The Welsh Government has made it no secret that it is committed to achieving Net-Zero emissions by 2050. The proposal of The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill, placed before the Senedd on 12 June 2023, is a significant step towards delivery of its renewable energy targets.
Why is this Bill needed?
Consent for the development of infrastructure in Wales has historically been disjointed. Developers currently have to abide by several consent procedures and primary legislation in order to proceed with a single project. The situation was complicated further by the Wales Act 2017, which devolved further powers to the Welsh Ministers to grant consent for energy infrastructure projects.
The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill is therefore a much-needed overhaul of the current complex and outdated statutory regimes and a means of maximising the devolved powers of the Welsh Ministers to grant consent for infrastructure.
What does the Bill propose?
The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill proposes a new unified consent procedure for the development of Welsh infrastructure on both land and territorial sea. It seeks to achieve this by introducing Infrastructure Consent (IC), a single form of consent, that will be issued for projects categorised as a Significant Infrastructure Project (SIP). This would replace the current Developments of National Significance (DNS) regime and facilitate a ‘one stop shop’ for projects requiring multiple permissions, licences and consents.
Notably under the current regime, developments which encompass onshore and offshore aspects require multiple consent applications – a lengthy and complex process. The ability for multiple consent applications to be considered at the same time and form part of one singular IC, should be a significant advantage of the Bill for developers and Ministers alike.
Impact on the renewable energy market
This streamlined consent procedure will hopefully encourage investment and growth in the Welsh renewables market with quicker more efficient consent applications. Giving Wales a competitive edge over its UK counterparts.
The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill has been designed with the Welsh Government’s net-zero ambition in mind; it possesses the flexibility needed to accommodate for new and emerging technologies as the renewable energy market continues to grow.
renewable energy infrastructure that encompasses both onshore and offshore aspects, such as tidal lagoons, will be able to take advantage of the new ‘one stop shop’ application process. Significant interest remains in tidal energy given the local tidal range and streamlining of the process must be positive.
A developer perspective
If costs are reduced and consistency improves, the Welsh Government’s objectives will be achieved. The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill introduces the possibility of definitive statutory timeframes for the determination of consent, hopefully bringing currently lacking certainty to the industry.
Concerns of local communities are also intended to be addressed as the unified consent process is designed to bring transparency to the application process and encourage engagement between communities and developers.
What happens next?
The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill will now continue its legislative process through the Senedd. The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, will appear before the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee on 6 July 2023, who will then consult on the Bill over the upcoming summer months.
The draft Bill is expected to come into force in the summer of 2025. If enacted it should have a positive impact on the Welsh project and renewables market and is one of many initiatives needed if Wales is to reach carbon neutral status by 2050.
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