News & Updates

How Planning and Policy are Impacting the Renewables Industry

Fraser Gillies

Published byFraser Gillies

16th November 2021

How Planning and Policy are Impacting the Renewables Industry

Our recent annual renewables seminar looked at onshore wind, the implications of the emerging carbon units market for developers, and predictions for future policy changes as Scotland looks to meet its net zero targets.

With international climate change summit COP26 taking place in Glasgow at the same time, there has rarely been a more appropriate moment in time to come together to discuss renewable energy, the impact of climate change, and the policy changes which lie ahead that may affect the extent to which Scotland reaches its environmental targets.

Despite the increasing amount of attention being given to environmental issues in recent years, the threat of climate change is still very much with us, and it is clear that renewables will continue to play a key role as the global community aims to reduce its emissions.

Held on COP26’s official Day of Energy, it was fantastic to return to an in-person format for our 2021 renewables event, after adapting to an online model for last year’s seminar in the face of ongoing lockdown restrictions.

Speakers included David MacArthur, co-owner of the carbon negative environmental consultancy MacArthur Green, David Bell of David Bell Planning Ltd., chartered landscape architect and founder of MVGLA Marc van Grieken, and my colleague Andy McFarlane, who heads up WJM’s team of renewables experts.

The key themes covered were planning and policy, how these are impacting the renewables industry, predictions on how these may change over the coming months and years, and what kind of impact such changes may have on the sector.

NPF4 was a major discussion point at the seminar, with almost all of our speakers outlining their predictions for the highly anticipated policy which is set to be released imminently.

The fourth National Planning Framework will outline how the planning system will support the Government’s objectives to reach its net-zero target, and shape how planning decisions are made by local authorities and Ministers in the future.

I head the Planning team at WJM, and focused on the need for NPF4 to have “teeth”, and to provide the development management power required to ensure consistent application of policy across the board.

I examined several examples of recent rulings, which clearly show the lack of consistency being applied in decision making in the last year. These show that more certainty is required, and given the severity of the climate emergency, this is more important than ever before.

Noting that every prospective site has very specific impacts which need to be looked at and weighed up, I suggested greater consistency when it comes to applying policy will improve the overall situation, and I hope the new documentation enables this.

Andy McFarlane, David Bell and Marc van Grieken also spoke about how important the publication is going to be for the industry and how it may impact planning going forward.

There was also a focus on onshore wind and peatland carbon – areas which our renewables team has been very busy with recently as an increasing amount of clients seek counsel on these types of projects.

David MacArthur shared some particularly interesting insights on peatland carbon, how this may interfere with the development of onshore wind farms, and the potential legal implications for developers if peatland restoration is prioritised in future.

Advising that a mix of nature and technology-based offsets will be necessary if we are to come close to meeting our Paris Agreement emission reduction targets, David spoke about the obstacles and opportunities for the onshore wind industry if more peatland schemes are developed, which may reduce the potential areas for wind farms to be built.

The climate emergency means it is absolutely essential for us to think outside of the box when it comes to solutions and developments which will make a positive impact, and I await with interest the innovative new approaches that will be taken in future as we aim to meet our climate change targets.

Renewables will continue to be a key focus for our firm going forward, so this was a great opportunity to listen to a variety of perspectives on what could be in store for the industry.

WJM’s renewables team provides legal advice to clients on a wide variety of areas of renewable energy, including onshore and offshore wind, battery storage, hydro, tidal, wave, biomass and solar, working alongside the firm’s property, planning and corporate teams to provide a truly integrated service.


This article first appeared in The Scotsman

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