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UK Government proposes changes to consenting of electricity storage

  • United Kingdom
  • Energy and infrastructure - Clean energy

21-07-2020

Last week the Government published its response to the follow-up consultation on proposed changes to the treatment of electricity storage in the planning system.

In January 2019 the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced the original consultation, which sought views on proposals for the retention of the 50 megawatt (MW) Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) threshold that applies to standalone electricity storage projects and to establish a new NSIP capacity threshold for composite projects. In October 2019 BEIS published a follow-up consultation setting out the initial responses, which indicated that the 50MW NSIP threshold is seen as a significant barrier to the deployment of larger storage projects.

As a result, the Government has now reversed its position, confirming it will legislate to remove electricity storage, with the exception of pumped hydro, from the NSIP regime in England and Wales – both on and offshore. This means that the primary consenting route for electricity storage projects (except pumped hydro) in England will be under the TCPA 1990; in Wales, projects of any size will generally be consented by the relevant local planning authority under the TCPA 1990, which is currently the case only for projects below 350MW.

To achieve its proposals, the Government has introduced two draft statutory instruments: one under the Planning Act 2008 (the 2008 Act) and one under the Electricity Act 1989 (the 1989 Act), namely “The Infrastructure Planning (Electricity Storage Facilities) Order” and “The Electricity Storage Facilities (Exemption) (England and Wales) Order”.

The orders, if brought into force with their current terms, will benefit three categories of generating station development as follows (except where the facility is pumped hydro):

  • a generating station which comprises (or will comprise) a standalone storage facility will no longer require development consent
  • the capacity provided by a storage facility which forms part of (or will form part of) a composite generating station will be disregarded for the purposes of determining whether the overall project falls within the NSIP regime
  • any storage facility which is added (or to be added) to an existing generating station after the date on which the orders are brought into force will not itself be an NSIP requiring development consent

It should be noted that the exemptions are not retrospective in effect and the provisions of the current regime will continue to apply to:

  • applications for an order granting development consent which have been accepted but not decided before the day on which the orders comes into force
  • an order granting development consent made before the day on which the orders comes into force (including where the consent authorises the provision of a storage facility)
  • an application for an order granting development consent which has been refused before the day on which the orders comes into force. If a refusal is successfully challenged by way of judicial review, any redetermination will be considered disregarding the new provisions

Finally, the orders will not remove the Secretary of State’s ability to direct that projects in England are to be treated as development for which development consent is required.

The new proposals will be very much welcomed by developers involved in the above projects, as it will relieve what has been seen as a significant barrier and delaying factor to the provision of much needed infrastructure of this kind across the country.