Applications for electricity storage projects above the 50MW threshold are currently considered by the Planning Inspectorate under the streamlined Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.
Energy storage includes a range of possible developments such as battery storage and pumped hydro storage projects.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this week confirmed that the threshold will be lifted in England and Wales, allowing all energy storage projects, with the exception of pumped hydro schemes, to be approved by local authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act.
BEIS said the 50MW threshold would be retained for pumped hydro projects “due to the larger planning impacts of this technology”.
However, the secretary of state will retain the power to direct that proposals for energy storage projects be dealt with under the NSIP regime when considered appropriate.
Announcing the change, BEIS said: “These changes will make it simpler for large scale storage facilities to seek planning permission, helping to bring forward larger projects supporting more efficient grid balancing and management of intermittent renewable generation.”
In January last year, the government consulted on the treatment of energy storage projects in the planning system and proposed retaining the 50MW NSIP threshold.
However, in October, the government published a follow-up consultation in which it reversed its position and suggested the cap could be removed.
In its response to the second consultation, published this week, the government said it had decided to scrap the 50MW threshold after hearing evidence that the policy “was distorting sizing and investment decisions for these types of projects”.
Ministers said there was evidence of a “clustering” of energy storage projects below the 50MW threshold, adding: ”Some providers were choosing to develop multiple projects with 49.9MW batteries rather than one larger battery, to avoid the NSIP regime.”
The change in policy will be implemented via statutory instruments laid before parliament on 14 July. The statutory instruments will come into force 28 days after they are approved by Parliament.
Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Removing barriers in the planning system will help us build bigger and more powerful batteries, creating more green-collar jobs and a smarter electricity network.”
Frank Gordon, head of policy at industry body the Renewable Energy Association, added: “This is a welcome change in the market which will support the UK’s position as a world leader in energy storage technologies.
“The previous cap was largely arbitrary and skewed the market. As energy storage built alongside new renewables projects is crucial to unlocking subsidy-free deployment, the old system acted as major barrier to achieving our net zero target and building low-cost generation sites.”