Driving the Green Recovery

Andy McFarlane

Published by
Andy McFarlane

29th October 2020

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the economy. Sectors which have been a bedrock of the Scottish and British economy have been damaged and some changed forever. However, there are some areas which remain relatively unharmed and which may help to lead recovery from the now confirmed recession.

Renewables is one of these sectors. Whilst politicians herald a green recovery, on the ground the pandemic has seen developers adapting to remote working and new ways of communication, but their desire to progress their projects has continued largely unabated. Alongside that, investor appetite in the Scottish onshore wind market remains strong despite the pandemic, continued political uncertainty from Brexit and renewed support for Scottish independence.

There are plenty of opportunities when it comes to the renewables industry in Scotland and onshore wind in particular at the moment. However, these do not come without challenges.

Onshore wind projects, particularly in Scotland, are attractive to developers who know there is a ready market for investors to acquire same.

The market is currently highly competitive, with landowners again able to tender sites to a reinvigorated developer community in the UK who are finding themselves joined by new developers coming from abroad to get involved in the sector.
At the same time, the industry has finally achieved some overdue good press with recent front pages trumpeting that onshore wind could result in cheaper energy bills, making a welcome change from unfounded scare stories in the past.

Despite the optimism, the industry continues to face some challenges. Planning remains frustrating. The new National Planning Framework (NPF4) was due to be published in September this year, and it was hoped it would give a clearer steer on development on and around wild land.

Developers were also hoping for some clarity when considering whether to re-plant and re-power existing wind farms or to extend the lifetime of existing machines.

It’s very disappointing against this background that NPF4 has been delayed. Politicians like to talk about the green recovery and there is no doubt the Scottish Government’s warm words regarding renewables add something to the allure of Scotland for developers but, on a more basic level, progressing NPF4 was and remains a real opportunity to provide clarity and bring forward development, which can help a recovery as well as reaching the ambitious renewed targets for 2030.

Our renewables team continues to be very busy, notwithstanding lockdown and everything since.

We recently completed the development and sale of the proposed Blary Hill Wind Farm on the Kintyre Peninsula. A high value project, with Scotland’s first ever joint ICP (independent connection provider) grid connection, this is a significant example of developers working together to develop projects in the ‘subsidy-free’ market.

As uncertainty persists around NPF4, our planning team remains busy with strategic advice, ongoing public inquiries and dealing with specialist consultees, notably on the aviation side.

On transactions, our team continues to be kept busy at the early stages of the development process, as well as when projects progress to spades in the ground phase, and financial close.

Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie’s energy seminar “Driving the Green Recovery” will be a virtual event this year, and will focus on onshore wind. The event takes place on Thursday, 19th November, from 2.30-6pm. To sign up, visit: https://hopin.to/events/driving-the-green-recovery

The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at October 2020. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.