Government relaxes planning rules for energy storage projects

The move could treble the number of batteries serving the grid and provide a major boost for subsidy-free renewables

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Today, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have introduced changes to the planning rules, which will make it easier for energy storage systems to be deployed in England and Wales, in what is being seen as a ‘crucial’ step in developing new subsidy-free renewable energy projects.

Planning rules previously restricted the development of larger energy storage facilities, with projects over 50MW requiring approval by the Energy Secretary via the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) system. The changes will instead allow most energy storage technologies (excluding pumped hydro) to progress through the Town and Country Planning Act. It is reported that applications for projects over 50MW, which previously took 1-2 years to process, will now be able to receive permission in 8-16 weeks. 

Reacting to the news, Madeleine Greenhalgh, policy lead at the Electricity Storage Network (ESN), said:

“This is a significant, positive and well-timed decision from the government; encouraging larger storage projects to come forward will add more jobs and economic benefit to the green recovery.

“By recognising the smaller planning impacts of storage projects, this change will save developers time and money and encourage more ambitious storage projects, which are vital to decarbonising our electricity system.”

Frank Gordon, Head of Policy at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), also welcomed the news:

“This is a welcome change in the market which will support the UK’s position as a world leader in energy storage technologies. The previous cap was largely arbitrary and skewed the market. As energy storage built alongside new renewables projects is crucial to unlocking subsidy-free deployment, the old system acted as major barrier to achieving our Net Zero target and building low-cost generation sites.

“We welcome the decision to apply this change to most forms of electricity storage, as called for by the REA and our energy storage members. The UK is home to pioneering compressed air, flow battery, gravity battery, and cryogenic systems in addition to lithium-ion batteries.

“Whilst this is a positive development, we must remember that there are a matrix of changes that need to be made to the way our grids and energy system are managed if we are to fully decarbonise. We welcome other recent announcements to this end, including the regulator’s proposal to increase the allowable spending by the Electricity System Operator so that they can develop their control room to fully capture the benefits of a more local and dynamic system.”

Solar Trade Association (STA) Chief Executive Chris Hewett said:

“We welcome the decision to make it easier to deploy flexible large-scale energy storage technologies in the UK, which will help to further decarbonise and improve the resilience of our energy system.”

“The next steps in unlocking the potential of energy storage, and maximising the crucial role it can play in managing growing solar and wind output, are to provide greater access to flexibility markets, including the capacity market, and applying fairer network charging rules.”

“Our aim has to be to fully decarbonise these flexibility markets and minimise all use of fossil fuel generation.”

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