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17 October 2019

UK government allows storage to grow locally

The British government has tabled a proposal to allow large-scale energy storage projects to be processed through local planning mechanisms, rather than through the national planning regime.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy aims to allow utility-scale projects over 50MW, except pumped hydro, to proceed without government approval, handing power to local communities. Historically, regulations have meant that projects above this threshold have had to go through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project process, which can add up to three years onto project lead times.

With additional costs reaching into hundreds of thousands of pounds, small-scale developers have struggled, and have often “capped projects at 49.9 MW to allow larger storage projects to progress” says Madeleine Greenhalgh, policy lead for the Energy Storage Network. With these restrictions in place, innovation and entrepreneurship have been stifled, with start-up companies facing a blockage in climbing the energy-storage ladder. In some cases energy firms were splitting 100 MW into two separate projects in order to get them through planning.

The new proposals would see lead times significantly reduced. With the small geographic footprint of storage projects, especially battery as it rapidly develops, we would expect to see far more medium-scale projects entering the market, as local planning agencies should have little reason to reject them. By facilitating entrepreneurship and allowing start-ups to grow, competition in the energy storage sector will be increased, driving prices down and making storage a more viable part of the UK’s energy mix.

The solar community has seen this a great step forwards as an increasing number of project incorporate batteries, with the government acknowledging energy storage as an essential aspect in delivering on the UK’s net-zero commitments.