In April, we wrote a blog about a consultation held by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on proposed changes to the treatment of energy storage under the planning system. This consultation, which ran from January to March 2019, applied to England only.

On 15 October 2019, BEIS published its response to the January consultation, together with a follow-up consultation which applies to both England and Wales.

What was the result of the January consultation, and why is a follow-up consultation now being held?

January 2019 consultation

According to BEIS, just over 30 responses to the initial consultation were received, from storage developers, industry bodies, local authorities and energy suppliers/generators.

Most respondents rejected the proposal to retain the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime 50MW capacity threshold for standalone storage projects, citing this as a significant barrier to the deployment of standalone storage projects above this threshold. BEIS also proposed to amend the Planning Act 2008 (PA 2008) so that, where the capacity of the storage and non-storage elements are over 50MW in combination but less than 50MW individually, the generating station would come under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (1990 Act) regime. Whilst there was broad support to create a new capacity threshold for composite storage and generation projects, feedback from respondents outlined a concern that this would create a loophole whereby a large storage facility could avoid the NSIP regime by installing a small wind turbine.

Government response and follow-up consultation

Having considered the evidence received as a result of the initial consultation, BEIS has “updated” its policy position.

The new consultation proposes a twin-tracked system:

  • For pumped hydro storage projects, the 50MW NSIP threshold would be retained as, for these projects, the NSIP regime is considered to be more efficient and appropriate because of their larger planning impacts and the fact that they often require other consents (eg authorisation for compulsory acquisition of land) which can be provided through a Development Consent Order (DCO).
  • All other electricity storage projects should be governed by the town and country planning regime:
    • In England, the 1990 Act will govern all non-pumped hydro storage projects unless directed by the Secretary of State.
    • In Wales, all non-pumped hydro storage projects will also be governed by the town and country planning regime, as the current threshold of 350MW will be removed.

The Government has also published draft legislation implementing these proposals, and clarifications regarding the application of permitted development (PD) rights and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regime to electricity storage facilities.

The closing date for the follow-up consultation is 10 December 2019. It will be for whichever government is elected on 12 December 2019 to decide how to take forward responses received.