A guest opinion piece written by Giles Frampton, Director of Evolution Power Limited.
The renewable energy sector in the UK is at a major crossroads following the Prime Minister’s net zero U-turn.
Developers have the sites, the technology and (most importantly), the financial investment to green the energy sector and meet the previously trumpeted climate change targets. But without regulatory clarity, this once-in-a-generation opportunity could be squandered.
By delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, and on the same day re-setting the statutory deadline for the decision on the 500MW Sunnica Energy Farm, the government has destroyed the clarity of policy that developers so badly need. These announcements, coupled with the scrapping of the northern leg of HS2, have sent a clear signal across the sector and investment funds that UK regulatory certainty is gone.
The Planning Act 2008 brought in the concept of Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and a robust, clearly defined new planning regime for major projects to provide reassurance for developers and investors that decisions will be made to a set timetable. Whether the decision was positive or negative, the fact that a decision would be received on an application by a set date was warmly welcomed, enabling major projects to avoid the well-documented vagaries of the Town and Country Planning Act and the ability for projects to be stalled for years. This has now been tarnished by the Sunnica delay.
As a nation, we cannot allow climate change to become a political football. With an election coming next year, it seems as though battlelines are being drawn up to try and define a clear difference between the Conservatives and Labour. This is not the way forward, and as a new Patron member of the REA, we will be working hard to highlight that the sector has the solutions to meet net zero, but we need to have support from the government to implement those solutions.
There is widespread agreement that achieving net zero is the right thing to do. There is also a realisation that to achieve net zero will require a major investment – but this does not have to be borne by households and taxpayers. If the right prices can be set and combined with clear policies, planning rules and regulations, investment funds are prepared to back the UK renewable sector in an unprecedented way – but they need regulatory clarity to provide a de-risked, stable and reliable market.