The UK Government has announced that the caps on battery storage capacity for planning applications in England and Wales (50 MW and 350 MW respectively) will be removed.
This means a battery storage proposal that exceeds these thresholds will no longer be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (‘NSIP’), and all applications for battery storage, regardless of their size, will be determined by local planning authorities.
The Government started the process of making the necessary legislative amendments through orders under the Planning Act 2008 and the Electricity Act 1989 on 14 July 2020. These orders are expected to pass through Parliament.
This is a very positive step towards removing the barriers to low carbon development in England, encouraging the transition to renewable energy and meeting the UK’s 2050 Net Zero commitment. We are aware that in the past, many developers decided not to proceed with battery schemes of over 50 MW in England due to the increased costs and multi-year timescales involved with NSIP applications. This resulted in a raft of planning applications for battery storage proposals with a capacity of 49.9 MW, even where more energy could have been stored within the application boundary.
Removing the upper limit for application for storage under the Town and Country Planning process should enable the benefits of recent improvements in battery technology to be realized. Increased amounts of energy can now be stored in smaller batteries, meaning that the potential capacity of sites can be optimized.
The removal of battery storage from the NSIP regime is also an excellent opportunity for developers to consider amending existing or proposed battery schemes to increase their overall storage capacity. This can be done either through full planning applications or potentially via Section 73 (Variations of Conditions) applications, depending on individual circumstances.
It remains to be seen whether similar provisions will be brought into effect in Scotland, where the operation of the Section 36 process rests with the Holyrood Government.