Scottish onshore wind ‘held back’ by UK planning restrictions, commission finds

An onshore wind farm.
An onshore wind farm.

The National Infrastructure Commission has said that Scottish onshore wind is being “held back” by UK planning restrictions largely defined by communities in England.

Published today, the National Infrastructure Assessment said that UK-wide onshore wind restrictions could be freed-up in Scotland to bring forward proposals for onshore wind development into the 2020’s.

The report points out that while onshore receives “strong public support” UK-wide, its controversial status in certain communities means projects in Scotland and other sections of the UK are being “held back”.

The commission concludes that revising the current Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions system for renewables and the way they are set up into pots would allow the “lowest cost renewable generation mix” to be brought forward in Scotland.

The recommendation only accounts for Scotland and Wales and would leave England with the current system it has in place.

According to the report, the change would ensure that “onshore wind, which enjoys strong public support overall, but has been controversial in some communities, would still be subject to planning restrictions in England. Projects in Wales and Scotland would no longer be held back.

“Pot 2 auctions could be used to allocate small amounts of support to emerging technologies, especially where they are likely to be able to contribute to the reduction of system costs in future.”

Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new electricity generation so it’s no surprise that the Commission is calling on the UK Government to stop blocking new projects.

“Building a low-carbon energy system centred on renewables like solar and onshore wind would not only reduce consumer energy bills, it would also reflect public opinion which is strongly in favour of renewables.

“The UK Government should follow Scotland’s lead and aim to create an energy system high in renewables, harvesting the benefits of our clean, green energy resources.”

RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck added: “Cheap renewables offer the best deal for consumers. Government has a great opportunity to give bill payers a break by putting renewable energy at the heart of a modern smart energy system.

“Instead of that it’s inexplicably blocking new onshore wind projects. Why? That’s the question that MPs will have to explain to their hard-pressed constituents. Ministers should be listening to what people actually think and the Government’s own polling shows that 76% of people support onshore wind”.

Matt Rooney, engineering policy adviser at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The worldwide fall in the cost of wind turbines and solar panels is to be celebrated and we support an energy market that will allow higher penetrations of these clean energy technologies in our system.

“Indeed, the Government should stop putting up barriers to the construction of new onshore wind and solar farms.”