As the UK grapples with unprecedented energy price increases, the Government is planning a new energy security strategy that aims to reduce our reliance on imported energy. One of the simplest ways to quickly bolster the UK’s energy security is through onshore wind. It can be delivered quickly, and at even lower cost than more offshore alternatives.
Onshore wind projects are already a key part of the UK’s decarbonisation strategy. There are 649 individual onshore wind and solar projects that have been granted planning permission, capable of delivering 5.8GW of onshore wind capacity and 4.8GW of solar. Carbon Brief has found that accelerating the construction of these projects would save more gas than the UK currently imports from Russia.
The benefits of onshore wind have long been clear to industry, and are increasingly appreciated and supported by local communities. Onshore wind projects can be built quickly, and provide low-cost renewable power that helps to keep bills down for consumers.
A recent analysis by Renewable UK concluded that had the UK rolled out renewable energy projects earlier, it could have saved consumers £65 in their energy bills. It would have increased our resilience to fluctuations in the global gas market, and protected us from gas prices that are currently six times more expensive than onshore wind.
Supporting the deployment of onshore wind also aligns with the UK Government’s levelling up agenda and green recovery policies. Investing in onshore wind could boost the UK economy by over £45 billion, driving a new wave of investment in skills and creating over 57,000 jobs.
The vast majority of onshore wind projects are likely to be in Scotland and Wales – onshore wind is currently the largest source of renewable energy in Wales, with over 1.2 GW of installed capacity, powering over 800,000 homes. Despite the huge potential for clean and sovereign energy, we are currently building less than half of the onshore wind required to achieve Net Zero.
If the UK Government’s energy security strategy is to enable increased deployment of renewables, it should address the underlying issues curtailing their development. Achieving the scale of onshore wind deployment required will necessitate reforming planning policy to make the process of approving wind farms more balanced. This would include amending the Planning regulations – which require developers to go through a long and laborious process to obtain consent from local authorities. These authorities are often low on staff and resources to grant consent, which has been leading to further delays. A key mechanism to enable a simpler and more straightforward planning process would be for the updated National Policy Statements to explicitly reference onshore wind projects.
It has become clear that building local support in communities is crucial for delivering the next generation of onshore wind projects. The UK’s planning system should support the development of wind farms in communities that genuinely want them. There are some innovative schemes in the UK whereby communities directly benefit from the wind farms around them. If the Government truly wants to turn the UK into the ‘Saudi Arabia of Wind’, the upcoming energy security strategy must recognise the incredible potential of onshore wind to accelerate the energy transition, secure our energy sovereignty, and lower bills.