New and improved reward schemes, including the potential of lower bills, could be offered by developers to communities in England that support onshore wind farms in their area, under proposals announced by the government late last week. In announcing the new plan, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that with almost 15GW of it deployed in the UK, onshore wind has a key role to play in creating a more secure and cleaner energy system and to meet the UK’s ambition to have amongst the cheapest wholesale electricity prices in Europe. The government believes that decisions on onshore wind are best made by local representatives who know their areas best and underpinned by democratic accountability. To deliver this, and commitments in the British Energy Security Strategy, the government is consulting on an approach that provides local authorities more flexibility to respond to the views of their local communities. The new proposals build on benefits already offered by developers to areas that agree to have onshore wind farms locally. These include holding a stake in a turbine, which gives them the potential to receive profits from the site’s operation, or funding for new community facilities, such as charging points for electric cars or new sports and recreation facilities. The consultation also proposes that the best practice principles of engagement, currently published by the government, are embedded into planning guidance for local authorities and developers to ensure the views of the community are heard and addressed. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, these changes will further place local people at the heart of the government’s Powering Up Britain plan and deliver cheaper, cleaner and more secure homegrown energy.
Minister For Energy Security And Net Zero Graham Stuart Said.
“It is right that new developments have the support of host communities and that local people benefit directly from it, such as through either a discount on their energy bills or other significant community benefits. “Our proposals will ensure developers and local residents can work together more efficiently to maximize community benefits for supportive communities while delivering the clean and secure energy the country needs.” Community benefits can have a lasting positive impact on local residents, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which pointed to the building of Tirgwynt Wind farm in Wales. During the work, developer Belltown Power engaged with the local community and identified the need to support educational facilities in the area. The company provided £2.5M, with match funding from the local council, to build a new school building, saving it from closure. The wind farm now hosts an annual visit for local school children. The proposals set out to drive similar change elsewhere include working with Renewable to update their existing Community Benefits Protocol for England to account for emerging and innovative types of community benefit packages, such as local energy bill discounts and other new and improved community rewards. Renewable head of onshore wind James Rototom said: “We’re pleased that the government is consulting on the wide range of benefits which onshore wind can offer to local communities in England. We have a long track record of working closely with communities to ensure that they decide what form these benefits will take, depending on the needs and priorities of local people. “Building strong relationships with local communities as early as possible is the best way to establish successful partnerships which last for decades. Alongside much-needed planning reforms, this consultation provides an opportunity to increase the amount of cheap clean power we can generate for consumers as well as strengthening our nation’s energy security.”