Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s U-turn on onshore wind won’t be enough to win over sceptical renewable energy firms, a top trade body has warned.
The government has opted to streamline planning rules following increasing pressure from backbench MPs, lifting onshore developments out of a de-facto moratorium that saw just two onshore wind turbines built in England last year – less than war-torn Ukraine.
Downing Street’s plans include removing the right for a tiny minority to reject new projects and added the option for communities to identify local sites for future developments.
But industry group Renewable UK said there was still a lot of scope for local authorities to hold back developments.
James Robottom, head of onshore wind at Renewable UK, which represents hundreds of wind farm operators, feared the changes “don’t go far enough” and will still lead to a “planning system stacked against onshore wind that treats it different to every other energy source or infrastructure project”.
The government has only slightly amended requirements for projects to appease communities, now expecting developers to “appropriately” rather than “fully” address local concerns, and local authorities can still dictate the land for energy developments.
“While industry will work with the government to see how these changes might be able to support a limited number of new developments, this is a missed opportunity to reinvigorate onshore wind in England after eight years of lost progress,” Robottom said.
Ed Miliband, shadow climate and net zero secretary said the Conservatives had “bottled it again” on onshore wind.
“It still remains easier to build an incinerator or a landfill site than onshore wind. The planning system remains stacked against onshore wind. This will mean higher bills and energy insecurity for Britain,” he said.
Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, however, defended the changes, arguing they will help “build on Britain’s enormous success as a global leader in offshore wind” and push the country forward on its journey towards net zero.