Government policy in the UK, as in many countries, sees investment in infrastructure projects – particularly large ones – as a key means of supporting the national economy. But where does this leave local economic interests in the loci of these projects? And how does the regulation of such projects handle these interests? These are the questions addressed by this paper in the context of renewable energy projects that are regulated by the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. Drawing on original research into the regulation of 12 projects – and using thematic analysis of key documents and focus groups with local participants – the analysis highlights the limited understanding of the local economy presented, the challenges that local businesses face in participating and the partial protection offered to them. It concludes by proposing agendas for reforms and future research.