Onshore wind reforms will fail to revive collapsed industry, renewable body warns
Government proposals to revive onshore wind will do nothing to remove the current de facto ban, argued the UK’s leading wind industry group.
Renewable UK has sent a damning submission, seen by City A.M., into the government’s consultation on its Levelling Up and Regenerations Bill, which includes amendments to the planning framework around onshore wind turbines.
It fears that the reforms proposed are far too weak to tempt investment into the onshore wind industry.
The energy body has highlighted that the the government’s proposed new planning rules still require local plans showing areas suitable for wind energy development.
It also includes very broad wording on community consent – meaning that, theoretically, one person could potentially still object to a project to stop it going ahead.
This means that the risk to potential investors of supporting onshore wind in England remains high.
Renewable UK said: “We suggest in our submission that it should be the responsibility of developers and community groups to work together to identify suitable areas for wind farms – expecting local authorities to do it will delay our ability to take vital action against climate change.”
Industry urges reforms to boost onshore wind
The industry is now calling for ministers to reverse two specific measures introduced back in 2015 which were designed to stop nearly all new onshore wind projects going ahead in England.
Under the current restrictive planning system, no onshore wind farm can go ahead unless the local authority has drawn up a detailed local plan which identifies all areas that would be suitable for onshore wind development.
In practice, only 11 per cent of local authorities have drawn up plans to include onshore developments, according to analysis from Dr Rebecca Windemer at the University of the West of England.
Reflecting the stringency of the current rules, just two small onshore wind turbines were installed in England last year.
In their submission, Renewable UK said: “We are highly concerned that the government is not doing enough to remove the barriers preventing onshore wind from being rapidly deployed and it is our view that the amendments proposed to the National Planning Policy Framework will not enable the deployment of onshore wind in England”.
It warned that “there is a fundamental disconnect between governmental net zero ambitions and the practicalities of the National Planning Policy Framework for enabling onshore wind.”
Spot the difference: Little change in policy
Onshore wind lacks clear targets
The industry argues that, if the government is serious about its commitment to net zero and security of supply ambitions, then there must be national deployment targets for onshore wind and a policy framework supportive in place to deliver on these commitments.”
The industry group feared that, without this, “it is difficult to see how the proposals will enable any significant difference.”
Currently, onshore wind has no specific generation targets for ramping up generation, unlike offshore wind – which has a 50GW target in the UK’s energy security strategy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Renewable UK’s head of onshore wind James Robottom told City A.M.: “We’re urging the government to work with us to develop a level playing field so that we can compete fairly against other forms of power generation – the government’s proposals still prevent that, even though ministers have pledged to reverse the ban on onshore wind in England.
“We want to ensure that local people feel the economic benefit of new projects fully in their local area –including the option for local electricity discount schemes where communities want them. We strongly believe that the government should focus on ensuring that community engagement is carried out well by the industry rather than trying to create arbitrary tests or metrics which will only give a partial impression of local opinion.”