Promoting Proactive Planning for Onshore Wind – one step in delivering the UK’s renewable energy targets

IEEP and RSPB have launched a new report setting out how onshore wind planning in the UK can be improved. This concludes that the rapid roll out of new wind energy capacity, now urgent if the UK is to meet its 2020 target for renewable energy, can occur while simultaneously addressing wildlife concerns. However, decisive action by government is needed for this to happen.

Mitigating climate change demands large changes in energy policy. As a result of the binding agreement on all EU governments, reached in December 2008, the UK has accepted challenging targets for the delivery of 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Projections by UK government departments, and many others, anticipate that wind power will be central to delivering the step change necessary in UK renewable energy capacity by 2020. The UK has an exceptional renewable wind resource, but is also known for its slow progress in capitalising on this. From an existing base of 2.6GW of onshore wind capacity, the UK needs to reach an estimated minimum of 14 GW of energy supplied by onshore wind by 2020 (coupled with the expansion of offshore wind, bioenergy and tidal energy use).

Since the siting and scale of wind farms is generally critical in determining their nature conservation impacts, planning policy is an essential tool for ensuring that the rapid deployment of wind energy is achieved whilst simultaneously protecting vulnerable wildlife from inappropriate development. Effective planning systems can facilitate the development of a well conceived and viable wind energy sector. The RSPB commissioned IEEP to analyse the existing approaches adopted to planning for onshore wind in the countries of the UK and to compare these to approaches in three European countries known for their extensive onshore wind deployment – Germany, Denmark and Spain. The report draws a series of conclusions on significant steps needed to align planning policy with the ambitions for renewable energy in the UK, particularly in England.

Planning is one element of a policy chain that must be put in place to enable the delivery of new renewables in the short period of 11 years remaining until 2020.

For further information concerning this report please contact lead author Catherine Bowyer.