Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 75

Supplementary evidence from RWE Innogy (Npower Renewables Limited in the UK) following evidence session on 30 January

  This memorandum is in response to additional evidence requested by the Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee in the course of the Committee's inquiry into renewable electricity generation technologies.

  Mr Kevin McCullough, Chief Operating Officer of RWE Innogy (operating as Npower Renewables Limited in the UK), provided oral evidence to the Committee on Wednesday 30 January 2008. During the evidence session, Kevin McCullough was questioned by the Committee on the subject of the positive social and environmental impacts of renewable electricity schemes on the local area. In his response, Kevin McCullough gave examples of the kind of benefits such schemes can bring to the local community, including job creation, education, and community benefits packages. The Committee expressed an interest in receiving further written evidence of examples of environmental and social benefits, such that it can be included in the Committee's final report.

  This memorandum outlines evidence available to RWE Innogy/Npower Renewables Limited of the positive social and environmental impacts of renewable energy schemes, with a particular focus on job creation, community benefits packages, local environmental benefits and changing public attitudes.

  In addition, we have taken this opportunity to expand on two further important issues that we feel are relevant to the Committee's inquiry. With relation to the draft Planning Bill, which was discussed at some length during the oral evidence session, we include further detail on our proposal to ensure that renewable projects below the 50MW threshold are treated in a consistent manner to those under the remit of the Infrastructure Planning Commission. We also wish to bring to the Committee's attention the issue of potential interference to civil and military radar from operating wind turbines, and highlight the extent to which this issue is currently impacting on the deployment of wind energy.


Job creation

  The construction and operation of wind farms can help benefit the local economy through job opportunities and contracts for local businesses. One of the first significant benefits of a new renewable electricity project is the effect on employment and economic activity in the local area during construction, where local businesses are often best-placed to secure contracts. There are employment opportunities in the development, construction, operation and maintenance of UK wind farms.

  At npower renewables[258] sites we expect around a quarter[259] of capital costs to go to the regional[260] economy in which the development is located, which is evidenced by the recent construction of three of our largest wind farms.

    —  Contracts for the construction of npower renewables project Ffynnon Oer Wind Farm in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, awarded 22.5% of expenditure to UK based companies. Many of these UK companies are civil and electrical engineering businesses. This is despite no UK companies tendering for the supply of the wind turbines, which comprise the largest component of expenditure for the wind farm construction phase.

    —  A similar split was seen during the construction of npower renewables' Causeymire Wind Farm near Wick in Scotland, where 22% of the capital cost was spent in the UK. Over 35 local businesses benefited from supplying services during the construction period. These services included providing accommodation, IT support, civil engineering, fuel and concrete.

    —  Farr Wind Farm, located in Inverness-shire, Scotland, saw significant contracts awarded to Scottish companies for the electrical, civil and grid construction work with further contracts for smaller works and supplies also going to local companies. These contracts make up approximately 25% of the total capital costs of the project.

  Across this portfolio of some 170MWs, we estimate that approximately £30million of project expenditure was spent in the regional or UK economy.

  While wind farms and other renewable facilities are typically not labour intensive once constructed, local jobs can be created to fulfil operations and maintenance requirements. For example, 10 full-time positions in operations and maintenance at the North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm project have been filled by people living locally to the project.

  Further afield, the growth in renewable technologies is helping to build a new manufacturing sector in the UK, particularly in the marine renewables sector.

Community Benefits Packages

  npower renewables works closely with local communities to optimise the benefits associated with the development and operation of new sites. Community benefits are additional, voluntarily benefits over and above any economic benefits realised by the wind farm. These benefits may be environmental, educational, social and/or economic and are usually targeted at those communities living closest to wind farm developments.

  npower renewables typically works with local people to ensure that the community benefits package is tailored to specifically meet the needs of the local community. To date community benefits packages have included energy efficiency measures, schools education programmes, local event sponsorships, equipment for schools, youth groups and sports clubs, repair works to village halls and other community building and funds which can be accessed by local community and voluntary groups.

  Typically, a community benefit package comprises an annual (indexed-linked) payment throughout the operational life of the wind farm, some 20 years. In some cases a one off donation is made when the wind farm is commissioned.

  For example, the Bears Down Wind Farm community fund is focused predominantly on 19 local schools which were each presented with computer equipment worth a total of £60,000. Ongoing annual donations of £1,000 per school (index-linked) continue to be made to the seven secondary schools to help with the running costs of the computers. In addition, an annual community fund of £3,000 (index-linked) has been established to benefit the wider community over the life of the wind farm. To date, these funds have supported a number of groups including local sports clubs, senior citizens days out, local theatrical events, a local environmental enhancement scheme and an environmental education project with local schools. The whole community fund package over the life of the wind farm will be worth in the region of £300,000.

Local Environmental Benefits

  At a national, indeed global, level, all of the renewable electricity projects that npower renewables develops have clear environmental benefits, helping to reduce carbon dioxide intensity in electricity production and combat global warming. There are however, often specific opportunities to exert a positive impact on the environment at a local level.

  For example, we are currently developing a wave scheme to be located near Siadar, on the Isle of Lewis. The scheme would involve building a breakwater, which could provide some protection for a slipway/harbour facility. It is anticipated that this facility would help to develop small boat, commercial and leisure craft facilities and thereby boost local infrastructure.

Changing Public Attitudes

  As a developer, we believe we have a role to play in educating the public about the important role of renewable electricity in our future energy mix. Further, we have surveyed the changing attitudes and opinions of residents and visitors in areas close to our renewable electricity projects as a means of monitoring the impact of our activities on the general public.

  Numerous independent public opinion studies consistently show that the majority of people support the development of renewable energy projects in the UK. Those that are not supportive are mostly neutral in opinion with only a very small minority actually objecting to renewable energy schemes. Survey results have also demonstrated that prior to development becoming a reality, people perceive greater impacts than those which they actually report experiencing once the project is up and running.

  As a company, we have commissioned independent surveys to monitor public attitudes and opinions to our renewable project developments. We submit as evidence to the Committee, the summary results of two surveys, conducted prior to and post the construction of North Hoyle, the UK's first major offshore wind farm, in 2003 and 2004 respectively (appendices 2 and 3, note that the first survey was commissioned under the name National Wind Power before the company was re-branded as npower renewables). Headline results show that since construction was completed, support for the project has increased, with 73% of residents saying they are in support compared with 62% before the wind farm was constructed. Just 5% of residents say they oppose the project. The high level of public support demonstrated in the results is consistent with our experience of previous surveys undertaken at our operating onshore wind farm sites, and elsewhere across the UK. The British Wind Energy Association ( report the findings of the "Wind Tracker", which is a recurring survey of public attitudes to wind energy in the UK, conducted by leading independent research company GfK NOP. The latest results show 76% of people in Great Britain agreed that wind farms are necessary so that we can produce renewable energy to help us meet current and future energy needs in the UK.


  The draft Planning Bill was discussed at some length during the oral evidence session. Here we summarise our view on the Bill and include further detail on our proposal to ensure that renewable projects below the 50MW threshold are treated in a consistent manner to those under the remit of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

  We welcome the Planning Bill and see it as an important step forward in providing the necessary consenting regime for future energy infrastructure. The provisions of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) for determining applications over 50MW in size should result in a smoother, more predictable consenting regime. An important part of this will be the wholly new National Policy Statements which, by providing the criteria against which proposals will be judged, will provide the core basis on which the decisions of the IPC will rest.

  Within the renewables industry there is, however, concern as to the treatment of the considerable number of renewables proposals that fall below the 50MW threshold. We estimate that circa 30% of all MWs submitted for planning determination are in this category. It is anticipated that a significant proportion of future renewable proposals, in particular onshore wind proposals, will also fall below the 50MW threshold. This does not, of course, mean that the total contribution from onshore wind energy is small—on the contrary, it is a large and vital component of achieving both the 2010 and 2020 renewables targets. It is also important to note that smaller independent and community developers will tend to have more projects in this category and therefore it is particularly important that this sector is given equal treatment to those in which large companies operate. As in all growth industries, the role of SMEs ensures a strong focus on innovation.

  This issue was discussed in some detail during the Committee's oral evidence session on 30 January 2008 and we would like to take this opportunity to further clarify our preferred approach to ensuring consistent of treatment of sub 50MW projects under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) alongside those that will be submitted to the IPC.

  It is vital that the National Policy Statement (NPS) on Renewables—which has been agreed through an extensive consultation process and will be the key policy document for all renewables proposals coming before the IPC—should apply to those renewables proposals which fall below the 50MW threshold.

  This can be achieved, provided Government adopts the correct wording in the Planning Bill currently before Parliament. What is required is that:

    (a)  The NPS on Renewables already proposed for adoption under provisions in the Planning Bill should be also made a statutory component of the Local Development Frameworks which planning authorities adopt for planning control purposes. To simply "have regard" to national policy statements in formulating local development plan policies would not, in our view, go far enough. There needs to be a clear statutory requirement that any development plan must broadly conform with any relevant national policy statement, particularly in relation to renewable energy projects, and that any substantial divergence should have to be justified to the Secretary of State.

    (b)  Policies in the renewables NPS should be accorded the same weight in the determination of renewable energy applications made under the Town and Country Planning Act as they would have been given if the proposal had been determined by the IPC.

  The these two steps would mean that where there is clear guidance on generic issues in the NPS which are relevant to the application in question, then that guidance would be applied consistently across all projects, regardless of size. Further, we feel that developers should be able to have recourse to an effective formal complaint procedure if it is evident that generic issues, on which there is clear guidance in a national policy statement, are being re-examined at local level. It is very important that arguments surrounding generic issues, on which national policy has been established, are not allowed to consume the resources of local authorities during the decision process or public inquiries.


  In the course of its inquiry, the Committee has rightly focused attention on the barriers to the deployment of existing renewable technologies. Existing technologies, in particular onshore and offshore wind, are viable and cost effective and hence have the capability to meet a significant proportion of the Government's current targets.

  In addition to previous evidence submissions, we wish to bring to the attention of the Committee the concerns around potential interference to civil and military radar from operating wind turbines. This issue, which has recently attracted considerable media attention,[261] currently places a significant constraint on scheme development (both in the area of pre-planning and within the planning process) and thereby presents a significant barrier to the deployment of wind energy and hence to the achievement of UK renewables targets. So far as we are aware, this is an issue which the committee has not as yet addressed in the course of its inquiry.

  Wind turbines can appear on the screens of both civil and military radar operators as "clutter" (ie unwanted returns), and there is potential for wind farms to obscure other (wanted) radar returns or to produce the appearance of aircraft returns where no aircraft is actually present. It is of course the case that radar pictures also contain other unwanted clutter, for example from rain and other weather events, moving road and rail traffic, flocks of birds etc, and indeed the operators of radar systems are trained to identify and cope with such clutter.

  Objections stemming from a wind farm being in "line of sight" of radar (including MoD, NATS and CAA) severely constrain wind farm development and are a major barrier to both onshore and offshore wind deployment. In particular, a substantial number of wind farm proposals at an advanced stage of development are currently threatened by MoD objections, which appear to arise from the application of a line of sight assessment. A wind farm existing in the line of sight of aviation radar need not necessarily lead to difficulties—a further step to include risk based assessment will allow the significance of the impact to be properly assessed. In this regard, a greater understanding between parties needs to be developed in order to better define where wind farms can exist without compromising the needs of the aviation community. This is likely to require a high level of cooperation on both sides.

  If current constraints can be lifted, even partially, then large areas suitable for wind farm development will be opened up. However if this issue is not addressed urgently there is significant risk of hiatus in wind development and build.

  Indeed, in a recent speech, Gordon Brown highlighted this issue and has asked that Des Browne, John Hutton and Ruth Kelly "step up their efforts in cooperation with industry and the regulators to identify and test technical solutions to the potential difficulties that wind farms pose to air traffic and defence radar".

  Technical advances have been identified that would assist in mitigating these problems, some of which may be adopted over time through the natural upgrading of existing radar installations. These technical solutions now need to be funded and tested.

  Whilst cooperation between interested stakeholders on these matters is generally good, we are concerned that the issue needs to move beyond discussion and into working compromises and solutions. We would particularly commend the work of BERR in ensuring this is the case and that technologically driven solutions are identified where they appear possible. However, the funding gap remains, and a timescale of several years is likely before the full impact of these solutions becomes a practical reality.

  It is therefore essential that all stakeholders—including Government departments—work together to ensure that barriers to renewables deployment are removed. We would encourage the Committee to include aviation radar in its remit and to highlight the urgent need for solutions to be funded, tested and implemented.

March 2008

258   Npower Renewables Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of RWE Innogy. Back

259   The word "quarter" is based on the figure of 23%. The word "quarter" has been used as it is more clearly understood than the % figure, and it gives us the ability to use a more rounded figure. The "quarter" figure is an average based on three of the most recent wind farms built by npower renewables. We have based the figure on our own experience as this is felt to be most defendable and relevant to our own activities. Details from these wind farms have been supplied by the relevant project manager and are summarised in the text above. Back

260   The term "regional" is a hard area to quantify. For clarity the term "regional" refers to the geographical areas into which npower renewables has divided up the UK (ie Scotland, Wales, East of England, North of England and South & West Midlands of England). Back

261   Article in The Times 4 February 2008, "Two targets, one dilemma: to defend the Earth or the skies?" Back

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