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Windtech International May June 2024 issue






The UK scene is set for a future of wind energy

ImageThe second half of 2006 saw a reinvigorated impetus for wind energy in the UK. Wind energy is on track to become a significant contributor to the UK’s response to climate change and energy security. A wide range of developments in the latter half of last year will, it is to be hoped, turn this into a reality.

By Emily Peters, Associate, SJ Berwin LLP

Last year we saw significant development and encouragement for the wind sector in the UK. It is well recognised that developers have been facing significant development hurdles in the UK, but a more positive mood and momentum is emerging as policy and legislation develops.

So, how does the Government propose to improve the current
UK situation?

The Energy Review ‘The Energy Challenge’ was released by the UK Government on 11 July 2006. The Review recognised renewables as integral to the Government’s strategy for tackling climate change, but also that securing planning permission in the UK can be especially difficult. The Energy Review contained a Statement of Need reaffirming the importance of renewables, including wind. The statement recognises that some people have concerns about wind energy proposals but that these projects provide crucial national social and economic benefits. It also recognises that planning decisions must be expeditious to ensure future investment.

30 October 2006 the economist Sir Nicholas Stern released his independent review on the economics of climate change. Tony Blair described the review as the ‘most important report on the future which I have received since becoming Prime Minister’. The essential message of the report was ‘we must act now or pay later’ but that stabilising greenhouse gases is feasible and consistent with continued economic growth. The findings of the review will almost certainly give economic credibility to climate change policies and provide further impetus for projects. Following the review the Government also announced a proposal for a Climate Change Bill and a draft is awaited.

New public inquiry rules for certain larger onshore and offshore electricity generating stations and overhead lines were released for consultation in November 2006. Public inquiries are where most proposals for wind farms in the
UK end up being decided. Objectors, supporters, local authorities and the developer all contribute to the inquiry. The focus of the proposed rules is to improve speedy decision-making while allowing for public participation. It is expected that the new rules will come into force in spring 2007.

December 2006 brought the release of further Government climate change policy with a statement which, once finalised, must be considered in future planning decisions. The proposed policy guides decision-makers to look favourably on renewable energy proposals and even allocate specific sites for new projects. In addition, all substantial new developments will be expected to obtain a significant proportion of energy on-site and from renewables.

But are these developments and proposals enough? Well, the UK Government approved the construction of two offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary on
18 December 2006. This is an encouraging sign after the release of so many new documents. However, while the two projects are expected to generate enough energy to power 990,000 homes, it will not be known whether they will go ahead until approval is obtained for the onshore substations.

While there is little doubt that wind farm developers have some hurdles to overcome before development, the UK Government is continuing to demonstrate its firm commitment to renewables including wind energy. Some wind farm proposals in the
UK have been very controversial but even this has not caused the Government to falter with its support. There is no doubt that in 2007 wind power will benefit from the momentum of the last year and that there is a strong future for wind power in the UK.
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