Resilient neighbourhoods, powered by low-carbon energy
Think tank: Bright Blue
Author(s): Professor Richard Cowell
December 11, 2023
This report from UK think tank Bright Blue examines the role of the planning system in hampering as well as facilitating these renewable energy technologies.
Decarbonising the UK power sector is central to the country achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, there needs to be a substantial increase in investment in and development of three main renewable energy technologies: solar, onshore wind and offshore wind.
This report examines the role of the planning system in hampering as well as facilitating these renewable energy technologies. In recent years, planning policy concerning renewable energy infrastructure in England has been beset by a stop-and-go dynamic, where development booms get followed by periods of bust because of sudden shifts in public policy, undermining investor confidence.
There has not only been significant inconsistency in planning policy for each of the main three renewable technologies, but also across them. With two key technologies, namely solar power and offshore wind, planning is often framed as a barrier to new infrastructure, which requires streamlining to accelerate project consenting, without considerations of whether this facilitates the best possible route to net zero. But in the context of onshore wind, planning has been deliberately used to construct a ’triple veto’ test for projects that is all but unassailable. This inconsistent reasoning can obscure the need to learn and develop policies that achieve an effective and durable balance between delivery, public engagement and environmental sustainability regardless of the technology involved.
This report identifies the principles and policies to put planning policy on a durable footing and, by doing so, contribute to the sustained growth on renewable energy generation capacity that net zero requires.