Cautious optimism for Government efforts to remove obstacles to onshore wind

The UK government has, today, announced new measures designed to remove obstacles and accelerate deployment of onshore wind.

Government measures to reinvigorate the onshore wind sector are met with a mixed response.

The loosening of existing planning policy, that has long been regarded by many as a ‘de facto’ ban on onshore wind, has been welcomed by some, but others in the industry suggest the changes are not enough to reinvigorate the sector after years of stalled growth.

The changes, which come into force immediately, include broadening the ways that suitable locations can be identified, including by communities, and speeding up the process of allocating sites by giving alternatives to the local plan process which can take years to complete.

An opportunity missed

Scrapping a previous rule that allowed just one objection to stand in the way of a new onshore development, the new policy will consider different mechanisms to demonstrate ‘community support’ but James Robottom, head of onshore wind at RenewablesUK said: “A lot will be open to interpretation and there are still hurdles to navigate which remain in place.”

“We will still face a planning system stacked against onshore wind that treats it differently to every other energy source or infrastructure project.

Seeing it as an opportunity missed to “reinvigorate onshore wind in England after eight years of lost progress” James added: “We need to develop a planning system that is fit for purpose, which supports communities who choose to host clean cheap energy projects, as well as our industry’s ability to invest in them.”

Time will tell

Also “keen to see a faster buildout of such projects” is Good Energy chief executive Nigel Pocklington who commented: “Time will tell whether this is enough to encourage investors to return to a sector which has been subject to a de-facto ban in England for far too long.

Highlighting the overwhelming support from the public for what he describes as “among the cleanest and cheapest forms of renewable energy, and one of the quickest to bring into operation”, Nigel added: “A rapid expansion of onshore wind in this country can lower household bills, reduce polluting emissions from fossil fuels and provide increase energy security.

“We can’t afford to waste any more time.”

A long time coming

Sarah Merrick, founder and CEO of Ripple Energy, a green energy ownership cooperative that enables consumers to part own a large-scale wind farm and benefit from the electricity it generates, was more enthusiastic in her response to the announcement: “We welcome the overturning of the ban on onshore wind, it’s been a long time coming.

“It is key that local communities, as well as consumers more broadly, can directly benefit from the green low-cost power from wind farms near them.

“Ripple has already shown people owned wind farms work, now it’s time to roll these out across England. Households across the country must be able to own and directly benefit from the clean energy transition.”

Great for communities

Also welcoming the statement, Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Generation, said: “Today’s announcement is exactly what we’ve been asking for.

“We’ve had over 20,000 requests from communities wanting local wind turbines with discounted electricity through our Fan Club – and now it’s possible to build these again after 8 years with a de facto ban.

“This is amazing news for communities – 9 out of 10 Brits would welcome a wind turbine near them if it cut their bills. We’ll now move rapidly to roll out even more Fan Clubs, and unleash Winder (Tinder for wind), to speed up the development of new onshore wind – providing cheaper energy for communities that want it.

“Streamlining the red tape, making the process more democratic, and speeding up the way local authorities can allocate sites for wind are all big steps in the right direction. New onshore wind can now be an even bigger part of the UK’s energy mix.

“This is especially significant in today’s cost of living crisis where it’s vital we accelerate bringing one of the cheapest and quickest forms of energy to customers.”

The announcement comes as the Energy Bill returns to Parliament, the most significant piece of energy legislation in a generation.