East Anglia in Business spoke to Jeremy Stanton and Gemma Goddard to learn about the rapidly evolving world of renewables and technology. They also share professional insights into market trends – fast-changing as they are!
Our region is a powerhouse for clean energy, and you’ll need expert legal advice if you want to play your part.
You might be investing in green energy technology at work, a renewables project on your land, or are in talks with a developer for a clean tech scheme.
Building on decades of expertise in the sector – and with a rich heritage as one of the UK’s oldest law firms – Birketts is ideally placed to offer a full service solution for your legal requirements, whatever your area of business.
How the team can help
While their specialisms are Agriculture and Commercial Property respectively, Jeremy and Gemma are part of the wider Clean Energy team at Birketts which draws on expertise in all sectors. Their legal specialists advise on all aspects of Clean Energy transactions, from real estate and agriculture, corporate and planning, to environmental, construction, finance and utilities.
Jeremy explains: “We work on behalf of landowners, developers and businesses with access to the resources, land knowledge and funding, to carry out a green energy project from start to finish.”
As he points out, renewable energy has seen incredible progress since the early days of wind and solar. “The sector is diversifying rapidly, and trends are changing all the time, so it’s very important to keep up with the latest regulations.
“It’s not only the technology that’s complex – the legal requirements are too. Our work includes advising on option agreements and leases, power purchase agreements, outsource and supply agreements, construction and engineering contracts, all forms of utility requirements and planning and environmental issues.
“We provide support in all aspects of project management, including planning and development, acquiring sites, leases and funding, commissioning, and site reinstatement, as well as dispute resolution.”
Technical support is crucial
Gemma has some simple – but very important – advice for businesses looking to source green energy solutions: “Do your research and get technical support!”
She explains: “Net Zero and clean energy are real buzzwords now, but people don’t realise how technical it can be and these are long-term projects.
“There’s a common misconception that it’s easy to become a clean energy enterprise. Regardless of your own experience, it’s important to have a legal advisor on your side who knows the industry or you may well overlook key points.”
Jeremy agrees: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a small, medium or large-sized business. You must have a clear understanding of your end product, from the outset, to anticipate what may be required three, five, or ten years down the line. It is not easy when that end product is changing so rapidly. It makes the drafting interesting!”
“This could include requirements for a specific site, from acquiring it, to obtaining planning permission and a grid connection. You also need to think about the funding, and getting contractors, materials and equipment onsite.
“That’s not easy as technology is changing year on year, and you may be trying to anticipate something which could look very different in 5-6 years’ time.
“For example, the battery storage market has really come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade. It’s evolved from a focus on pure energy storage to sitting alongside sustainable energy generation. Our clients are increasingly looking at the types of revenue that can be achieved. Hydrogen production projects look set to increase rapidly too.”
An ever-changing marketplace
Gemma adds: “Yes, new technologies have really taken off in the last five years. Birketts is supporting a very wide range of schemes including battery installation and storage, aerobic digestion and utilities work.
“There’s a big drive on turning waste into energy in support of electrification. As a result, the market is increasingly interested in biomethane fuelling stations, anaerobic digestion facilities and hydrogen production.
“Currently our work involves acting for both UK developers and landowners. For example, farmers who want to diversify, commercial clients looking to put solar panels or batteries on buildings or commercial premises, and developers seeking to acquire interests and develop projects.
“In the past two to three years, there’s been a huge increase in queries about installing EV charging points at offices and feeding banks of solar panels into these points. We’re also going to see a rapid increase in retail demand in the region, through services like Gridserve.
“Overall, demand on the national grid will skyrocket, so how can supply be guaranteed? Questions like these need careful consideration.”
To date, the Birketts Clean Energy Team has helped landowners and developers successfully exchange options on 50-100MW battery storage facilities, and significant hybrid solar and battery sites. Gemma says: “It’s a really buoyant market in terms of obtaining land rights and trading them on.
“A lot of grid connections have been snapped up now, so it’s all about making the most of these connections in the marketplace.
“These are exciting times, and we have a nice mix of clients involved. Developers have the benefit of being very knowledgeable about trends and the market in general. Ordinarily they will have done multiple projects and have experience of securing grid connections and land rights in a highly competitive market.
“Landowners, on the other hand, often only have experience of a single Clean Energy project on their land, so they might have a steeper learning curve. All parties involved are ultimately working towards a common worthy cause: to make a positive contribution towards the region’s Net Zero ambitions, so they all want to see the land used to its full potential.”
Jeremy concludes: “There’s a lot of diversification among clients and their technological solutions. But whether it’s a big corporation, small business or an individual client, they all have a common goal: working together to secure a clean energy future for the region and the UK.”