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Proposed revisions to the planning system for electricity storage

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate planning


The Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 requires the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 (compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels). Developing or enhancing the necessary infrastructure to support the delivery of this commitment is of critical importance. Energy storage has been identified as an essential technology in the transition to a smarter and more flexible energy system and in helping to reduce emissions to net zero.

Following a consultation on the treatment of energy storage in the planning system in January 2019, the Government has now revised its earlier policy position on the treatment of energy storage. The new preferred policy position is to carve out electricity storage, with the exception of pumped hydro storage, from the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (“NSIP”) regime under the Planning Act. A pumped hydro storage project of more than 50MW will continue to fall under the NSIP regime.

A follow-up consultation on these revised proposals was recently launched and will close on 10 December 2019.

The previous proposals in the January 2019 consultation proposed to retain the 50MW capacity threshold for standalone storage facilities. A new capacity threshold would be introduced for composite projects, to provide that such projects would only be considered to be of national significance if its capacity (excluding any electricity storage) exceeded 50MW or if the capacity of the electricity storage exceeded 50MW. Onshore wind was to be excluded from this new composite project category.

Numerous responses to the January 2019 consultation submitted that the 50MW capacity threshold led to a clustering of projects just below the 50MW threshold or proposals for standalone electricity storage being split into multiple projects capped at 49.9MW. Consultation responses also drew attention to the fact that the planning impacts of electricity storage, relative to other ‘nationally significant’ infrastructure generation projects, will be much less significant.

The new preferred policy position set out in this follow-up consultation acknowledges evidence of the distortion of sizing and investment decisions by the 50MW capacity threshold. A relative assessment of footprints was also undertaken. The footprint of a project is not a necessary or sufficient condition for it to be considered nationally significant but the Government considered it was a reasonable proxy for a number of the planning impacts that could be expected to arise: visual, environmental, landscape, security of supply and noise.

On analysis of the responses and evidence, the new preferred policy position is that electricity storage facilities (with the exception of pumped hydro) will be carved out of the NSIP regime in England and Wales. Planning permission will be required from English planning authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Secretary of State will retain the ability to issue a direction under section 35 of the Planning Act 2008 to direct that a particular proposal should be considered under the NSIP regime.

Where storage facilities are to be co-located with a proposed generating station with a capacity which triggers the NSIP regime, the storage facilities could be consented within the same development consent order if they qualify as associated development under the Planning Act 2008.

In Wales, planning decisions for electricity storage facilities (except pumped hydro) of any size will generally fall to be considered by the relevant Welsh local planning authority under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This would replace the current system whereby local planning authorities consider proposals for electricity storage (except for pumped hydro) with a capacity below 350MW.

The Government consider that pumped hydro storage facilities should remain in the NSIP regime due to the larger planning impacts of this technology and the fact that these type of facilities often require other consents (e.g. for the compulsory acquisition of land), which may make it more efficient for the proposal to go through the NSIP regime.

In Wales, pumped hydro facilities with a capacity between 10MW and 350MW will require planning permission from Welsh Ministers as a development of national significance. The Secretary of State will consent pumped hydro facilities with a capacity in excess of 350MW under the NSIP regime.

The Government is minded to apply the carve out of electricity storage (except pumped hydro) to the offshore planning regime operated under the NSIP regime and section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. If so, the remaining consenting requirement for storage facilities will be a marine licence under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

The consultation also responds to requests for clarification on the application of the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. Electricity storage is not expressly identified as a category of development. However, consistent with the Government’s view that electricity storage constitutes a form of generation, the Government considers it is in general appropriate to describe storage facilities as “industrial installations for the production of electricity”.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is also working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to update the Renewables and Low Carbon Energy Planning Practice Guidance, to include specific reference to electricity storage.

To discuss the consultation proposal further, please contact Peter Nesbit or Michelle Smith.

For more information contact

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