UK: Renewable Energy in Scotland - An Overview

Last Updated: 18 February 2011
Article by Martin Sales


Generating energy from renewable sources continues to rise in profile and importance for a number of reasons:

  • Its promotion by the UK and Scottish Governments as a means of meeting energy targets and international obligations, particularly the Renewables Obligation;
  • Its role as a source of energy that does not contribute significantly towards the probable causes of climate change;
  • The high price of fossil fuels;
  • The security of supply it represents relative to oil, gas and coal; and
  • The policy trend towards discouraging reliance on fossil fuels without increasing the contribution of nuclear energy towards meeting our energy demands.

These factors all point to an increased role for renewable energy developments in meeting our energy requirements and a consequent increase in the demands such developments place on local authority and Scottish Government planning resources. The following summary of planning matters relating to renewable energy developments shows the importance of taking legal advice at an early stage, whether you are a developer, objector, regulator or third party.

Principal Consents Required For Onshore Wind Energy Developments

Depending upon the generating capacity of the renewable energy development (50 megawatts is the current threshold figure for wind), the following are required to construct/extend and operate a renewable energy development:

Currently, developments of less than 50 mw only require permission under the Planning Act.

There are two schools of thought on the relationship between the Electricity Act and Planning Act for developments generating more than 50 mw. The first considers Consent under the Electricity Act to be the principal authorisation and planning permission as a 'deemed' adjunct of the former. This is because the relevant provision within the Planning Act states that when granting consent under the Electricity Act, the Scottish Ministers can direct that planning permission for the development should "be deemed to be granted." The second, generally adopted by reporters in the Scottish Government's Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, treats the Electricity Act Consent and the Planning Permission separately and the relevant provisions of the Planning Act support this view. This is because the wording of the Planning Act is such that making a Direction for deemed Planning Permission does not necessarily alter the requirement for the Scottish Ministers to give the development plan priority when "making any determination under the planning Acts."

Offshore Renewable Energy – The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced a new, more simplified marine planning and licensing system. The Act establishes a framework which will help balance competing demands on Scotland's seas and aims to manage competition for marine space and deal with potential future conflicts. It introduces a duty to protect and enhance the marine environment and includes measures to encourage economic investment and growth in areas such as marine renewables.

The Act:

Marine Planning

  • Reinforces sustainable development by introducing a national marine plan covering all of Scotland's waters from the high spring tide water mark to the 200 nautical mile limit.
  • Enhances local accountability by providing Scottish Ministers with the power to create Scottish Marine Regions and powers to delegate marine planning to the Planning Partnerships of those regions.
  • Ensures that all authorisation decisions made for the marine environment are taken in line with the marine plan.

Marine Licensing

  • Introduces a simpler licensing system, minimising the number of licences required for development in the marine environment to cut bureaucracy and encourage economic investment.

Marine Conservation

  • Provides measures to improve marine nature and historic conservation with new powers to protect and manage areas of importance for marine wildlife, habitat and historic monuments.

Planning Policy Renewable Energy – SPP

Scottish Planning Policy 2010 (SPP) outlines the Scottish Government's policy on Renewable Energy and provides the policies and advice by which its targets will be met. The SPP originally set these targets at 50% of demand for Scottish electricity to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020 with an interim target of 31% by 2011. Assisted by the rapid expansion in wind power, Scotland is on course to exceed its targets; and in September 2010 the Scottish Government confirmed that Scotland's renewable electricity target for the next decade would be raised from 50 per cent to 80 per cent. The increase in renewable energy targets is supported by the SPP which states that the targets "should not be regarded as a cap" and by new calculations carried out by the Scottish Government that suggest that significantly higher levels of renewables could be deployed by 2020 with little change to the current policy, planning or regulation framework in Scotland. This is also in line with EU Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. While hydroelectric and onshore wind power are currently the main sources of renewable energy supplies the SPP recognises that these will increasingly become a part of a wider mix of renewables as other technologies become more commercially viable.

SPP affirms that planning authorities should support the development of a diverse range of renewable energy technologies, guide development to appropriate locations and ensure that the factors taken into account in decision making on all renewable energy generation development are clearly stated in the development plan or supplementary planning guidance. It encourages planning authorities to support the development of wind farms in locations where the technology can operate efficiently and encourages planning authorities to update their development plan policies in such a way as to encourage renewable energy developments and identify areas capable of supporting wind farms of more than 20 mw, subject to relevant environmental and other considerations. Of course, the promotion of renewable energy developments has to be reconciled with the need to protect and enhance the natural and historic environments of Scotland.

Issues Arising From Renewable Energy Developments

Other areas and issues that renewable energy developments will affect or give rise to, include:

  • Effects upon aviation (civil and military) and radar;
  • Noise emissions from the mechanics within turbines and, separately, the turbines as they pass through the air. Planning Advice Note (PAN) 45 as updated in February 2011 refers to steps that can be taken to measure and control noise from wind farms;
  • Effects upon ecology, particularly birdlife. Renewable energy developments also have to take habitats legislation and designations into account;
  • Effects upon hydrogeology, particularly where turbines are located upon, and later removed from, sensitive environments. The construction, on-going management and decommissioning of turbines may also have an impact upon the immediate environment;
  • Effects upon landscape. Frequently a contentious aspect of wind energy developments and often an issue which can determine whether someone is "for" or "against" such developments in general. PAN 45 contains guidance on this issue;
  • Cumulative impacts. Put simply, this involves taking account of other, completed developments in the vicinity, those which have been granted permission and those that are at the application stage but as yet undetermined. This is now considered to be a material consideration when determining planning applications and is a requirement of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. Scottish Natural Heritage recommends a 60km area around a proposed site within which account is taken of all permitted, completed and yet-to-be-determined developments. A 30 km radius is then drawn around each of those, thereby showing overlapping zones of possible impact;
  • Effects on cultural heritage. This may involve, for example, scheduled ancient monuments and guidance is to be found within the SPP, the Scottish Historic Environment Policy and PAN 45. Public perception and "valency." Public perception of the landscape and the visual amenity impacts of wind farms has emerged as an important factor in the public's acceptance or otherwise of such developments. This has led to development of an approach, sometimes called "valency" whereby the effect of a wind farm upon the landscape is recorded as "impact neutral." This may be at variance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 1999, which require assessment of the positive and negative impacts of a development such that the need for mitigation can be identified and appropriate measures can be applied.

Special Planning Conditions Applicable To Onshore Wind Farms

Planning conditions frequently applied to wind farm permissions include:

  • Limiting the duration of the development, often to 25 years, after which it must be appropriately decommissioned;
  • Appointing an independent ecological clerk of works prior to commencement of development to safeguard ecological interests;
  • Allowing variation of the location of turbines from the sites shown on approved application plans but only within certain narrow parameters;
  • Supplying the Ministry of Defense with the above-ground height of the development's tallest structure and the longitudinal and latitudinal positions of all structures.

Other Forms Of Renewable Energy

Of course, Scottish Government targets for the generation of energy from renewable sources include technologies reliant on other resources.


Current technologies include: microgeneration (householders now have Permitted Development Rights for the installation of microgeneration equipment under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Domestic Microgeneration) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2009/34); small-scale hydro technology; combined heat and power; and biomass plants. Some of these can give rise to planning issues including:

  • Waste residue disposal;
  • Leachate from stockpiles;
  • Traffic impact of vehicles, particularly HGVs, delivering fuel;
  • Odour nuisance and control.


Technological progress means such developments are increasingly feasible but are still fewer in number and smaller in scale than onshore developments. However, the offshore wind industry has seen major growth over the past year in Europe with the number of turbines increasing by more than a half. It seems likely that the industry will continue to develop with significant investment going into the sector. Offshore developments which capture wave energy, like the Oyster at the European Marine Energy Centre at Stromness, Orkney, have also seen encouraging growth and investment in the past year. The continued progress in offshore renewable energy technologies in Scotland can be expected to produce an increasing variety of planning and environmental issues as the technologies mature and schemes come forward

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.