Onshore wind is back on the agenda

For the last four years there has been an effective ban on onshore wind.

Now the government have published the detail1 of the proposed changes to the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, it’s clear that one barrier to onshore wind is likely to be removed (the subsidy issue). Larger scale wind developments have not been eligible for subsidies since April 2016, a move which contributed to an effective moratorium on onshore wind development2.

However, two other significant barriers remain3. One is ‘community approval’, which means that any wind developments have to have the backing of the local community or they can’t go ahead. What constitutes official ‘community approval’ is down to individual local authorities. The process for obtaining community approval is part of this consultation, and proposes renewable project developers should consider the following4:

• providing community benefits consistent with relevant guidance and good practice principles, including providing an opportunity for communities or local people to invest in the project, with this opportunity additional to a community benefit fund;
• community benefits should last the lifetime of the project. If a development is sold on, subsequent owners and/or operators should honour existing agreements with the local community; and
• the potential effect of a proposed renewable energy development on visual amenity and landscape should be assessed.

The other barrier is that wind developments can only take place in an area which has already been designated in the local plan as a potential wind energy site. A minority of local authorities have designated areas in their current iterations of the local plan (partly because of subsidy/community barriers). Until authorities revamp these plans, we’re unlikely to see an explosion in onshore wind in the very short term, but it’s clear that if the UK is going to meet its Net Zero targets by 2050, there is going to have to be a greater effort on the side of communities, local authorities and developers to accelerate onshore wind development.

The CfD scheme consultation runs until 22nd May, and the scheme is scheduled to open in 2021.

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1 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/millions-more-homes-to-be-powered-by-renewables
2 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/02/uk-government-lifts-block-on-new-onshore-windfarm-subsidies
3 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm150618/wmstext/150618m0001.htm#15061882000002
4 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869778/cfd-ar4-proposed-amendments-consultation.pdf