(Bloomberg) -- The UK government will relax planning rules for onshore wind to allow projects to be deployed more easily, marking a significant policy shift.
Britain vowed to speed up the planning process for energy infrastructure including offshore wind farms and new oil and gas fields in Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on Friday. Onshore wind was effectively banned in 2016, but developers were allowed to enter the government’s latest subsidy competition in a softening of policy.
The UK is focusing on accelerating sources of homegrown energy as it seeks to reduce its dependence on imports that are priced against volatile international markets. Bringing down the cost of energy will help tame the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades after bills jumped to record levels. The projects were included on a list of infrastructure developments that the government wants to see begin construction by the end of 2023.
The announcement includes “sector-specific changes to accelerate infrastructure delivery, including: bringing onshore wind planning policy in line with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England,” the government said.
Planning processes are one of the major impediments to the quicker deployment of offshore wind, the central plank of the UK’s plan to cut emissions from its power system. The list of projects that will benefit includes basically every offshore wind farm currently being developed in the waters surrounding Britain.
“A decision to lift the ban suggests the new government has listened to the experts and understands building more British renewables reduces our reliance on costly gas and so brings down bills,” said Jess Ralston, senior analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.
Planning rules in England currently give local communities a veto on onshore wind farms, the result of a promise from the 2015 Conservative Party election manifesto.
Any acceleration could be welcome news for companies including BP Plc, which agreed to pay a record-high annual fee while it develops 3 gigawatts of wind farms in the Celtic Sea with project partner EnBW Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG.
In addition, the government said it would allow oil and gas fields including the Murlach, Cambo, Talbot, Affleck and Victory developments to be fast-tracked.
Other energy projects such as nuclear power stations, hydrogen production and carbon capture were also included on the list of projects to speed up planning. Those technologies are currently hindered more by a lack of funding than red tape.
The government also unveiled some new support for energy efficiency measures that could help reduce demand for gas in the coming years. New legislation will push energy retailers to help their customers cut their bills. The UK will also spend as much as £2.1 billion ($2.3 billion) over the next two years to help local authorities, housing associations, schools and hospitals invest in energy efficiency and renewable heating.
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