27 July, 2023
Solar Power Portal, by George Heynes

The UK government is currently discussing plans to reform the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) process to enable faster consenting.

Being conducted via a consultation process, the document stated that it intends to make the NSIP process “better, faster, greener, fairer and more resilient by 2025”.

By reforming the process, large-scale projects will be streamlined for development meaning that they will be able to begin construction and ultimately come online much sooner. This could have a major influence not only on the renewable energy supply they can provide but also in increasing investor confidence in the UK solar sector.

NSIPs had been introduced in 2008 via the Planning Act 2008 in a bid to streamline key developments for the UK to achieve targets in the fields of energy, transport, water, waste and wastewater.

For the energy sector, the NSIP process has been at the heart of several major solar developments and has provided a gateway for many large-scale solar projects such as Cleve Hill, a 373MW solar project, and a 840MW multi-site solar project dubbed Botley West in Oxfordshire.

The government announced earlier this year its intention to reform the NSIP process. It outlined several reasons as to why there is a need to reform the NSIP process, one of which included the increase in the average length of time it takes for a case to reach decision. Discussing this, it said that Development Consent Orders (DCO) increased by 65% between 2012 and 2021 from 2.6 to 4.2 years.

This has been highlighted in the consultation with reforms set to cover operational reforms to support a faster consenting process, recognising the role of local communities and strengthening engagement and boosting system capability to ensure the UK is able to build a more diverse and resilient resourcing model.

The consultation opened on 25 July and is set to close on 19 September 2023.

Responding to the government’s plans to overhaul the NSIP process, Sam Richards, founder and campaign director for pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade, said: “Today’s announcement that the government plans to speed up the building of major infrastructure projects by overhauling the planning system is what Britain Remade has been calling for.

“Slashing bureaucracy and red tape in order to get spades in the ground as quickly as possible for new offshore wind farms, transport links and nuclear power stations is a start, but government must go further.

“Despite this welcome announcement new onshore wind farms, one of the cheapest sources of energy available, are still banned in England – condemning millions of people to higher energy bills. Ministers must act now to reverse the ban so that Britain can be energy secure and households can enjoy lower bills.”