Thursday, June 13, 2024

Improved rewards and benefits to be offered to communities backing onshore wind farms

NEW and improved reward schemes, including the potential of lower bills, could be offered by developers to communities in England who want to support onshore wind farms in their area, under proposals announced by the government today.

The Government recognises the range of views on onshore wind. Decisions on onshore wind are best made by local representatives who know their areas best and underpinned by democratic accountability. To deliver this, and our commitments in the British Energy Security Strategy, we are consulting on a more localist approach that provides local authorities more flexibility to respond to the views of their local communities.

Today’s proposals build on benefits already offered by developers to areas that agree to have onshore wind farms locally. These include holding a stake in a turbine, which gives them the potential to receive profits from the site’s operation, or funding for new community facilities, such as charging points for electric cars or new sports and recreation facilities.

As part of a consultation launched today, the government is proposing emerging and innovative types of community benefits, such as energy bill discounts, are added to the range of reward schemes that onshore developers currently offer host communities. This would be agreed between developers and communities on a case-by-case basis.

It is also proposing best practice principles of engagement, currently published by the government, are embedded into planning guidance for local authorities and developers to ensure the views of the community are heard and addressed.

These changes will further place local people at the heart of the government’s plan Powering Up Britain and to deliver cheaper, cleaner and more secure homegrown energy.

Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart said

“Onshore wind is a vital part of our plans to deliver cheaper, cleaner, and more secure homegrown energy.

“It is right that new developments have the support of host communities, and that local people benefit directly from it, such as through either a discount on their energy bills or other significant community benefits.

“Our proposals will ensure developers and local residents can work together more efficiently to maximise community benefits for supportive communities while delivering the clean and secure energy the country needs.”

Community benefits can have a lasting positive impact on local residents. For example, when building its Tirgwynt Wind farm in Wales, developer Belltown Power engaged with the local community and identified the need to support educational facilities in the area. The company provided £2.5 million – with match funding from the local council – to build a new school building, saving it from closure. The wind farm now hosts an annual visit for local school children.

The proposals set out today include:

  • Formally embedding best practice principles of engagement between developers and communities, as outlined in existing community engagement guidance published by the government, into official planning guidance for local authorities and developers. This will strengthen the way in which developers are transparent and receptive when they engage with communities through digital and online methods.
  • Working with RenewableUK to update their existing Community Benefits Protocol for England to account for emerging and innovative types of community benefit packages, such as local energy bill discounts and other new and improved community rewards.

Onshore wind will continue to be decided at a local level. Today’s proposals build on a government consultation run earlier this year on how proposals demonstrate support for the onshore wind project locally and how they address impacts identified by the local community. The Government is currently analysing the responses and will respond in due course.

The government is investing billions of pounds into renewable and nuclear technologies to reduce the country’s reliance on volatile fossil fuel markets that, impacted by Vladimir Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, led to the unprecedented increase in people’s energy bills.

The government acted swiftly and decisively, covering around half of a typical family’s energy bill this winter. But the longer-term answer is to achieve greater energy security, developing cleaner, cheaper and more secure homegrown energy sources – including both offshore and onshore wind.

With almost 15GW of it deployed in the UK, onshore wind has a key role to play in creating a more secure and cleaner energy system and to meet the UK’s ambition to have amongst the cheapest wholesale electricity prices in Europe.  

With the costs of onshore wind having already fallen dramatically – currently around half what they were less than a decade ago – these proposals have the potential to play a crucial role in boosting the UK’s energy security, where there is local support. The government is clear that where communities host this vital infrastructure, they should benefit directly from it.

RenewableUK’s Head of Onshore Wind James Robottom said:

“We’re pleased that the Government is consulting on the wide range of benefits which onshore wind can offer to local communities in England. We have a long track record of working closely with communities to ensure that they decide what form these benefits will take, depending on the needs and priorities of local people. 

“Building strong relationships with local communities as early as possible is the best way to establish successful partnerships which last for decades. Alongside much-needed planning reforms, this consultation provides an opportunity to increase the amount of cheap clean power we can generate for consumers as well as strengthening our nation’s energy security.”

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