Brodies survey reveals barriers to renewables growth in Scotland

Brodies survey reveals barriers to renewables growth in Scotland

Planning issues, the availability of finance, grid connection charges and opposition from a vocal minority of objectors have been identified as the main challenges to new renewable energy projects in Scotland, according to a survey by law firm Brodies LLP.

The survey, carried out in conjunction with the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), canvassed the opinions of individuals across the Scottish renewables sector on the main issues faced by the industry when developing new projects in Scotland.

Planning and consent issues were identified as the biggest barrier to new project development by 53% of those who responded to the survey, followed by the availability of finance (29%). Grid connection charges and the objector lobby were ranked the principal barrier by 6% and 5% of respondents respectively.

The survey was sent to a cross section of more than 1000 people in the renewables sector, including members of AREG and Scottish Renewables. They included lenders, investors, community groups, landowners, consultants and public sector bodies involved in onshore and offshore wind, hydro, solar, biomass, wave and tidal and heat network developers.

Commenting on the findings, Neil Collar, head of planning at Brodies, said there was concern over an apparent disconnect between Scottish Government planning policy, which aims to encourage the development of renewable energy projects, and implementation by some local authorities. The Scottish Government has set a target of producing the equivalent of 100% of the country's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

He said: "One of the thrusts of planning reform was to devolve more power to the local level and there are concerns that national planning policy, which is supportive of renewables, is not being implemented in a consistent manner by local authorities - leading to something of a postcode lottery. It appears to be the case that this devolution of power has given a louder voice to local minority groups who are more likely to be vocal in their opposition to renewables schemes than those who support them.

"This is obviously of concern to developers in the renewables sector, who feel there needs to be greater consistency in the local application of national planning policy. One way that this could be achieved is through more detailed guidance being issued by the government in relation to issues such as acceptable hub heights in wind farm developments."

Keith Patterson, head of Brodies' projects, energy and infrastructure team, added: "The availability of finance remains a significant barrier. In some sectors, there are key technology and supply risks which cannot be funded but across all sectors demand exceeds the supply of finance. Partly of course, this is a result of banks restricting the capital they allocate to long term finance, as they grapple with the eurozone crisis and the Basle III rules. But there are real opportunities for equity funds and banks to enter the market."

When asked which sectors the Green Investment Bank (GIB) should prioritise, onshore wind was ranked the top priority by 28% of respondents, offshore wind by 26%, wave and tidal by 20% and hydro by 13%. On the question of what the key priorities of the Green Investment Bank should be, early stage technology funding was identified as the top priority by 46% of respondents and equity gap funding by 37%.

Keith said: "This suggests that there might be a case for the GIB to be given a wider remit. It could, as the original commission which recommended its set up suggested, be handed the remit to co-ordinate all other available sources of public funds for renewables and clean technology. If not, more work is required to ensure the industry understands the role of GIB and to raise awareness of other sources of funding."

ENDS
Notes to Editors

Brodies is a leading law practice delivering the highest level of legal services to a diverse public and private sector client base. With an international delivery capability, the firm offers legal advice in its core business areas of corporate and commercial, property, litigation, banking and financial services, employment and trust and tax. Brodies is the outstanding firm in its region in terms of leading lawyer numbers, focus on core markets, sustained profitable growth and quality client service. Brodies was named the UK's Regional/National Law Firm of the Year for 2011 by The Lawyer and has 21 practice areas that are ranked top tier by the UK's independent legal directories. The firm was ranked top in Scotland for the quality of its legal advice by corporate clients in the Legal Week Client Satisfaction Report 2011 and was named 'Best Legal Employer' by Legal Week in its Employee Satisfaction Survey 2010. Brodies was also ranked the top legal adviser in the 2011/12 deals table published by Business Insider magazine.

For further information please contact Camillo Fracassini, PR Manager, on 0131 656 0292 / camillo.fracassini@brodies.com

Release date: 21/05/2012

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