5 Public acceptance of energy infrastructure
71. Public opposition to new energy developmentswhether
windfarms, nuclear power stations or shale gas fracking wellscan
be a significant barrier to developing the additional capacity
that is needed to meet our energy security objectives. In June
2013 Government announced new planning guidance for onshore wind
farms. Key points
from the new proposals include:
- a five-fold increase in benefits
paid by developers to communities, to increase from £1,000/MW
of installed capacity per year, to £5,000/MW per year for
the lifetime of the wind farm;
- earlier and greater community involvement, including
compulsory pre-application consultation with local communities
for the more significant wind applications, and
- best practice guidance from DECC to onshore wind
developers with regard to community engagement.
The Government has also stated that the new Office
of Unconventional Gas and Oil will examine, as a priority, Community
benefit from shale gas exploration.
Our inquiry investigated a number of factors that might affect
acceptance (or otherwise) of energy projects.
72. The size of a new energy plant does not seem
to have any impact on levels of local acceptance or opposition.
That is, small and medium-sized projects can attract just as much
local opposition as larger-scale plants.
Community engagement and consultation
73. Many witnesses felt that large corporations
involved in renewable energy developments contributed little to
the community and failed to engage local people.
Merlin Hyman, Regen SW, suggested that strengthening relations
between energy developers and the public was vital for the growth
of the renewable sector:
There is no way that we will build the scale of distributed/renewable
generation that we need without a better relationship between
development and the public. People notice this stuff. It is there,
it is in front of them, and they want to know why it is there
and what it has to do with them. There is a huge appetite to engage,
understand and gain benefit from it. If we think we can just sit
there and build out the renewable energy of the future without
a much better relationship between development and the communities
then we are living in cloud cuckoo land, frankly.
Friends of the Earth suggested there was a lack of
trust in developers, particularly larger companies, and recommended
that communities be given greater prominence in decision-making
processes to ensure adequate community benefits. The organisation
also noted that "better public participation in the local
plan stage as well as the pre-application stage is crucial",
and went on to suggest that local energy projects involved a mandatory
proportion of community ownership (see below).
74. We welcome DECC's proposals
in conjunction with DCLG to introduce best practice guidance on
community engagement and compulsory pre-application consultation
for larger wind farms. These measures should help to encourage
earlier and better quality consultation with communities, leading
to greater public acceptance. DECC should consider extending
these guidelines to cover other local energy projects in addition
75. The ownership of new projects does appear
to have some impact on the likelihood of local opposition. The
Co-operative Group told us that it had commissioned an opinion
poll, which suggested that opposition to wind turbines fell if
they were "owned by and benefitted the community".
Research by Community Energy Scotland and Warren and McFadyen
also supported this conclusion.
Many other witnesses shared the view that some level of community
ownership (including owning a stake in larger projects developed
by energy companies) would help to boost support and reduce opposition
to new developments.
One witness, Renewable Energy Systems (RES) (a renewable energy
developer), was less convinced and explained that its own study
had shown that many people were put off the idea of owning shares
in a wind farm because it was perceived to be too complex and
risky. There may
therefore be some difficulties in harnessing local benefit through
76. DECC told us that it was hoping to "get
more robust evidence on [the impact of community ownership on
acceptance of energy infrastructure] through its Community Energy
Call for Evidence, which was launched on 6 June 2013.
77. In Denmark, wind farm developers must offer
at least 20% ownership to individuals and communities living in
the surrounding area.
Friends of the Earth argued that the UK should follow this example
and should make a community ownership offer mandatory for all
new onshore wind developments.
Rebecca Willis, Co-operatives UK, thought it might be premature
to introduce legislation to this effect but that the Government
"should make sure that developers know that they are serious
about community ownership". She went on to suggest that Government
could do this by saying "you can do it yourselves or in two
years' time we will mandate it".
78. There are strong indications
that some level of local ownership can help to boost support and
reduce opposition to energy infrastructure projects. We welcome
the fact that DECC is seeking to develop a more robust evidence
base on this issue. If the evidence shows that local ownership
does indeed improve acceptability, we recommend that the Government
encourages the industry to offer a stake to local residents for
all new developments (perhaps by revising industry guidelines
such as the Community Benefit Protocol). If the industry does
not respond, the Government should consider the option of making
a community ownership offer mandatory for all new developments.
Community benefit payments
79. Community benefit payments (which typically
involve a developer making an annual payment to the local community)
have been at the heart of industry and Government efforts to improve
levels of acceptance among local residents.
Most recently this had led to a five-fold increase in community
benefit from wind farms, increasing from £1,000/MW/year to
£5,000/MW/year until new DECC proposals.
The shale gas industry has also recently come forward with a package
of community benefits, including £100,000 per well in exploratory
stages and 1% of revenues at production stage.
However, we encountered some scepticism towards the effectiveness
of this approach; Alan Simpson argued that "it struggles
to get beyond the sense of buying planning permission".
Witnesses expressed a preference for community ownership as opposed
to benefit payments and suggested that the new guidance on onshore
wind represented a "missed opportunity to support community
and co-operative ownership more generally."
80. An alternative proposal was the idea that
local communities should be able to benefit by buying the electricity
from local energy projects at a cheaper rate than is otherwise
of the Earth highlighted the practice of "community right
of first access" to the energy generated, which applies to
community energy projects in Germany.
Good Energy has recently introduced a discounted local electricity
tariff for people living near to its Delabole Wind Farm.
Renewable energy developer RES has also launched a "Local
Electricity Discount Scheme", which provides a minimum £100
annual discount to the electricity bills of properties closest
to proposed RES wind farms.
81. There is some uncertainty about the ability
of generators in the UK to sell the power they generate directly
to local communities. The Solar Trade Association suggested that
a generator by itself was unable to sell electricity to consumers
unless they are also a licensed supplier.
Energy4All also told us that it was prohibited for community energy
schemes to sell to the local community.
82. As matters stand, it appears that the theoretical
benefits of local 'buy-in' being obtained by the supply of cheaper
tariff electricity to residents in the vicinity of a project remain
largely theoretical. However, several other witnesses noted Ofgem's
"Licence Lite" arrangements, which are intended to allow
distributed energy generators and small suppliers to enter into
the supply market without facing all of the costs and complexities
of interfacing directly with central systems.
As yet, no Licence Lite derogations have been issued, although
a request from the Greater London Authority is currently under
83. DECC told us that it supported the "Licence
Lite" proposals and that the Government has "proposed
a power in the Energy Bill that would enable the Secretary of
State to amend electricity licence conditions to ease participation
in the wholesale market if required".
84. The idea of providing cheaper
electricity to the communities living close to energy infrastructure
projects has merit. It would provide a tangible and visible benefit
to people living near to development sites, which could act as
compensation for any negative impacts associated with the project
(such as aesthetic impacts). We encourage the Government
to monitor the various initiatives that are emerging in this vein
so that it can assess which approaches are most successful. This
includes discounted tariffs, discounted bills and any projects
going forward with a 'Licence Lite' derogation. DECC should also
investigate whether the Licence Lite route is accessible to community-owned
projects and, if it is not, should consider exercising the powers
that have been proposed in the Energy Bill to amend electricity
163 DECC, Press release, "Onshore wind: communities
to have a greater say and increased benefits", 6 June 2013,
DECC, Press release, "New office to look at community benefits
for shale gas projects", 20 March 2013, www.gov.uk Back
Ev w48 (Wood), Ev w24 (RES), Ev w22 (Orkney) Back
Ev w8 (SEG), Ev w22 (Orkney), Q 35 Back
Q 35 Back
Ev w62 (FoE) Back
Ev 75 (Co-op Group) Back
Ev 63 (Community Energy Scotland), Ev w48 (Wood) Back
Ev w8 (SEG), Ev 36 (Cornwall Council), Ev w22 (Orkney), Ev w54
(Simpson), Ev 54 (UKERC), Ev 75 (Co-op Group), Ev 27 (OVESCO),
Ev w8 (Basi), Ev 63 (Community Energy Scotland), Ev w62 (Friends
of the Earth), Ev w48 (Wood), Ev w74 (ResPublica) Back
Ev w24 (RES) Back
Ev w43 (DECC), DECC, Community Energy Call for Evidence,
6 June 2013 Back
Ev 54 (UKERC) Back
Ev w62 (Friends of the Earth) Back
Ev w32 (REG) Back
DECC, Press release, "Onshore wind: communities to have a
greater say and increased benefits", 6 June 2013, www.gov.uk Back
DECC, Press release, "Estimates of shale gas resource in
North of England published, alongside a package of community benefits",
27 June 2013, www.gov.uk Back
Ev w54 (Simpson) Back
Q 73 [Colin Baines] Back
Ev w8 (SEG), Ev w54 (Simpson) Back
Ev w62 (Friends of the Earth) Back
Ev 84 Back
Ev w68 (STA) Back
Ev w40 (Energy4All) Back
Ev w35 (Heat and the City), Ev 45 (Cornwall Energy), Ev 63 (Community
Energy Scotland), Ev w43 (DECC) Back
Ev 45 (Cornwall Energy), Ev w54 (Simpson) Back
Ev w43 (DECC) Back