Industry welcomes move to shift storage to local planning regime

Industry has welcomed proposals to ‘carve out’ storage from the Nationally Signiificant Infrastructure planning regime and allow projects (except pumped storage) to be consented by local authorities. The carve-out applies offshore as well as onshore, and gives planning responsibility to Wales for all projects there.

In a new consultation on storage, BEIS said it had decided against plans to kep storage above 50MW in the NSIP regime, saying it was a “significant barrier”, with projects deliberately capped at 49.9MW or split into multiple 49.9MW projects in order to avoid the regime. BEIS also noted that initial proposals to raise the capacity limit for storage projects co-located with wind farms could create a loophole whereby a large storage project with a small turbine could avoid the NSIP. 

Although batteries make up most storage projects at present, the exemption also applies to other non pumped-hydro forms of electricity storage. BEIS referred to ” liquid air, sodium/metal/zinc/flow batteries, compressed air energy storage and certain forms of thermal and hydrogen storage, among others”. It says that “although some of these technologies are likely to have slightly larger footprints than lithium-ion battery storage, their footprints are expected to be significantly less than pumped storage.”

BEIS also clarified the position where storage is added to an industrial or commercial site for onsite use, which can be done under permitted development where most power is not exported. That was unclear. Now, BEIS and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) agree that the majority of the electricity stored does not need to be used on site, but that, the storage must be ancillary to the primary use of the premises. If the premises were  primarily used for electricity storage this may be considered a material change of use and would require planning approval.

Frank Gordon, head of policy at the REA, said: “We and the industry argued for an increase in the threshold for projects entering the national planning regime and these proposals go even a step farther, which is welcome.

“At present most energy storage project planning applications are sized at or around 49.9MW in England where the 50MW threshold is in place, but in Wales where the threshold is much higher, they vary in size usually at around 70MW. This shows the major impact the planning system threshold is having on projects.

“This proposal should significantly reduce the relevant pre-construction costs for larger energy storage projects, unlocking more flexibility in the system and leading to less hardware upgrades and back up capacity for the networks. A more flexible system with greater storage deployment will save consumers money – as much as £8 billion in the coming decades according to independent studies.”

STA chief executive Chris Hewett said: “We are pleased to see that the government has taken our feedback on board. This is a promising step forward for enabling energy storage to be connected more swiftly, and giving local communities a stronger voice in determining which developments are right for them. Energy storage is safe, low-impact, and essential for delivering on the UK’s legally binding Net Zero commitments.”


The consultation closes on 10 December. See the full consultation here


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