The road to COP26: Opportunities created by net zero and the role of onshore wind

March 26, 2021

RSK and Weightmans started the countdown to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) with the first of their series of virtual events looking at the roles of renewable-energy generation and emerging technologies on our journey to net zero. “The road to COP26: Opportunities created by net zero and the role of onshore wind” focused on how we can capture the opportunities that are created by the transition to net zero and the role of onshore wind power in this journey. If you missed it, you can watch again here.

After a welcome from Tracy Lake, the chair and a Partner at Weightmans, the webinar began with Martin Valenti, Head of Climate Enterprise for Scottish Enterprise, speaking on how to turn the climate emergency into a climate opportunity. Describing his section as “a proposition, not a presentation”, Martin urged us all to act now and to turn climate change concepts into prospects. Highlighting that we have gone past roadmaps and must now make racetracks instead, he proposed that the way forward was through collaboration.

Next to speak were Mike Kelly, Business Development Director at RSK, and Levent Gürdenli, Partner at Weightmans, who discussed “capturing the opportunity for onshore wind power”. Mike stressed the combined and important roles of new greenfield wind farm development, the extension of the operational life of existing assets, the repowering of sites and hybrid developments, which use two or more energy-generation technologies on a single site, in order to reach our renewable energy targets. Levent presented his “magic formula”: what is needed to ensure that we can deploy renewable energy technologies on a large scale. This formula includes the technological solution, the infrastructure, the regulatory system, the route to market and the funding requirements.

Following on from this, Steph Wray, Managing Director of RSK’s Nature Positive business, considered how to deliver a sustainable renewable development. She highlighted that true sustainability is not just about carbon and that we must consider operations as a whole, including our value chain, if we are to really become more sustainable. This is as applicable to renewable energy developments as to those in any other sector.

Finally, Simon Hindson, Team Leader of Strategic Projects for the Highland Council, looked at the planning issues associated with onshore wind. Offering a planning authority’s perspective, Simon stressed that visual impact is not the only consideration when assessing applications for onshore wind farms. The authority considers all the positives and negatives of any application and also how to amplify any benefits, for example, whether habitat-management plans could facilitate biodiversity net gain through developments or how excess electricity could be used for the local production of green hydrogen.

A key and consistent theme that arose from the webinar was the need for all stakeholders to come together to overcome the barriers to meeting the carbon-net-zero target and the ongoing contribution of onshore wind generation. The webinar concluded with a panel discussion involving all the speakers, who debated answers to questions such as “Does England need to change its planning system to allow wind farm developments?” and “Do you agree that ministers, Nature Scotland and planning authorities will need to be more accepting of subjective changes to the landscape in order to deliver a doubling of onshore wind by 2030?”.

From 1–12 November 2021, the UK will host the 26th annual UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). The event will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, and is an annual meeting of the signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The joint RSK and Weightmans webinar series, to be held in the run-up to the event, will be based on the key themes of COP26. Look out for more details of the next event in the series, coming soon.

If you’d like to find out more about onshore wind power, please contact Mike Kelly. To find out more about sustainable renewable developments, contact Stephanie Wray.