Scottish planners must rise to nation’s energy challenge

Paul McCullagh
Paul McCullagh, CEO of UrbanWind

One of Scotland’s leading renewable energy firms has called for a major overhaul of the country’s planning system and warns that without it, the Government’s renewable targets will not be met. UrbanWind, based in Glasgow, warns that long delays in the planning process are blocking vital investment in renewable technology – which has the potential to create 40,000 jobs in Scotland.

The company says that wind turbine manufacturers are also being deterred by the lengthy planning process that exists in the UK at present. Red tape that delays the connection of onshore wind turbine projects to the national grid is also a major concern, along with the high cost of grid connections. UrbanWind issued its warning following the publication of an Audit Scotland report looking at how the country is progressing in meeting ambitious government renewable energy targets. 

The Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a world leader in renewable energy and for renewable sources to meet 30% of its total energy consumption by 2020. Audit Scotland’s report warned that achieving that goal came down to private sector investment.

It added: “Renewable energy projects are moving more slowly than anticipated owing to factors such as the current economic climate and changes in UK energy policy.” However, Paul McCullagh, chief executive of UrbanWind, challenged this. He said: “Looking specifically at the small and medium wind energy sector, there is undoubtedly strong investor support and a definite appetite from companies to make a significant contribution towards achieving these targets.” 

If the Scottish Government is to have any hope of achieving the targets then this situation has to be addressed, whether through additional resource to planning departments or a complete overhaul of the planning process, to allow determination of turbine applications to be made within the statutory time limits, which are certainly not being met currently.

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