This paper presents the results of a survey of local authority planners involved in determining renewable energy applications and local planning policy in Scotland. The questionnaire was used to identify the key challenges that renewable energy presents for the planning profession. Visual and landscape impact, together with nature conservation conflicts, are identified as key areas of difficulty. The paper describes the emerging renewable energy sector in Scotland, and investigates the response of the planning system to this new form of development. The UK government's market-driven approach to the electricity sector and its influence on the way renewables may develop is explored. Some common physical characteristics of technologies for exploiting diffuse sources of renewable energy are highlighted, together with the consequences for planning and development control. Important differences in the strategic approach to renewable energy development onshore and in the marine environment are identified. This paper reveals an emerging conflict between national policy on the one hand and regional planning concerns on the other.