 2025. 

Solar PV and onshore wind are two of the cheapest sources of renewable power and it is expected that solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity will triple in the next five years as a result. It is expected that this will be primarily achieved through rooftop installations. Offshore wind is also expected to grow and account for one fifth of all renewable power growth by 2027. The US and India are expected to boost investment in solar manufacturing by up to $25 billion over the next five years. While China will remain a major player in global PV supply chains, it is anticipated that its share in global PV production capacity may fall from 90% to 70% in the same period.

The report also considers the growth of renewable energy in the transport and heating sectors. Though this is expected to grow from 9% in 2020 to 15% in 2027, this rate of growth will be insufficient to align with the EU's 2030 targets. 

The report highlights that, in order to for the above statistics to be reached, direct public investment will be essential, along with the need to address the cost obstacles that many renewables face.  

UK and US announce new energy partnership 

The UK and the US have announced the UK-US Energy Security and Affordability Partnership, aimed at increasing energy security and driving down prices. This will be achieved by scaling up decarbonisation efforts and increasing the generation capacity of renewables and nuclear. It also aims to further the existing Hydrogen Breakthrough Agenda and focus on the global development of clean hydrogen, which could be used to assist the decarbonisation of heavy industry. 

In the next year under the partnership, the amount of liquified natural gas exported by the US to the UK is set to double to 9-10 billion cubic metres in order to reduce reliance on Russian gas. The partnership will drive investment in renewable technologies in areas such as offshore wind and carbon capture, and deepen collaboration on advanced nuclear technologies. Led by a UK-US Joint Action Group, the partnership will aim to reduce demand for gas and develop policy solutions to enhance efficiency. 

This article was written with the assistance of Saskia Zant-Boer and Hannah Wooderson, Trainee Solicitors.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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