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Scotland’s Onshore Wind Policy Statement

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate planning
  • Energy and infrastructure

10-01-2018

The final version of the Scottish Government’s Onshore Wind Policy Statement (“OWPS”) has been published, confirming the role of onshore wind in Scotland, expectations of developers and forthcoming reviews and consultations.

The OWPS sets out the Government’s expectation that onshore wind will remain at the heart of a clean, reliable and low carbon energy future in Scotland. Onshore wind is recognised as one of the lowest cost forms of electricity generation of any kind and the Scottish Government considers there is scope to continue to reduce costs. Routes to reducing costs lie in continuing innovation in turbine components, the development of smarter networks, storage technology, appropriate repowering projects and developer collaboration.  

The Scottish Government makes clear its commitment to support both new onshore developments in the right location and its in-principle support for repowering projects. The OWPS states that Scotland will continue to need more onshore wind development and capacity, in locations across its landscapes where it can be accommodated.

This commitment reflects Scotland’s ambitious renewables targets and the crucial role onshore wind plays in the decarbonisation of Scotland’s energy system. Onshore wind helps to meet the greater demand from Scotland’s heat and transport sectors. The Scottish Government’s commitment also reflects the role of onshore wind in desired future growth in manufacturing and supply chain opportunities. The industrial opportunity and the extent to which these benefits can continue to be captured remains a top priority for Scottish Ministers.

To protect residents and the environment, the Scottish Government believes that development can and must strike the right balance between utilising Scotland’s significant renewable energy resources whilst protecting its finest scenic landscapes and natural heritage. The OWPS confirms commitment to the draft Peatland Policy and Carbon Calculator tool. The effectiveness and value of these tools will continue to be monitored.

The OWPS sets out the clear view of Scottish Government that it has struck the right approach on the politically sensitive topic of wild land, by delivering significant protection for areas of wild land whilst avoiding a blanket restriction. The Scottish Government is “determined” to maintain its “strong track record” on balancing environmental protection with ambitious renewable energy goals. 

No concrete changes are proposed to the Electricity Act systems for processing and determining developments.  Efficiency will not be a material consideration in the s36 consenting process. Recognising that ‘efficiency’ is often viewed as the technology shift towards larger turbines, the OWPS states that this may present challenges when identifying landscapes with the capacity to accommodate larger scale development. However, fewer but larger wind turbines may also present an opportunity for landscape improvement, as well as increasing the amount of electricity generated.

In terms of a strategic approach to development, developers must renew focus on effective communication with affected and relevant communities. The OWPS also reinforces the continued expectation that developers of +50MW developments work together, with every effort to be made to find opportunities to collaborate and to reduce potential local landscape effects. If this expectation is not met, the OWPS states that the Government is prepared to examine further measures to bring forward greater collaboration.  

The Scottish Government has decided not to take forward suggestions for a bespoke assessment project for repowering projects. Instead, there will be continued discussion and assessment of the right approach on a case by case basis.

The OWPS also discusses what it describes as the “common (although not universal) assumption” of a time-limited period of 25 years for consent. Confirming that there is no current statutory or legislative duration period, Scottish Government restates the SPP position that areas identified for wind farms should be suitable for use in perpetuity. Proposed operating periods can be discussed during the pre-application period but decommissioning provisions will still be required.

It is a Scottish Government aim to encourage more local involvement and community benefits. Developers are expected to continue to offer meaningful community benefits and renegotiate community benefits or shared ownership at an early stage in any repowering project. The impact of uncertainty around a route to market on community benefits offer is acknowledged. There will be a review of the Good Practice Principles for Community Benefit in 2018, which will explore new business models and legacy arrangements.

The Scottish Government remains committed to shared ownership and wishes to see a significant increase in shared ownership of renewable energy projects. This is a top priority in the new CARES contract to 2020. The Good Practice Principles for Shared Ownership of Onshore Renewable Energy Developments will be reviewed alongside the Principles for Community Benefit in 2018.

Securing a route to market for all scales of onshore wind is a stated priority for the Scottish Government. A supportive planning system is required (and a Planning Bill has been introduced) along with continued innovation and cost reduction. New onshore wind projects should come forward at no additional subsidy cost to consumers but this will require limited market intervention. The intervention will focus on providing limited protection against variations in the wholesale price of power. The Scottish Government is supportive of technology-neutral contract auctions and will continue to call on the UK Government to use its reserved powers and market mechanisms to deliver the necessary solution. Other avenues will be explored at the same time, including corporate PPAs.

With regard to previously identified barriers to deployment, the Scottish Government recognises the importance of progress in the planning and operation of electricity networks, to ensure that future network arrangements meet the needs of Scotland’s energy system and consumers. The exclusion zone around the Eskdalemuir Seismology Array will continue to be 10 kilometres. The previously proposed extension to 15 kilometres will not be implemented to avoid the premature limitation of development in an area where it might otherwise be appropriate. 

Reflecting the mature nature of onshore wind technology, the Scottish Government expects that, in the longer term, the air navigation industry will move towards self-management of the impact of turbines on civil radar. With regard to military aviation radar, the obstacle presented by the potentially prohibitive cost of assessing mitigation and the MoD’s approach to financial risk is identified. The OWPS sets out in clear terms the determination of the Scottish Government to unlock these affected projects in the early part of 2018.

The OWPS announces a 2018 consultation on proposals designed to ensure the Consents Units remains properly resourced and able to build on its current high standard of service. The Scottish Government will also be looking at the Electricity Act framework, having identified what it considers to be significant scope for improving the current framework and also a compelling case for changes. The latter will be pursued with the UK Government and is prompted by the Scottish Government’s belief that elements of the legislative framework are out-of-date.

For more information contact

Kirsty  Morris, Senior Paralegal

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