How best to plan for dispersed energy - UK shale gas as a case study

  • Christopher Ford

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The energy transition requires new sustainable forms of energy production to replace fossil-fuels. This new energy often requires substantial land areas or is tied to the resource location or both. UK data, in 2020, shows traditional, locationally flexible, power generation produced 1,715 MWe per square kilometre of land used, while locationally tied wind energy provides only 3.8 MWe/km2 onshore or 2.8 MWe/km2 offshore. Substantial dispersal of energy development is likely to lead to increased local environmental effects and social acceptance issues. Exacerbated by an implementation gulf between the domains of energy policy and planning practice, this leads to insufficient provision to meet projected demand. This thesis explores this gap by asking how best to plan for dispersed energy, by investigating whether dispersed energy can be provided without undue local environmental effects? This is examined via a case study which develops a plan modelling dispersed shale gas development across Northern England. It observes the institutional gulf, also evident in published research, in dispersed energy provision in the UK, due to insufficiently scoped regional energy strategies and impotent statutory planning for dispersed energy. The research demonstrates that local environmental effects of dispersed energy can be avoided or minimised by deploying a positive planning approach. This should include: a whole-system perspective including technical understanding; covers both energy production and transportation; and assesses overall and cumulative effects in holistic positive planning rather than serial project-level decision-making. Strategic positive planning is aided by evaluating alternative scenarios and integrating planning and environmental assessment techniques, rather than the detached support tool of environmental assessment. Importantly, rather than seeking public views on inappropriately sited, developer identified proposals, positive planning applies criteria-based site selection which seeks to avoid effects on environmental and social receptors. However, implementing this planning approach requires institutional change to bridge the policy/planning gap.
Date of Award10 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorElsa João (Supervisor) & Zoe Shipton (Supervisor)

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