UK green-lights faster renewable project approval

Investors in renewable energy projects may benefit from the approval earlier this week of the UK’s infrastructure National Policy Statements, which include plans to speed up the approval process for such projects.

The UK’s National Policy Statements for infrastructure look set to speed up planning processes for renewable energy projects as the government seeks to meet its target of 30 percent of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2020, compared with 7 percent in 2009.

The final set of National Policy Statements, which were approved in Parliament earlier this week, represent the culmination of a process begun by the previous Labour administration through the Planning Act 2008.

Abiding by the National Policy Statements will be a key aspect of Development Consent Order (DCO) applications for “nationally significant infrastructure projects”.

In a statement responding to developments, Ian Shrubsall, head of infrastructure planning at consultancy GL Hearn, said: “The importance of the parliamentary approval of the energy infrastructure National Policy Statements cannot be underestimated. DCO applications must be decided in accordance with the relevant national policy statement unless the adverse impact of the proposed development would outweigh its benefits.”

The “adverse impact test” is the way in which – together with the stakeholder and community consultation required prior to submitting a DCO application – the impact on the local area will be taken into account in framing DCO applications and their determination.

Speaking in Parliament, energy minister Charles Hendry said urgent improvements were needed to the UK’s power supply infrastructure in order to prevent blackouts. He said schemes to help hit carbon emission reduction targets and increase renewable energy supplies would need to be approved more quickly.

Conservative MP Peter Lilley said the emphasis should be on building more nuclear power plants. He said those who believe the country can be run on wind power were “living in a dream world and harking back to the Middle Ages”.