Town Planning & Renewables, low-carbon energy sources & energy efficiency measures

In previous articles we’ve established that the UK has set ambitious targets for reducing its carbon emissions, with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Town planning plays a crucial role in helping the country achieve these targets on the journey to net zero, it is necessary to reduce the energy demand of new developments and increase the use of renewable energy sources.

What’s the difference between Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Energy?

Renewable energy is a type of energy that is generated from natural and replenishable resources, including sunlight, wind, rain, and geothermal heat. Unlike fossil fuels, which are finite and depletable, renewable energy sources can be replenished over time. The use of renewable energy is an important step towards reducing carbon emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

On the other hand, low carbon energy is generated from non-renewable sources like coal, oil, and gas, but with a lower carbon footprint. This is achieved through the use of cleaner and more efficient technology to reduce carbon emissions during energy generation. To learn more about low carbon energy sources, you can visit the website of the International Energy Agency. They provide information on technologies such as carbon capture and storage, as well as policies and measures to promote the deployment of low carbon energy.

The UK government has introduced several initiatives to promote the use of renewable and low carbon energy sources in town planning, including the Renewable Energy Planning Framework, which provides guidelines for local authorities on how to assess and approve renewable energy projects. The Planning and Energy Act 2008 requires new developments to meet energy efficiency standards and to incorporate low-carbon and renewable energy technologies.

Changes to building regulations will also help UK deliver net zero, our article Building Regulation Changes will affect Housing Design provides basic information covering these changes.

How can the town planning system encourage renewable and low carbon energy sources?

The UK town planning system regulates land use and development, including the construction of new buildings and infrastructure. It provides an opportunity to incorporate renewable and low-carbon energy technologies into new developments, making them more sustainable and energy-efficient.

In addition to renewable and low-carbon energy sources, the town planning system can also encourage energy efficiency measures in buildings. This includes using insulation, efficient lighting, and heating systems, among other things.

The integration of renewable and low-carbon energy sources into the town planning system has several benefits, such as reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable development. It can also help to reduce energy costs, making buildings more affordable and accessible.

Does Renewable Energy or Low Carbon Energy Sources require planning permission?

In the UK, local planning authorities have the responsibility of overseeing the development of renewable and low carbon energy projects with an installed capacity of 50 megawatts or less under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. For projects with over 50 megawatts capacity, the Secretary of State for Energy considers them under the Planning Act 2008, and the local planning authority becomes a statutory consultee in the process.

The rational for an LPA not being the decision maker for larger scale energy projects is due to the cumulative impacts, particularly in the offshore wind and electricity networks sector, which require strategic solutions outside the remit of individual projects.

The government is currently planning to revise the legislation.

Microgeneration, on the other hand, is often considered a permitted development and may not require a planning permission application.  We’ve produced some articles covering solar panels, however other microgeneration development could also be permitted development:

During the town planning process what should be considered?

When planning permission is required considering the siting for renewable energy technologies, is fundamental.  There are several technical considerations that need to be taken into account. These considerations can vary depending on the type of technology and can affect their suitability for a particular location.

For instance, for biomass, appropriate transport links should be considered, while for hydro-electric power, the availability of water sources is crucial. For wind turbines, factors such as the predicted wind resource, air safeguarding, electromagnetic interference, and access for large vehicles need to be considered.

Consulting with industry experts can help to identify the siting requirements and likely impacts of specific technologies. A new UK government Department for Energy and Net Zero is being formed to focus on giving the UK cheaper, cleaner, more secure sources of energy – cutting bills, cutting emissions, and cutting our dependence on international energy supplies.  National Policy Statements provide generic and technology-specific advice relevant to siting particular technologies.  These are being reviewed and due to be published for consultation in 2023. Additionally, the Environment Agency has published advice showing which areas may be suitable for open loop ground source heat pumps as well as guidance on the technologies it regulates.

Next Steps

Given the Energy Crisis the UK is currently facing we’re going to focus on renewable energy articles.  However holistically the combination of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures can significantly reduce carbon emissions and make progress towards achieving energy targets while reducing our carbon footprint. Therefore, it is essential for developers and town planners embrace both renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures for a sustainable future.

A town planner can help with incorporating renewable and low-carbon energy sources into new developments by advising on planning policies and regulations, and by working with developers to find solutions that meet energy efficiency standards and reduce carbon emissions.

Related Content

On our Collections page we have an Energy Collection which we hope will provide you with more information on this topic.

Links to relevant legislation and useful resources include:

By incorporating renewable and low-carbon energy sources and energy efficiency measures, new developments can make a significant contribution to meeting energy targets and reducing carbon emissions in the UK.

Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Energy