Delivering renewable energy under devolution

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Cardiff School of Planning and Geography

Abstract

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Description This study concludes that devolution has played a significant role in the expansion of renewable energy deployment in the UK, with Scotland leading the way on renewable energy delivery ahead of Northern Ireland and Wales.

This is the finding of a two-year research project undertaken by Cardiff University, Queens University Belfast, Robert Gordon University and Birmingham University. The collaborative project seeks to examine how devolution has affected the development of wind, wave, solar and biomass energy technologies.

"The level of renewable energy capacity in place prior to devolution in 1998/1999 was low. In general, capacity has expanded most significantly since 2002-2003." says Dr Richard Cowell, Principle Investigator of the study at Cardiff University's School of Planning and Geography.

"We can point to a range of actions by the devolved governments - especially Scotland - that have shown significant support to renewable energy in the UK. The Scottish Government has led in using its powers to give greater support to wave and tidal power technologies, while Northern Ireland has used their powers - greater than Scotland's - to facilitate small-scale renewables and bio-fuel processes.

"The centralisation of the consent process for major energy generation is another major factor of Scotland's success. Energy policy is executively devolved, which gives Scottish Ministers full control over major energy consents and planning - onshore and offshore - and scope to adjust the details of market support. "

To a lesser extent, Wales and Northern Ireland have also helped promote renewable energy. The Welsh Government's use of strategic spatial zoning has helped pull in a larger volume of on-shore wind development interest than could be expected in a comparable region of England. Yet concentration of these developments has triggered public opposition and political conflict.

A key feature of the devolution settlement is that the devolved governments have different sets of powers that are relevant to the delivery of renewable energy development, with the Northern Ireland Executive possessing the most powers and the Welsh Government the least.

But a key finding of the research is that the powers available to the devolved governments do not automatically determine which country has been able to make greatest headway. For example, Scotland has achieved significant renewable energy development despite having fewer powers than Northern Ireland. Several factors have contributed to this. The key ingredients of the Scottish Government's success in promoting renewable energy relative to other governments are as follows:

Time - Among the devolved governments, political commitment to large-scale renewable energy development is longest standing in Scotland, allowing debates about delivery to develop sooner than in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Political support - The centrality of energy issues to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and its independence agenda is a key factor, but so too is cross-party support, and the galvanising of a wider but still compact policy network which includes major energy businesses.

Positioning - Scotland has been more consistent over time in presenting the expansion of renewable energy as a national economic agenda, rather than just an environmental or rural development agenda.

Sites - The availability of larger, windy, but relatively less contested sites for on-shore wind in Scotland has also been a factor, and also meant more projects went through central consenting procedures rather than local planning authorities.

The research suggests that it is this cohesion and consistency of elite interests in Scotland around the importance of renewable energy - spanning successive governments, political parties and business - which explains why Scottish Governments have been empowered and enabled to make robust use of the powers available. As it has achieved successful growth in the sector, this too helps cultivate credibility among key business interests, and gives increased leverage to its position in policy discussion with UK government.

Dr Cowell added: "There is a high degree of commonality between the governments in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh over the broad direction of energy policy and the place of renewable energy within it.

"With the exception of Scottish opposition to new nuclear, both Scottish and Welsh Governments have been broadly comfortable with a 'UK energy development pathway' that consists of large developments, international investment and includes conventional generation technologies.

"Devolved governments have not taken major steps to increase public engagement in renewable energy development: there is positive support for community renewables but also a shared view that planning processes for major energy infrastructure should be centralised and streamlined."

Professor Peter Strachan of Robert Gordon University, who led the Scottish component of the research, said: "Scotland has shown the high level of cohesion between top-level politicians, officers and businesses required to make the UK energy pathway work. Such cohesion around the direction of renewable energy development has been harder to find in the rest of the UK, making progress more uncertain."

Nevertheless, the research does not conclude that the actions and activities undertaken by the devolved governments are necessarily the most important factors shaping the development of renewable energy in the UK. This is because devolution is still a relatively new dimension of energy governance in the UK, and decisions affecting key drivers for renewable energy investment are still made mainly in Westminster, with the Treasury exercising close budgetary control. In all areas of the UK, grid capacity expansion remains slow to achieve. The major growth in offshore wind is driven mainly by Westminster and cross-UK bodies, with the most significant capacity growth being in English territorial waters.

The Energy Minister for Scotland, Fergus Ewing, said:
"This report underlines the importance of the flexibility which Scotland has over energy policy, and the effective use to which that flexibility has been put since devolution. Successive Scottish Governments have taken distinct approaches where necessary - these have built upon the advantages presented by our huge renewable resource, and helped Scotland establish itself as a hub for investment and a byword for emerging renewable technologies.
"Scotland has hit the natural lottery twice, first with oil and gas and now with our green energy resources. We have astounding green energy potential and vast natural resources with about a quarter of Europe's wind and tidal energy and 10% of its wave power. Windfarms and other forms of clean green energy create opportunities for communities across Scotland, enhance energy security and are already delivering jobs and investment, and the Scottish Government is determined to ensure communities all over Scotland reap the benefit from renewable energy."
Exploitation Route The research also provides new insights into the spatial dynamics of transitions towards more sustainable energy systems, and how the reality of devolution is shaped by the form and institutional arrangements surrounding key resource sectors. These insights have much to contribute to theoretical development in political science, geography and planning.
Sectors Energy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/cplan/research/delivering-renewable-energy/dissemination-and-user-engagement
 
Description Our findings have been used in a number of policy debates, from 2012 to the present, concerning the relationship between evolving UK devolution arrangements, the organisation of energy policy, and the delivery of renewable energy. In particular, the research has been used in the Commission on Devolution in Wales and by the Scottish Government in the run up to the 2014 independence referendum.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Energy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Commission on Devolution in Wales
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
URL http://commissionondevolutioninwales.independent.gov.uk/files/2014/03/Empowerment-Responsibility-Leg...
 
Description Engagement in Scottish Independence Referendum deate
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
URL http://referendum.holyrood.com/blog/independence-and-future-renewables-case-yes-vote
 
Title DREUD 
Description The database contains data collected for the ESRC-funded research project, Delivering Renewable Energy Under Devolution, and deposited in the ESRC Datastore. The data consists of transcripts of interviews conducted with the renewable energy industry, government officers and politicians, local planning officers and environmental NGOs, across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the period 2011-2012. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact As the database only became fully available in July 2013, it is too soon for the content to have an impact beyond the research team of the Delivering Renewable Energy Under Devolution Project. 
URL http://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/
 
Description 'Give Scotland what it voted for', The Conversation, November 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The article was co-written by one of the DREUD research team members, Professor Peter Strachan. The response can be ascertained in part by looking at the responses it achieved.

The article is a part of Professor Strachan's engagement with the Smith Commission.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://theconversation.com/time-for-uk-to-give-scotland-what-it-voted-for-more-control-over-energy-...
 
Description A Smarter Energy Future for Wales, an inquiry by the National Assembly for Wales Environment and Sustainability Inquiry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was invited to appear as an expert witness at this inquiry, which is aimed at informing the development of Welsh Government energy poicy up to and after the May 2016 Assembly Elections. I was questioned and gave answers for an hour. There is also a written submission accompanying my oral evidence. Impact will become clearer once the Assembly release their report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?ID=184
 
Description Agenda NI Article February 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Geraint Ellis and Richard Cowell co-authored the article, titled 'Energy: Lessons from Devolution', for Agenda NI magazine. It was part of the initial dissemination activities of the Delivering Renewable Energy Under Devolution research project. It was designed to spark discussion.

Geraint Ellis has been invited to subsequent events on energy policy in Ireland, both in the North and in the Republic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/RES-062-23-2526/outputs/Read/f8db129a-c4f9-4ae6-b37c-e9e7642bfd...
 
Description BBC Wales Today, 18.30pm, 27th February 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I offered commentary on the UK Government's proposals for Welsh Devolution, 'Powers for a Purpose: Towards a Lasting Devolution Settlement for Wales', with particular reference to the energy dimensions.

None as yet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Commission on Devolution in Wales (Silk Commission), 10th July 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Silk Commission consists of a panel of less than ten people, who cross-examined me and two other expert witnesses about our evidence. Of course, the Commission's report attracted a much wider audience.

The energy section of the Silk Commission's second report quotes from Richard Cowell's evidence at a number of points.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://commissionondevolutioninwales.independent.gov.uk/files/2014/03/Empowerment-Responsibility-Leg...
 
Description Devolution (Further Powers) Scottish Parliament Committee - 23 February 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Professor Peter Strachan gave oral evidence at a private session of this committee.

To early to discern impacts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/83008.aspx
 
Description Energy Voice article November 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article only released on 6th November 2014 - too early to gauge response.

This article should be seen as part of a significant wider effort by research team members to engage with a range of audiences around the energy dimensions of Scottish independence or further devolution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.energyvoice.com/opinion/68311/opinion-after-the-referendum-give-real-energy-powers-to-sc...
 
Description Engagement in Scottish Independence Referendum debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In the run-up and after the Scottish Independence Referendum, two team members - Professor Peter Strachan and Dr David Toke - were extensively involved in discussions about the energy dimensions. This was stimulated initially by the DREUD Report (see 'Publications'), published December 2013, but expanded to cover wider energy issues.

Both David and Peter gave evidence at the Select Committee of the Scottish Parliament on Economy Energy and Tourism, with Dr Toke appearing on 30th April 2014. Peter Strachan and David Toke also wrote articles for numerous publications, including the Scotsman, Energy Voice, Ecologist and The Conversation. Separate entries have been made to ResearchFish where possible. Peter also did radio and TV work with the BBC, the Turkish national broadcaster and Spanish television. Peter's work on the referendum also made the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg and Wind Power Monthly. Scottish Government ministers (Fergus Ewing) referred to Peter and the December 2013 DREUD report on numerous occasions.

See above. The effects of the various debates that took place in the lead up to the independence referendum have yet to be seen, and will only become apparent after the next general election. But our research was clearly valuable for the Scottish Government position (see http://referendum.holyrood.com/blog/independence-and-future-renewables-case-yes-vote)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://theconversation.com/scotland-benefits-by-paying-for-its-energy-not-uks-mistakes-21200
 
Description Environment and Sustainability Committee, National Assembly for Wales, 29.09.2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The written evidence and cross-examination generated significant discussion and helped to inform the committee's report.

As well as the impacts on the Committee's report, the act of giving evidence raised the profile of the research project, and led to Richard Cowell being invited to give evidence to the subsequent Commission on Devolution in Wales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=1336&Opt=3
 
Description Inquiry into the Scottish Government's Renewables Targets 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The contribution led to further discussion.

This is among the first of many spheres in which Peter Strachan has become involved in energy policy work with the Scottish Government, through the DREUD study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/46125.aspx
 
Description NI Assembly Renewables All Party Working Group February 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Geraint Ellis gave a presentation of the research results to the NI Assembly Renewables All Party Working Group on 20th February 2013, which sparked discussion.

Geraint Ellis has been involved in subsequent provision of research and evidence to the governing bodies in Ireland, in the North and the Republic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://cplan.subsite.cf.ac.uk/cplan/sites/default/files/DREUD-Presentation-NI-RAPWG.pdf
 
Description Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment 07.11.13 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Research team member, Professor Geraint Ellis provided a briefing at the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment 'Review of Wind Energy', 7th November 2013. He was cross-examined by committee members.

A transcript of the session is provided in the Official Report (Hansard). Official Report (Hansard) provides a transcript of proceedings (7 November 2013).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Documents/Official-Reports/Environment/2013-2014/131107_WindEnergy(Prof...
 
Description Wales Energy Summit, 15th October 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Richard Cowell was invited to provide the initial opening address, set the context in terms of key energy issues facing Wales and outline the issues created by the partial devolution of energy-related powers to Wales.

Impact will become clear when the output of this summit, a paper to the First Minister of Wales on energy issuess, is produced.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.iwa.org.uk/en/events/view/269
 
Description World Wind Energy Association bulletin 2012, December issue, pp.10-15 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The article arose from my presentation and role as conference convenor, at the WWEA Annual Conference, Bonn 2012

Invitation of Richard Cowell to be a convenor for European Rural Sociology Conference session/workshop, summer 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.wwindea.org/home/index.php