Intelligence: 28 February 2019Change is afoot- for energy infrastructure in Wales

The Welsh Ministers have recently issued a Chief Planning Officer’s letter to all planning authorities in Wales confirming the changes that will be made to the consenting of energy infrastructure and permitted development in Wales on 1 April 2019. 

In summary, these changes will include:

  • Consenting for the following will be devolved to Welsh Ministers:
  • Onshore generating stations between 50MW and 350MW;
  • Offshore generating stations up to 350MW (with the exception of renewable generating stations up to 1MW, which will continue to require a Marine Licence alone from Natural Resources Wales); and
  • Overhead electric lines up to and including 132KV associated with devolved Welsh generating stations.
  • Applications to construct, extend and operate offshore generating stations between 1MW and 350MW in Welsh waters will require consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 from the Welsh Ministers.

These changes will be enacted through a total of 11 statutory instruments which have been laid before the National Assembly for Wales. These SI’s will amend the thresholds and criteria for Developments of National Significance (DNS) to capture offshore wind electricity generating stations (up to 350MW) and overhead electric lines up to and including 132KV which are associated with a devolved generating station.

There are also a number of changes to permitted development rights in relation to overhead lines. These changes reflect the exemptions from the requirement for consent as prescribed in section 37(2) of the Electricity Act and in the Overhead Lines (Exemption) (England and Wales) Regulations 2009.

The changes will also remove electricity storage from the definition of a generating station. Decisions on storage projects will be made by Local Planning Authorities for standalone schemes or under the DNS regime for schemes co-located with generating stations (the battery element would be a secondary consent). This is a positive move which may kickstart the battery storage sector in Wales as developers have previously been put off by the time and financial resource required to go through the DNS process.

There is further change on the horizon as the Welsh Government prepares to introduce a new consenting regime in Wales for Welsh Infrastructure Projects (WIPs) but this isn’t expected for another 2 years. This provides a window of opportunity for developers as energy generating stations of up to 350MW will be consented through the DNS regime which is cheaper and faster than the Development Consent Order process for an equivalent project in England. 

These changes have been on the horizon for some time, but as of 1st April 2019, will be brought into effect and the specified energy generating projects and overhead lines will no longer be consented by Westminster.  At Barton Willmore, we have experience of the DNS and DCO consenting regimes so please do not hesitate to get in touch if you wish to discuss further. 

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Infrastructure, Energy, Planning, Wales