Summary & Conclusions
1. A letter from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Ed Davey, MP, to Mary Creagh MP, reveals that DECC calculates that sufficient onshore wind has been developed (i.e. consented and likely to be built) to meet the upper level of government expectations for this technology, 13 GW (about 6,500 turbines), confirming an earlier study by REF
2. Consequently, the 6.4 GW of onshore wind currently in the planning system (approximately 3,000 turbines) are surplus to requirements. The presence of this needless 6.4 GW of onshore wind in the planning system is causing undue cost to local authorities and widespread planning blight to affected communities, to say nothing of misdirected capital and development effort in the energy industry.
3. In our judgment Mr Davey should cool the sector down with a statement to the effect that the onshore wind target is now met, that DECC does not support onshore wind applications currently in the planning system, and that effort should be focused on other areas.
4. In the absence of such a statement, which we believe unlikely for political reasons, decision makers in the planning system, from local councillors, to inspectors to the Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government, Mr Pickles, can be confident that in applications for onshore wind no weight need be given to the project’s contribution towards renewable energy targets.
5. On the 5th of May 2014 REF published a paper on progress towards the expected electricity share of the 2020 target specified in Renewable Energy Directive (2009):
6. In this study we noted that sufficient renewables capacity of all technologies had been granted planning consent to overshoot the expected electricity share, of about 110 TWh, with a comfortable margin.
7. Our analysis also showed that there was 13.9 GW of onshore wind capacity consented, which is more than the UK government’s expectation for that technology in 2020.
8. A member of the public raised this this matter with Mary Creagh MP, who wrote to the Secretary of State at DECC, the Rt Hon. Ed Davey MP, on the 27th of May. Mr Davey replied on the 3rd of September, and this letter is now in the public domain.
9. Mr Davey’s reply avoids explicitly stating agreement with our work, but the numbers he cites, which are in fact based on a later Government dataset, and their arithmetical implications are entirely consistent with our findings.
10. Mr Davey notes that the government’s expectation is for there to be 11-13 GW of wind power onshore. (It is striking that government’s expectations are so vague; a difference of 2 GW is equivalent to 1,000 turbines.)
11. He notes that 7.8 GW is operational, and that a further 1.5 GW is under construction. He therefore remarks that 1.7 GW to 3.7 GW of new build was required to meet the 11-13 GW expectation for onshore wind.
12. He also notes that there is 5.3 GW of onshore wind with planning consent. Of this he expects 70% (3.71 GW to be built). In other words he expects about 30% of the consented capacity to be abandoned by the developers.
13. Thus, Mr Davey’s letter implicitly but clearly states the total of operational, in construction, and projects with planning consent and likely to be built is already 13.1 GW, the higher figure expected by DECC.
14. Mr Davey further notes that there is 6.4 GW of onshore wind in the planning system, of which he 50% (3.2 GW) would receive consent if the current approval rates continue. Assuming the further attrition rate of 30% specified by Mr Davey, about 2.24 GW of this capacity will actually be built.
15. Thus, Mr Davey’s letter implicitly but clearly states that if current approval trends in the planning system continue, the UK is likely to have 15.25 GW of onshore by 2020 , which is 2.25 GW more than the upper limit of 13 GW expected by the department.
16. As we noted in our original analysis in May, DECC has allowed the heavily subsidised renewable electricity as a whole to become significantly overheated, with capacity well in excess of that required to meet the 2020 target, and requiring public subsidies that would breach the Treasury’s Levy Control Framework.
17. Mr Davey’s letter shows that the onshore wind sector is similarly overheated and has already received sufficient planning consents to meet the upper bound allocated for that technology, and has sufficient in the planning system to overshoot by nearly 20%.