Main menu

Liverpool:

+44 (0)151 600 3000

Manchester:

+44 (0)161 836 8800

Preston:

+44 (0)1772 823 921

Search form

Search form

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T V W Y

Renewables

A quarterly bulletin covering the latest developments and issues in the renewable energy sector.

Latest Issue

In the latest issue of our Renewables Bulletin we have an update on the changes to the Feed-In Tarrifs Scheme with a look at the longer term implications following the subsidies cut to householders. In addition, we look at why planning permission was granted for a windturbine affecting the setting of listed buildings. We will also be exhibiting once again at the Energy Now Expo which takes place on 10-11 February at the Telford International Centre.

To stay up to date with this bulletin and see others - sign up to any of our free newsletters.

Solar - changes to the Feed-In Tariffs Scheme

Friday 5th February 2016

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 11

The UK Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently held a consultation on a review of the Feed-In Tariffs subsidies scheme (FITs). On 17 December 2015 they published their response which included new, reduced tariffs for domestic-scale solar PV systems which came into force on 15 January 2016 for new installations.

The cut in subsidies to householders installing rooftop solar panels of approximately 65% for average domestic installations was announced just days after the UK Government had agreed to move swiftly to a low-carbon energy future at the climate change conference in Paris.

The UK Government’s argument was that it needs to protect wider energy bills from the rising impact of renewable energy subsidies (which it claims currently add £9 to household energy bills) and that this justified paying rooftop solar installers 4.39p per kilowatt hour from February instead of the previous 12.47p. 

However, DECC’s own impact assessment study admits the reduction could cause the loss of up to 18,700 of the industry’s 32,000 jobs and in October last year the Solar Trade Association launched a counter proposal £1 solar rescue plan which it claimed would allow a viable solar market to continue while giving the UK Government the cost control guarantees it requires. This proposal was in effect asking for a total of £95million over the next three years, a significant increase on the £7million the Government was proposing over the same period.

However, whilst the DECC impact assessment study would suggest that the new FITS are lower than what the solar industry needed, the UK Government did greatly improve on its original proposals for the new FIT level after the campaign by the Solar Trade Association, businesses and an unprecedented response by the public.

The lower FIT will mean a longer payback time for the solar panels and this makes solar a long-term investment. The feed-in tariff is paid for 20 years (it used to be 25 years). The aim of the new rates is to give a return on investment of around 5% – a tax free, inflation linked return, higher than any rates on offer today for savings accounts, where interest rates are at a record low. However, if installation costs continue to fall and/or if electricity prices continue to rise, the payback period will shorten. As long as the panels function, of course, the homeowner will still benefit from the 'free' electricity they generate.

The Renewable Energy Consumer Code has published a help Q&A guide which can be found here.

If you would like more information on these developments or to discuss how we help you with your renewable energy requirements please contact:


Adrian Rogers

Partner – Corporate
Renewable Energy team
Tel: 0151 600 3127
Email: adrian.rogers@braners.com

 

Background to FITs

FITs were introduced on 1 April 2010 and replaced UK Government grants as the main financial incentive to encourage uptake of renewable electricity-generating technologies. Most domestic technologies qualify for the scheme, including solar, wind turbine and hydroelectricity. Homeowners eligible to receive FITs benefit in three ways:

  • Generation tariff: the energy supplier pays a set rate for each unit (or kWh) of electricity generated.  The tariff levels are guaranteed for the period of the tariff (up to 20 years) and are index-linked.
  • Export tariff: the energy supplier will pay a further rate for each unit exported back to the electricity grid, so the homeowner can sell any electricity generated but not utilised. At some stage smart meters will be installed to measure what is exported, but until then it is estimated as being 50 per cent of the electricity generated (only systems above 30kWp need to have an export meter fitted, and a domestic system is unlikely to be that big).
  • Energy bill savings: savings will be made on electricity bills because the homeowner doesn’t have to buy as much electricity from the energy supplier.

Planning permission granted for wind turbine affecting the setting of listed buildings

Friday 5th February 2016

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 11

Planning permission has been granted for a wind turbine on a farm near Towcester, Northants which was deemed to be affecting the setting of a number of listed buildings.

In Jones v Mordue & Others [2015], the appellant, Jones (“J”), sought planning permission for a single wind turbine on his farm near Towcester, Northants.  It was agreed that the wind turbine would, to a certain extent, affect the views of a nearby Grade II* listed church and to a lesser extent on the setting of another listed church and a listed manor house. Listed buildings and their settings are accorded special protection under s.66(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (“the Act”) which means that at a planning appeal, a planning inspector should give considerable weight to the harm that a wind turbine development for example could cause to listed buildings.

In arriving at his decision on the Appeal in this case, the Planning Inspector (“the Inspector”) referred to both local planning policy and paragraph 134 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which both concerned the protection of heritage assets.

The Inspector found that the adverse effect of the wind turbine development was limited to a small area and that no heritage asset would suffer substantial harm, therefore, coming to the conclusion that the harm was outweighed by the environmental benefits of the development and proceeded to grant planning permission.

Mordue (“M”), the chairperson of a group of local objectors, appealed against the Inspector’s decision and a Deputy Judge in the High Court allowed the appeal finding that while M could not show that the Inspector had failed to give considerable weight to any harm to the setting of the listed buildings, the decision was nonetheless defective since the reasons he had given did not demonstrate compliance with s.66 of the Act.

In light of the decision by the Deputy Judge, J appealed, arguing that the Deputy Judge had applied too strict a requirement in relation to the reasons for a decision involving s.66(1) of the Act. 

J’s appeal was allowed for the following reasons:-

  • The Deputy Judge had erred so far as he had considered that the onus was on the decision maker positively to demonstrate by the reasons given that considerable weight had been given to the desirability of preserving the setting of the relevant listed buildings. The approach to reasons under s.66(1) of the Act should be no more onerous than the general position – i.e. the Claimant had to satisfy the Court that the shortcomings in the stated reasons were such as to raise substantial doubt as to whether the decision was based on relevant grounds and free from any flaw in the decision making process.

  • It was not helpful to look at the reasons given in other decisions involving s.66 of the Act and to compare them with those given in the present case. Reasons for planning decisions had to be read as a whole in their proper context.

  • In this case, the Inspector’s reasoning did not give rise to any substantial doubt as to whether he had erred in law. There were express references to the relevant provisions of planning policies and the NPPF which showed that he had the duty under s.66(1) of the Act in mind and had complied with it. The s.66(1) of the Act duty was reflected in the local plan policies and the NPPF which laid down an approach corresponding with the duty in .66(1) of the Act.

  • Overall, the Inspector had not erred in his approach to s.66(1) of the Act.

This is a useful case in that it considers the approach to be taken when considering the likely effect of a wind turbine proposal on the setting of listed buildings.

If you wish to discuss any issues about this case or any other planning matter, please contact:


Kevin Halewood

Director of Planning
Tel: 0151 600 3365
Email: kevin.halewood@brabners.com

 


Shale gas planning applications to be fast-tracked

Thursday 5th November 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 10

The UK Government has announced plans to get tough with local planning authorities in a bid to
fast-track fracking planning applications.

It was announced in August that the Communities Secretary would consider deciding fracking applications himself where “under-performing” local authorities have “repeatedly” failed to determine oil and gas planning applications within statutory time frames and will “actively consider” calling in shale gas plans. 

In a Shale Gas and Oil Policy Statement, jointly published by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Government has announced that shale gas planning applications will be fast tracked through a new, dedicated planning process. The measures announced by the Government include identifying councils’ that repeatedly failed to determine oil and gas planning applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe, with subsequent applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary. 

The Government has made it clear that shale gas is a national priority, but ministers now want to ensure that shale planning applications “cannot be frustrated by slow and confused decision making amongst Councils’, which benefit no one”.

The Government is frustrated that planning applications for shale excavation developments are taking months or even years to determine and they argue that this can create uncertainty for communities and prevent the development of a potentially vital national industry.

The measures introduced by the Government mean that ministers can consider calling in any application for shale excavation and will, if required, recover appeals on a case by case basis. However, the Government are keen to reassure local communities that they will remain fully involved in planning decisions with any shale planning application, whether decided by councils’ or the Government. 

The measures introduced by the Government include:

  • The Communities Secretary actively considering calling in on a case by case basis shale planning applications and considering recovering appeals;
     
  • Identifying councils’ that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas planning applications within the        16 week statutory timeframe requirement (unless applicants agree to a longer period). Under performing councils’ gas and oil planning applications could then be determined by the Communities Secretary;
     
  • Adding shale planning applications as a specific criterion for recovery appeals, to ensure no application can “fall through the cracks”;
     
  • Ensuring planning call-ins and appeals involving shale planning applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate; and
     
  • Taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling bore holes for ground water monitoring.

In conclusion, the Government have argued that by fast-tracking any appropriate oil and gas planning applications it will tackle potential hold ups in the planning application system. Also, the increased prospect of call-in and the prioritisation of appeals and call-in decisions will give the industry greater confidence that they have an alternative route, even if the first priority will remain a swift, positive outcome at the local level.

If you would like more information about the fast-tracking of applications or to discuss any other planning matter please contact:


Kevin Halewood

Director of Planning
Tel: 0151 600 3365
Email: kevin.halewood@brabners.com


Renewable energy in the age of the Conservatives

Thursday 5th November 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 10

The Conservative Government has wasted no time in its efforts to make further reforms to the planning system and framework of grants and support in relation to renewable energy.

On 21 October a number of our clients and contacts came to our successful seminar where we looked at the effects on funding and what other options are available to renewable energy investors and entrepreneurs. We also looked at the latest planning and environmental constraints and discussed what the future holds for the sector. 

Speaking at the event was our corporate partner Mark Rathbone and planning and environmental partner, Claire Petricca-Riding. Vincent Fraser QC from Kings Chambers also joined us as our guest speaker. Vincent reviewed recent planning decisions and government statements and advised on planning for the future. 

For those that were unable to attend we have the session material available to download here.

If you would like more information on any of the topics covered please do not hesitate to contact either:


Claire-Petricca-Riding

Head of Planning and Environmental
Tel: 0151 600 3268
Email: claire.petricca-riding@brabners.com

 



Mark Rathbone
Head of Corporate - Liverpool
Tel: 0151 600 3124
Email: mark.rathbone@brabners.com


World's largest offshore wind farm to be created off the coast of Cumbria

Thursday 5th November 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 10

Last week it was announced that Dong Energy has decided to create the world's largest offshore wind farm off the coast of Cumbria. The 660 MW Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm is expected to be fully commissioned in 2018 and will provide electricity to more than 460,000 homes in the UK.

Commenting on this recent news Claire Petricca-Riding, who heads up our Environmental and Planning team, says: “Great Britain enjoys a world class reputation for off shore wind development. Given the negative impact on the sector from the recent policy changes we have been desperate for a good news story. This is not only good for the industry, but it is good for the environment allowing us to achieve our 2020 target. It also brings confidence for other such developments.”


If you would like to discuss any issues relating to this development or for any other environmental and planning matters please contact Claire on:

Tel: 0151 600 3268 or by email to claire.petricca-riding@brabners.com.

 


Latest news: Subsidy cut for onshore wind - Doubt remains for c.250 projects

Thursday 25th June 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 9

One of the first policies of the new Conservative Government is to bring forward the cut to onshore wind subsidies. There are transitional provisions being made for those projects granted planning and have secured a grid connection, but doubt remains for circa 250 projects which are currently going through planning or have not secured a grid connection.

Amber Rudd the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change told parliament that the change would save "hundreds of millions" of pounds.  She believes that there is enough onshore wind projects to meet its 2020 renewable energy target, despite evidence to the contrary and in all likelihood we will miss this target.

In addition there are also changes to be made to CfD regime and the planning system with the Government announcing its plans to remove windfarms over 50MW from the NSIP process and given back to local planning authorities.

On 18 June DCLG issued a statement which changes the way that local authorities deal with applications, regardless of size. The new rules mean that when considering a planning application for wind turbines local authorities should only grant permission if:

  • the site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy as part of a Local or Neighbourhood Plan; and
  • following consultation, the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore has their backing.

These new rules affect applications that are currently in the planning system.

Under normal planning rules when an application is refused by a council there is a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, the Government however plan to change this right for onshore wind there would still be a right to appeal, “but any appeal would have to take into account this clear requirement for local backing”.

Therefore it is clear that there are fundamental changes to the way in which onshore wind is dealt with purely designed to curtail further development. The Government continues to march on ahead with its clear support for fracking despite widespread disapproval to the plans from the voting population.

The Government’s position will put jobs at risk especially in research and development of other “green energy” and Renewables UK has warned that consumer energy prices will rise as the Government cuts off the cheapest renewable energy supply which could dampen future investment in the sector. This is against the remarks of the Prime Minister who once said that this is going to be “the greenest government ever” until he changed course and said “cut the green crap” instead.

In contrast no changes will be made to offshore wind.

If you would like more information about this or how we can help you with your renewable energy requirements please contact:


Claire Petricca-Riding

Head of Planning and Environmental
Tel: 0151 600 3268
Email: claire.petricca-riding@brabners.com

 

 


Future forecast: Strong wind, lack of sun

Thursday 25th June 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 9

Following the first round of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction process, the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, says it has given a huge boost to home grown clean energy at the lowest possible cost for consumers. However, his views are not shared with those working in the sector who express numerous concerns with the scheme; including a lack of funds to go around and a lack of policy certainty going forward.

The announcement of the results shows 27 successful projects, receiving more than £315 million. Onshore wind was the clear winner from the auction, having been allocated 15 out of the 27 contracts awarded. Coupled with two offshore wind projects receiving contracts which will account for more than half of all capacity, wind power remains the dominant technology. With the low energy prices wind energy generates and with a strike price of just under £80 per MWh for projects to be delivered in 2016-2018 (compared with £95 per MWh currently being realised under Renewables Obligations (RO) support), is it any wonder why wind has such a strong position? It is a situation which favours the big players, as only they can viably trade under such a low strike price.

Where there is a winner, there is a loser, and after the CfD auction (perhaps even before) solar energy is most definitely the loser. Before the announcement of the results was even made, the Solar Trade Association (STA) released a statement to say the process was unfair, as large-scale solar had been shifted from the RO (with a budget of £3.5 billion in 2014/15) to the ‘established technologies’ category of CfD (a £50 million budget).

The announcement is certainly disappointing for the solar PV industry, the process raises questions over the viability of the CfD regime for small and medium enterprises (SME) and we may see many SME developers exiting the market. From the five solar PV projects awarded contracts, two large scale solar parks had a strike price of just £50 per MWh compared with a current strike price of approximately £120 per MWh (a reduction of just under 60%); this is only just above current electricity prices and is simply not viable for SME.

Next CfD auction

The next CfD auction is set for autumn 2015 and we can expect more dominance by wind energy, with more and more solar PV projects not being viable. The importance of interest and exchange rates in relation to the strike price should also not be ignored, given that the project timelines will likely extend into periods of possible interest/ exchange rate change which could impact on the viability of any prices agreed.

For a breakdown and further details of the projects awarded follow this link
The Government's website statistics page is here.

If you would like more information about any of the issues raised here or how we can help you with your renewable energy requirements please contact:


David Seddon

Solicitor - Corporate
Tel: 0151 600 3375
Email: david.seddon@brabners.com

 


EU Court: 5% VAT is unlawful for energy saving installations in residential properties

Thursday 25th June 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 9

The Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) has held that the UK’s reduced VAT rate (5%) for the installation of energy saving materials in residential properties is unlawful.

The ruling will primarily affect supplies of insulation and solar panels, and will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on the cost, financial viability and funding position of such projects if the standard rate of VAT (20%) has to be applied.

The UK Government intends to study the ruling carefully before making any further announcements and/or legislative changes, however it is understood that anybody who has pre-ordered or pre-paid for such supplies will not be affected. Importantly, the EU VAT legislation does permit reduced VAT rates to be applied “as part of a social policy” and therefore the UK’s 5% VAT rate may be retained in some form.

It will be interesting to see how the UK Government reacts to the CJEU ruling in light of its recent pledge not to increase tax rates.

If you would like to discuss the impact of the CJEU decision please contact our Tax Partner:


Mark Whiteside

Partner, Corporate
Tel: 0151 600 3269
Email: mark.whiteside@brabners.com


Five lessons learnt from the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) planning regime

Thursday 25th June 2015

Share this article:

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 9

The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime has been in place since 2010 and in that time we have learnt how to adapt to this evolving system. Projects that come under in this system fall within five general fields of energy, transport, water, waste water and waste. With this article in mind those of relevance include power stations and large scale wind farms. The thresholds are further set out in the 2008 Planning Act. If the project does not meet this threshold it will be dealt with by the Local Planning Authority in the usual way.  

The regime was set up to streamline the planning process for major projects, so has it achieved this aim?

Our experience of the process is that any application needs to be well thought through and consulted well before it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. This is known as the “pre-application” stage and can be costly in both money and time to an applicant.

Lesson 1: Consult well in advance of preparing the application. If representations are made which after careful consideration have altered the application and the draft development consent order, there needs to be further consultations.  Any changes need to be documented. 

Lesson 2: Ignore lesson 1 at your peril. The Planning Inspectorate can refuse to accept an application if it considers that there has been insufficient consultation. 

Lesson 3: The process has six stages. Lessons 1 and 2 deal with pre-acceptance and acceptance stages. Thereafter the Planning Inspectorate reviews the application during what is known as “pre-examination”. A preliminary meeting is held following this review where the “examination” stage begins. This meeting is a bit like the pre-inquiry meetings for inquiries and deal with issues to be dealt with by way of written evidence or any specific hearings together with a rough timetable are discussed.  Thereafter the two remaining stages are the decision and post decision stages. The Planning Inspectorate has six months to examine an application and three months to make the recommendation to the Secretary of State. From application to decision it is about 15 months, before this regime it was about 20 months. So there has been some time saved!

Lesson 4: Identify issues between the parties (the applicant, local authority, consultees and objectors) early and address any flaws in the application. The process is based on written evidence and is more transparent than an inquiry. Parties withholding information to make points later in the process quickly lose credibility.

Lesson 5: Drop everything. The examination process is full on and as stated above there is no evidence that should be saved until later in the process.

It should be noted that there are differences between the requirements between projects in England and Wales and specific advice should be obtained.

If you would like more information about this or how we can help you with your renewable energy requirements please contact:


Claire Petricca-Riding

Head of Planning and Environmental
Tel: 0151 600 3268
Email: claire.petricca-riding@barbners.com

 

 


Partner appointment: Claire Petricca-Riding joins as Head of Planning and Environmental Law

Thursday 25th June 2015

Renewables Bulletin - Issue 9

The Renewable Energy team at Brabners welcomes the appointment of Claire Petricca-Riding as Head of Planning and Environmental Law. Claire brings a wealth of experience of this and the waste sector and has dealt with many planning applications and environmental issues in relation to energy production from a variety of different sources including onshore wind, solar, AD and energy from waste.

Claire states that with the change of Government the sector faces many challenges which it has to deal with sooner than we had originally expected. We will keep you informed of the changes through our Renewables Bulletin, however, if you wish to discuss anything at the time please do contact Claire on 0151 600 3268 or by email to claire.petricca-riding@brabners.com or a member of Renewable Energy team.

You can read more about Claire in our news announcement here.


Pages