UK hopes to ramp up battery storage and boost renewables by loosening planning rules

The U.K. government is to relax planning rules to make the development of large battery storage systems easier.

In an announcement Tuesday, authorities said secondary legislation would be introduced to get rid of “barriers for storage projects above 50 MW (megawatts) in England and 350 MW in Wales.” 

In simple terms, the change will be a technical one related to who has the authority to grant permission to a project. At the moment, if a facility is 50 MW or less in England or 350 MW or less in Wales, planning permission is needed from a local planning authority.

Larger projects are deemed to be “nationally significant” and need consent from the secretary of state under something called the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, or NSIP, regime. Under the plans, legislation will be introduced to remove electricity storage, excluding pumped hydro, from the NSIP regime in England and Wales.

Battery storage is seen as crucial to the U.K.’s energy transition because while sources such as wind and solar are renewable, they fluctuate: the wind does not always blow, and the sun does not always shine. 

The government explained that while the U.K. was home to the “largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world” the fact that “the availability and speed of wind” was not constant meant energy could “sometimes be produced when it is not needed and then lost.” It added that 1 gigawatt (GW) of battery storage was currently in operation, with 4 GW of projects being planned. 

“How we operate Great Britain’s grid is changing, with record levels of renewable sources generating our power,” Kayte O’Neill, head of markets at electricity system operator National Grid ESO, said in a statement.

“Storage can help us make the most of this green energy, using it to manage peaks and troughs in demand and operate the electricity system as efficiently as possible — keeping costs down for consumers too,” she added.

The plans were also welcomed by the trade association RenewableUK.

Rebecca Williams, its director of policy and regulation, said it was “glad” the government had, “listened to industry and will now allow local planning authorities to determine battery projects of 50 MW and above rather than the Secretary of State which can be a longer and more expensive process.” 

“This scale of battery is becoming the new norm,” Williams added. “Today’s announcement will stimulate investment in the energy system we need to reach net zero as fast and as cheaply as possible.” 

The battery storage news comes in the same week that construction on Viking Link, a major energy infrastructure project, began.

On Monday, National Grid said that work on a 2.4 kilometer access road to a converter station site in Bicker Fen, Lincolnshire, had started. 

The Viking Link Interconnector project is a subsea, high-voltage direct-current link between Denmark and the U.K. that will be 765 kilometers long once completed.

The 2 billion euro ($2.29 billion) scheme, which will enable the two countries to share clean energy, is a joint venture between National Grid Ventures and Denmark’s Energinet. Siemens Energy is undertaking construction work on the project’s converter stations. The cable is slated for completion at the end of 2023.

Source : CNBC.COM

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