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Most UK Renewables Projects Struggle to Move Beyond Planning

Most of the onshore solar, wind, and battery projects in the UK do not make it beyond the planning stage of development, threatening Britain’s capability to meet its ambitious clean energy targets, energy consultancy Cornwall Insight said in a report shared with the Financial Times.

The UK has a target to become a net-zero economy by 2050 and is looking to rapidly build renewable capacity offshore and onshore to meet its green energy targets.

In reality, many of the onshore projects are being rejected, scrapped, or withdrawn.

A total of 63% of the about 4,000 planning applications filed with local councils between 2018 and 2023 have been withdrawn or rejected, or have seen their planning permissions expire, Cornwall Insight’s report has found, FT notes.

The slower-than-expected rollout of new renewables and storage capacity is threatening the UK’s clean energy goals.

“These figures reveal a substantial shortfall in meeting these targets, something which is largely driven by the slow pace of progress in deploying renewable energy projects,” Lucy Dolton, assets and infrastructure manager at Cornwall Insight, told FT.

Some developers propose multiple projects aware that not all of these would be approved and built. Other projects face years of waiting for a grid connection, stalling approval.
Last year, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that more than 1,000 wind and solar projects with planning permission in the UK cannot begin construction due to challenges in connecting to the national grid.

The solar schemes awaiting construction alone would generate around 15,000 megawatts (MW) a day, enough to power 1.9 million UK homes, the association said in the summer of 2023.

Earlier this year, National Grid ESO, the UK’s power systems operator, proposed a plan of $73.3 billion (£58 billion) in investment in the grid to meet growing demand and the rise of renewable power sources.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for