Top-down intervention in local renewable projects is hurting public support for them
In a new report, The Fabian Society describes how investors still do not feel safe investing in renewables because of a lack of community consent.
‘Transition By Consent’ emphasises that only by winning support from local communities can sustainable green energy solutions be delivered to the UK in the long term.
It finds that, although most of the public are supportive of renewable alternatives in theory, development plans are still failing to win consent. New analysis shows that 57 per cent of wind farm applications are being rejected, up from 37 per cent in 2013 and 21 per cent in 2008.
The report identifies a disconnect between national support for renewable energy projects and local consent for developments, which it calls the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ phenomenon.
The report adds that the communications secretary is making the market even more unpredictable with top-down interventions:
“Pickles has made a political intervention from Whitehall on 50 wind farm projects including pulling in every single ‘larger project’ of two turbines or more that has gone to appeal.
This intervention implies that the government is not taking the threat to renewable energy provision very seriously.”
Top down planning only works in the short term, the study finds, as opposition grows up in communities who feel they have been shut out of the planning process.
Looking at the developers who have had success, the report concludes that it is crucial to include the community as a partner in project design, and also to make the project in question more than just an energy proposition. Making a project benefit the community in other ways – new jobs or new Broadband proposals, for example – can increase public support for it.
The Fabian Society gives the example of the Olveston wind farm in Thornbury, where a ‘great deal of money’ was spent but the project ultimately failed to take off because it did not have the support of the local community.
Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay, however, shaped its project with the community’s participation. It found high levels of concern about local employment opportunities, and so designed a project with a variety of promising career paths in such fields as construction, tourism and mariculture. The report states that it is important to tailor each project to local needs in this way.
As far as government responsibility goes, it is time for ministers to stop making top down decisions, and instead help developers to transition to renewables by popular consent.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter
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