Fear that changes to planning process may threaten future expansion
Renewable sources generated 8.6% of UK electricity in the third quarter (Q3) of 2010 – the highest proportion on record. Wind, hydro and other renewable supply was 23% higher compared with the same quarter in 2009, with the contribution from wind increasing by 37%.
The increase in Q3 comes after the percentage of electricity from renewables fell in the first half of 2010 – down 6.6% in Q1 and by 12.1% in Q2 compared with the same periods in 2009.
The renewables sector heralded the recent rise, saying it signalled that the UK was on course to meet its 2020 legally binding EU target to produce 15% of its energy – which means about 30% of its electricity – from renewable sources.
There is concern in the industry that future expansion could be threatened by the proposals in the Localism Bill, however.
The Bill, which was laid before Parliament in December, proposes radical changes to the planning process in England.
Proposals include local referendums on planning applications, neighbourhood planning, pre-application consultations, abolition of regional spatial strategies, and reform of the community infrastructure levy.
Merlin Hyman, chief executive at Regen SW, the renewable-energy agency in the South West, believes the changes will inevitably result in little regard being given to national priorities, such as the renewable-energy targets.
“We will see some areas that have ambitious and proactive policies on sustainable energy, whereas others could become virtual ‘no go’ areas for larger developments,” he warns.
Hyman says that renewableenergy developers and installers will need to better understand and influence (even more than is already the case) the local policies and politics in diff erent localities.
RenewableUK claims the proposals will have a profound impact on renewable-energy projects.
“There is no doubt that the Bill, once it becomes law, will dramatically alter the rules for developing renewable energy projects,” said its director of communications, Charles Anglin.
The latest CBI climate-change tracker, which monitors progress on moving to a low-carbon economy, identifies planning as a policy area of concern.