Tweak planning laws for more green power

Head of corporate at environmental consultancy ADAS, Ray Williams, thinks the only way to break through the barriers to developing on-shore renewable energy infrastructure is to 'tweak' planning guidelines for officials

The UK has set ambitious, legally binding targets to increase the amount of power generated from renewable sources at 15 per cent by 2020.

Currently just 5.6 per cent of our energy requirement comes from renewable sources*.

It is estimated that applications to develop on shore wind farms are being approved by planners in only one in three cases.

The main reason for application rejection is the local environmental impact of the proposed development.

There are many reasons for rejection, but in the case of wind farms, visual impact is often cited.

Reasons for the rejection of other forms of renewable energy include odour concerns for anaerobic digestion facilities or traffic impact.

At the current development rate, the UK is going to struggle to hit its renewable energy targets.

Emerging technologies such as anaerobic digestion (producing methane and heat from waste) will help, but again many will be rejected because of potential environmental impact.

It means UK planning policy (and more importantly the interpretation of it) is at odds with the renewable energy targets.

This is the only way to improve the conversion rate of wind farm, anaerobic digestion and other renewable energy developments.

For example if a limited number of people perceive that there is a landscape impact from wind turbines, it may be decided that this is a price worth paying for the greater good.

The planning policy governing renewable energy development is over-complicated, prohibitively expensive and, crucially, too open-ended - and this has a major chilling effect on the companies who are providing Britain with green energy.

If the UK is serious about meeting its renewable energy targets, development guidelines need to be reviewed and allow room for officials to approve developments even if they have some level of negative environmental impact.

Ultimately, we have to weigh up whether manmade global warming - which threatens our way of life is more of a priority than a level of localised environmental shock.

We firmly believe that global warming needs to be countered with every tool at our disposal and we must be prepared to sacrifice some local priorities to meet global imperatives caused by global warming.

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