Roughly a quarter of electricity is generated by renewable energy in the UK. The dramatic fall in cost and the continued electrification of heating and transport will result in a major increase in renewable developments going forward.
Renewable energy production will also form a crucial component of the wider UK Industrial Strategy, through the creation of new supply chains and jobs alongside the delivery of affordable and reliable energy for businesses.
Planners: key players in harnessing the huge potential of renewable energy
At a strategic and local level, planning will be crucial to identifying, developing and approving suitable developments whilst integrating and empowering key stakeholders, such as local communities.
To accommodate the shifting landscape of energy power generation, widespread deployment of new energy infrastructure and extensive modification of existing networks will be required. A new decentralised energy infrastructure network will have to respond to intermittent, fluctuating production from renewable sources with additional power plants and storage facilities.
There will also be vast potential to upgrade existing facilities such as current wind turbine sites. By encouraging the creation of vertically integrated supply chains the cost of renewable energy electricity generation, transmission and distribution can be lowered whilst also stimulating the economic regeneration of areas. A great example of this seen in the Siemens Offshore Wind Turbine Construction facility in Hull.
Planners are well placed to forge networks for innovation
Effective collaboration lies at the heart of the cross sector innovation needed to adopt low carbon energy policies, especially given the constrained financial environments planning departments and local authorities are operating in. Planning needs to sit centrally as the regulatory catalyst to form public sector networks and commercial partnerships whilst providing meaningful community involvement vital to fostering public approval.
Cooperation between local authorities at a strategic level through, for example, combined authorities and city deals will to ensure that spatial and energy planning are aligned with strategic investment, employment opportunities and long-term capacity building. This will also unlock opportunities at scale such as clean energy districts such as the District Heat Network central to the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire City Deal.
Planners need commitment from politicians
The support of senior management and the political commitment of elected members will be crucial to providing the long-term stability needed to deliver projects. With this, planners can be empowered to produce clearly articulated energy plans and embed them into local strategies.
Moving forward our approach to renewable energy will necessarily have to change with new developments in technology. To do this it is vital that planners adapt promptly and comprehensively to support these new dynamic energy systems.
We hope the newly published RTPI Practice Advice can help aid planners and key stakeholders with this transition to a low carbon future.
Robbie Calvert is RTPI's Policy and Networks Adviser.