The government is consulting on a change to the planning rules for storage concerning which projects are required to apply for a development consent order (DCO).

Under the current regulations, any non-wind power project in England with a capacity of more than 50MW is covered by the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime, meaning the developer must obtain a DCO from the secretary of state.

The rules do not make clear how this threshold should be applied to projects combining both generation and storage.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has therefore proposed to create a new threshold for composite projects, such that they will only fall under the NSIP regime if either the generation or storage element exceeds 50MW.

Where they are less than 50MW individually but more than 50MW in combination, the local planning regime would apply.

“Clarifying the legislation in this area will reduce the risk of projects being treated inconsistently”, the consultation states.

“This in turn should reduce the risk of disagreements between developers, planners and local communities over the treatment of individual projects, promoting greater certainty for investment decisions on composite projects including storage.”

BEIS has opted to retain the 50MW threshold for standalone projects on the basis it does not have a substantial impact on sizing and investment decisions. The department said other factors such as network connection costs, upfront capital costs and the availability of revenues are “far more influential”.

Frank Gordon, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, commented: “With this consultation the government is proposing to make it easier for grid-scale storage to secure planning permission, which will remove a crucial barrier to this promising sector’s growth and in turn will support job creation in clean tech design, manufacturing, and operations.

“While we welcome this, in our response to this consultation we will urge the government to go further. For example, the capacity threshold being set at 50MW could be limiting and more can be done to facilitate deployment by granting expanded permitted development rights.”

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 25 March 2019.

Examining the national planning threshold for storage projects was one of the commitments made by the government in its smart systems and flexibility plan published in July 2017.

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