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Backing the Renewable Revolution

Onshore wind making a comeback in England?

In recent days, reports have circulated regarding Boris Johnson’s proposals to greatly widen onshore wind capability across the United Kingdom, hoping to double capacity by 2030. This comes after the UK Government hit Russia with a range of economic sanctions over the past month, vowing to phase out the use of Russian energy. The Prime Minister has been reported as being “passionate” about onshore wind, with the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng publicly announcing his support of a turbo-charged approach to investing in renewable energy sources.

This announcement has not come without opposition. The official announcement in Parliament has been delayed by several weeks due to reluctance from the Treasury in approving expensive plans outlined in the strategy. The hopes of Boris Johnson to expand renewable energy at ‘warp speed’, with 25% reliance on nuclear sources by 2050, has been met with concern from the Chancellor about the cost of investing in more nuclear plants.

Within the cabinet, Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has outlined that future focus should instead centre around exploiting onshore gas through fracking in the UK. Furthermore, news outlets have reported that some MPs are mounting a rebellion when the paper finally reaches the House of Commons. Many of these represent those in rural areas that typically have been resistant to large scale renewable developments on local land.

New targets for renewables

Providing an agreement is reached, the Government’s energy security white paper is poised to be announced imminently. Yesterday, the business secretary was keen to outline that the proposals will call for rapid expansion of nuclear power and far-reaching targets for renewable energy by 2030.

These 2030 targets include increasing solar capacity from 14 gigawatts to 50GW, doubling onshore wind to 30GW, offshore wind power from 11GW to 50GW and nuclear power from 7GW to 16GW. As a practical measurement, a single gigawatt of energy can power approximately 750,000 homes for a year. Those supporting the scheme have highlighted another benefit of expanding onshore wind capacity is the boost to both the local and national economy – supporting 27,000 local jobs generating an extra £45 billion.

Can the planning system deliver?

Lately, leading voices from the renewable energy industry have voiced concerns over the current planning system. The trade organisation RenewableUK noted that the existing planning process in England blocks nearly all development of new onshore wind projects. Planning reports have noted that applications to develop onshore wind farms have dropped by 96% since regulations were tightened in 2015. According to the coalition at Greener UK, this has allowed for one “dissenting voice” to veto plans. As part of these green announcements, the business secretary and Michael Gove, overseer of the planning system, have spoken positively of relaxing the current rules that have constricted further developments.

A cabinet showdown can be expected regarding the updated roadmap for renewable energy, with most reports pointing towards the Prime Minister coming through victorious despite a probable rebellion within his party. For the renewable energy sector, this is likely to mean modified planning regulations that would allow greater ease for development projects and the ramping up of the renewable revolution across the country in the coming years.

Find out more about Thirty4/7’s recent experience with onshore wind and renewables here.