An easy cell - battery storage rules to be relaxed by Government

England and Wales

The Government has laid the Draft Infrastructure Planning (Electricity Storage Facilities) Order 2020 before Parliament, with the intention that (once passed) it will facilitate the construction of more battery storage sites at higher capacities in England and Wales.

We commented here on the Government’s previous consultation on electricity storage. Following that, an additional consultation was launched to canvas opinion on certain changes, including:

  1. The removal of electricity storage sites of 50MW or more (save for pumped hydro storage) from the nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) regime so that, rather than requiring a development consent order (DCO), these sites could be consented under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) regime.

  2. Keeping pumped hydro storage within the NSIP regime, recognising that there are additional planning impacts to this technology compared to other electricity storage sites.

The draft Order published this week would give effect to these proposals, once passed. The additional consultation response (published alongside the draft Order) also makes clear that the lifting of the 50MW restriction in the TCPA regime will allow electricity licence holders to use their existing permitted development right at Part 15, Schedule 2 of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (the GDPO) – which enables development on operational land - to construct battery storage sites of 50MW or more. This right remains subject to the limitations and conditions under the GPDO.

The changes will certainly be welcomed by the industry as a large proportion of existing applications for battery storage sites are clustered just under the 50MW threshold simply to avoid the DCO regime. The primary reason for this is the additional time and cost in pursuing a DCO under the NSIP regime, which can take more than two years.

However, the Government may have missed a trick in not going further. The draft Order still leaves non-licence holders unable to use permitted development rights to co-locate battery storage at existing generating sites, despite requests from consultees to legislate for this as part of the recent consultation.