UPDATE: The full coalition agreement has been issued today. On renewable energy, there are promises of a grid to support the development of offshore wind power and promotion of a “huge” increase in anearobic digestion energy. As in the earlier agreement, there is no mention of onshore wind farms. The national renewables target is likely to be increased following advice from the Climate Change Committee.
Regional Spatial Strategies will be abolished “rapidly”, and the Infrastructure Planning Commission will be replaced with a new “democratically accountable” body for major projects. Only one wind farm currently in planning for the East Midlands falls into this category
Yesterday’s announcement of the government’s Big Society programme has removed some of the uncertainty around the Coalition’s local government policy; the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats look set to roll back many of the changes resulting from New Labour’s 2007 Sub National Review. The ?Building the Big Society? document commits government to abolishing the Regional Spatial Strategy and removing planning responsibilities from Regional Development Agencies. This rolls back measures introduced in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 requiring Regional Development Agencies and? Local Authority Leaders? Boards to prepare an Integrated Regional Strategy, bringing together the existing Spatial and Economic Strategies.
It?s early days to know exactly how this will be implemented, but it seems fair to suggest that the Cameron Government is looking to cut back on the regional tier; the Conservatives? ?Control Shift? (2009) policy paper contained an entire section entitled ?Removing Regional Government?:
What might this mean for renewable energy, a significant part of sub-national climate change policy? As mentioned in a previous post, the Conservatives are keen to let the market decide on the mix of energy supplies within a framework of incentives set by government.
Wind has been earmarked as the energy source with greatest potential to contribute to the East Midlands? renewable energy target which local authority planners must currently give consideration to. However, if regional energy targets are scrapped, local authorities may have little incentive to grant planning permission in the face of often vocal and motivated opposition. Power generation sites are not included in the emissions calculations for NI186 which measure many authorities? performance on climate change.?? Any govenrment incentives would have to take these issues into account if wind energy is going to remain a key part of renewable energy growth. (It is worth noting again that the only renewable enrgy source refered to within the initial coalition agreement is anaerobic digestion.)
The Big Society programme marks the new government?s first steps in addressing a fundamental issue which goes to the heart of sub-national climate policy: how best to balance national priorities with greater devolution of power to local authorities. The current approach of regional scale planning to meet regional energy targets appears to be heading towards the exit. If the regional link is to disappear, the challenge for government is reconciling the national renewables target of 15% by 2020 with local accountability and environmental concerns.