Following its consultation in January 2019, the government has published The Infrastructure Planning (Electricity Storage Facilities) Order 2020, removing the construction or extension of battery storage projects with capacity under 350MW from the DCO regime. My colleagues Paula McGeady and Ingrid Lekaj consider the implications below.

Storage projects with a capacity of 50MW and above have until now been classed as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) under the same provisions as generating stations. They therefore required a Development Consent Order (DCO) under the Planning Act 2008 to authorise their construction and operation. The new legislation, which comes into force on 28th July 2020, removes battery storage projects (except pumped hydro) between 50 and 350MW in England from the DCO regime. Such projects can now be consented by planning permission granted (usually) by the Local Planning Authority. In Wales, projects between 10 MW and 350MW will require consent from the Welsh Government as Developments of National Significance.  The different regimes in different jurisdictions needs to continue to be considered by developers and  is often overlooked.

The consultation feedback indicated that the 50MW threshold under the NSIP regime was acting as a barrier to bringing forward battery storage projects. The DCO procedure is designed to deal with major infrastructure projects, and many developers felt the cost and length of the DCO process was disproportionate to the limited impacts likely to be created by battery storage facilities.

The changes in legislation are therefore welcomed by promoters who will be able to apply for bigger battery storage projects without being subject to the DCO procedure. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy anticipates that the change in the law will boost the battery storage industry and support the use of renewable electricity.

Promoters in England can still apply to have a particular project directed into the DCO regime where it is appropriate to do so, by seeking a section 35 direction from the Secretary of State. In order to grant such a direction, the Secretary of State must determine that the project is of a scale or importance which merits it being treated as a NSIP. Directing in will allow projects which want or need to access the wider range of powers available under the DCO regime, including compulsory acquisition powers, to do so.