As we stand on the brink of a climate crisis, with global temperatures projected to rise by 6°C by the end of this century, the need for sustainable solutions is more urgent than ever. The UK government has taken a bold step towards mitigating this crisis by committing to a ‘net zero’ carbon footprint by 2050.

The Role of Local Government in Climate Action

In alignment with the national goal, councils across England have declared Climate Emergencies and set their targets for carbon reduction. The planning system is a crucial tool in achieving these targets and combating the adverse impacts of climate change. Recent government publications underscore the urgency of this mission, emphasising the need for immediate action to achieve net zero by 2050.

Understanding Renewable Energy

Renewable energy, derived from natural resources, is a key player in this mission. Solar and wind power are the most prevalent forms of renewable energy in the UK, with tidal generation also gaining traction. Renewables, including wind, solar, biomass and hydro, provided almost 42% of Britain’s electricity in the first quarter of 2023(1).

However, the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is not without its challenges. The intermittent nature of renewable energy, with generation falling during periods of calm winds or no sunlight, is a significant hurdle. Energy storage, an emerging industry, offers solutions to this problem through innovative methods such as batteries and pumped water, facilitating the storage of excess power during periods of low demand and high production.

The Advantages of Renewable Energy

The benefits of renewable energy are manifold. It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curbing global warming. It also enhances energy security by reducing reliance on imported fuels, fostering self-sufficiency in energy generation(2). It creates new job opportunities and can reduce household bills.

Renewable Energy and the UK Planning System

The planning system is pivotal in the UK’s journey towards net zero. Development management facilitates the delivery of renewable energy schemes of varying scales within the UK and ensures that new developments are designed and constructed to be carbon neutral.

The General Permitted Development Order also aids in the roll-out of renewable energy, granting permitted development rights to install solar panels, heat pumps, and biomass heating systems on domestic and non-domestic premises without planning permission.

Local planning authorities have implemented planning policies and guidance documents related to climate change. These resources guide planning officers in assessing planning applications and ensuring new developments can mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In Devon and Cornwall, most planning applications must demonstrate how they can adapt to and mitigate the challenges posed by climate change. Information on thermal efficiency, energy sources, sustainable transport modes, flooding, biodiversity, and green infrastructure is typically required.

The Future of Renewable Energy

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy technologies are being deployed steadily despite the Covid-19 crisis. The IEA’s report, “Renewables 2021,” explores key challenges to the industry and identifies barriers to faster growth. It also discusses trends to watch, including storage, producing hydrogen from renewable electricity, stimulus packages, aviation biofuels, and residential heating(3).

The United Nations emphasises that the key to tackling the climate crisis is ending our reliance on fossil fuel energy. Renewable energy technologies like wind and solar exist today and are usually cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlines five critical actions the world must prioritise to transform our energy systems and speed up the shift to renewable energy(4).

The UN also points out that renewable energy sources are available in all countries, and their potential is yet to be fully harnessed. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that 90 percent of the world’s electricity can and should come from renewable energy by 2050(5).

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is nuclear energy considered renewable?

Although nuclear energy is a renewable energy source, the material used in nuclear power plants is not(6).

What are the types of renewable energy?

The most common types of renewable energy include solar power, wind power, hydroelectric energy, biomass energy, and geothermal energy.

What are the advantages of renewable energy?

Renewable energy has numerous advantages. It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhances energy security, creates job opportunities, and can contribute to reducing household bills(7).


  1. UK Renewable Energy Statistics 2023 
  2. Benefits of Renewable Energy 
  3. Renewables 2021 
  4. UN on Renewable Energy Transition 
  5. IRENA on Renewable Energy 
  6. Is Nuclear Energy Renewable? 

Advantages of Renewable Energy

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