Memorandum submitted by the British Wind Energy Association (NPS 13)

 

 

BWEA - Introduction

1. BWEA exists to champion the generation, deployment and use of renewable power. Founded in 1978, we work to support our 550 corporate members to achieve the maximum deployment of wind, wave and tidal energy and realise maximum benefits to the UK. BWEA's members include Centrica, EDF Energy, EON UK, RWE Npower, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy and Renewable Energy Systems.

2. During the passage of the Bill through Parliament and the development of its subsequent regulations and guidance, BWEA has worked closely with a range of other stakeholders, including the UKBCSE. The comments given below relate to the draft National Policy Statements (NPSs) on Overarching Energy (EN-1), Renewable Energy (EN-3) and Electricity Networks (EN-5). We would also be happy to share with you our forthcoming response to the Department's formal consultation on EN-1-5, which we will contain more detailed views on the issues covered below, and is due to be submitting on 22nd February.

 

Executive Summary

 

3. The Challenge of Climate Change: The Stern Review and other climate change studies have demonstrated the clear and urgent need to reduce green house gas emissions to avert climate change. The UK Government has accordingly adopted ambitious renewable energy targets and carbon emission reduction targets; 15% of all energy will need to come from renewable sources by 2020 and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions is required by 2050. To achieve these targets requires a sustained multi-billion pound investment programme to deliver a range of renewable energy technologies across all areas of the UK, both on- and offshore. BWEA's members will be responsible for providing the vast majority of the UK's renewable energy generation necessary to ensure the necessary de-carbonisation of the power sector.

4. The Need for Reform of the Planning Regime: In order to deliver this much needed step-change in investment and deployment, the renewables industry has long supported the reform of the planning regime. The Planning Act reforms deliver the measures necessary to develop the large scale renewable energy infrastructure needed to meet our energy and climate change obligations in a timely manner. BWEA therefore supports the Planning Act reforms as they should enable the timely deployment of essential renewable energy infrastructure through a fairer, more transparent and effective planning regime than we have at the present.

5. The Importance of National Policy Statements: We believe that NPSs are essential to enabling the very substantial infrastructure investment programme needed to address climate change and ensure continued security of supply of the UK's energy supplies. NPSs need to be robust, relevant and clear to provide sufficient detail to all stakeholders, including communities, statutory consultees, local authorities and promoters. It is essential that NPSs contain clarity on the key planning issues - including the energy need, and the most likely impacts and mitigation measures - that will be of greatest relevance to the project in question. Clear direction on these issues will enable all parties involved to efficiently assess proposals' compliance with national policy; enabling more time for detailed consideration of those local issues which could affect the surrounding community and how best to address them.

6. We therefore welcome the introduction of NPSs as the primary basis for decisions by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) on nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs). We also support their use as material considerations for both local planning authorities on smaller-scale energy projects, and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) when considering sub 100MW projects in the marine environment - as well as providing invaluable guidance to all stakeholders and developers.

7. The urgent need for NPSs: The NPS suite needs to be implemented quickly. Without the timely publication of robust NPSs, there is a real risk that this much needed renewable energy infrastructure will be delayed, potentially jeopardising delivery on the UK's renewable energy obligations and carbon reduction obligations.

8. The Statement of Need for Renewable Energy Infrastructure: The national need for all forms of energy infrastructure is clear and well established. It is therefore essential that the needs case for renewable energy infrastructure, and the planning weight to be accorded to this need, is clearly stated within the NPS suite.

9. The Non-Spatial Approach: With the exception of the Nuclear NPS, the suite of energy NPSs are non-spatial in nature. This is important and should be supported.

10. Flexibility: We welcome the creation of a new single consenting regime. However, it is also important that the new regime retains flexibility around the submission of different elements of a project, with the option for each in their own right being submitted as a NSIP.

11. Alternatives: We welcome clarification within EN-1 that the IPC will not require applicants to assess possible alternative sites, other than as required by the Environmental Impact Assessment, Habitats or Water Framework Directives. This is a proportionate response to infrastructure delivery.

12. Relationship with Existing Planning Regime: There is a need for further guidance within the NPSs regarding the weight to be given to NPSs within the local planning regime. This would provide much needed assistance to local authorities in the preparation of local and regional development plans and in determining applications for energy infrastructure which fall below the thresholds of the Planning Act 2008.

13. Relationship with the Marine Management Organisation: The relationship between the IPC and the MMO will be important in ensuring that the need for marine renewable energy infrastructure is properly balanced against other concerns.

14. Aviation: We welcome wording in EN-1 which encourages a constructive dialogue and partnership approach between all relevant aviation stakeholders. This approach is necessary if the UK is to deliver the necessary level of onshore and offshore wind energy infrastructure.

15. Consistency of approach: There is a need for greater consistency regarding:

i. the equal treatment of technologies across the NPS suite

ii. the equal treatment of different renewable energy technologies within EN-3

iii. the level of detail provided on specific impacts within EN-3

 

Conclusion

16. The reforms enabled by the Planning Act 2008 are a welcome improvement in the planning approach to nationally strategic energy infrastructure. BWEA strongly support the creation of NPSs as the fundamental plank of this new planning system, which will bring the UK a significant step closer to achieving its key environmental goals of carbon reduction and renewable energy deployment.

17. The timely publication of clear, robust NPSs will be essential to the effective and efficient delivery of the UK's renewable energy objectives, and we broadly support the integrated nature, style, level of detail and content of the energy NPSs, as currently drafted. However, in order to ensure that NPSs operate effectively, NPSs must set out the UK's overarching energy needs and provide sufficient information on the types of technologies, their likely impacts and mitigation measures and the detailed criteria against which proposals will be determined. This level of detail will be necessary to enable all stakeholders to understand this new planning process.


Parliamentary Scrutiny of the Draft National Policy Statements - Planning Act 2008

DECC Select Committee Inquiry

British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) - Written Evidence

January 2010

 

 

The Challenge of Climate Change

18. The scientific and economic rationales for addressing human impact on climate change is well established and widely accepted. The Stern Review calculated that the dangers of unabated climate change would be equivalent to at least 5% of GDP each year. However, when more recent scientific evidence is included in the models, the Review estimates that the dangers could be equivalent to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change in the future can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year. The central message is that reducing emissions today will make us better off in the future: one model predicts benefits of up to $2.5 trillion each year if the world shifts to a low carbon path.

19. In order to ensure the timely decarbonisation of the UK's energy infrastructure, radical reform of the planning regime is essential and long over-due. The UK requires a very substantial amount of new renewable energy infrastructure in order to move towards a low-carbon economy, and this imperative is recognised in the Government's Renewable Energy Strategy.

20. The UK has clear objectives for carbon-reduction and renewable energy generation, which are both achievable and essential to the prevention of uncontrollable climate change. The Climate Change Act 2008, which sets a statutory target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which establishes a legally binding target of achieving 15% of all UK energy from renewable sources by 2020, together necessitate a step-change in renewables development.

 

The Importance of National Policy Statements

 

21. The NPSs are critical not only to the success of planning reform, but also to the successful delivery of the Government's energy and climate policy. National Policy Statements will need to provide a stable, long-term and timely policy framework in order to enable the delivery of the UK's renewable energy targets.

22. The need for expeditious implementation of the NPS suite is nowhere better demonstrated than in the case of Offshore Round 3 delivery. The recent Round 3 announcement on 8th January signalled the beginning of the development process for 32 GW of offshore wind energy generation. Developers have now committed to bring forward over 40 GW of projects, if built this would represent about a third of the UK's electricity needs. Without the timely publication of robust NPSs, there is a real risk that this much needed renewable energy infrastructure will be delayed, potentially jeopardising delivery on the UK's renewable energy obligations and carbon reduction obligations.

23. It is also vital that they give clarity on issues, which are raised time and time again at planning inquiry. Therefore, they need to be robust and sufficiently detailed to enable efficient and effective assessment of applications for compliance, thereby negating the need for further debate on national policy-related issues at inquiry. This will enable greater opportunity to review and address the impact on the local community and environment.

24. The Overarching NPS for Energy (EN-1) sets out the Government's energy policy priorities; the need case for each electricity generation technology and the equal need for investment in the electricity networks. It also confirms that in order to address climate change and ensure continued secure and affordable energy supplies, the deployment of new low carbon generation will be necessary for the foreseeable future.

25. Therefore, when considering a prospective energy project, either the IPC, or in the case of smaller-scale energy proposals, the relevant local planning authority, or other relevant decision maker, can begin assessing proposals on the basis that the national need has been established, and not waste lengthy periods of time debating the national need. This will provide much greater time to assess the local impacts of a proposal and whether they can be satisfactorily resolved / mitigated.

26. Equally, the value of setting out national policy in a single place is that by including Government's policy on particular issues within the relevant NPS, this will provide clarity for developers, the IPC, statutory consultees, local planning authorities and potentially affected communities, and again negate the need for lengthy and needless debate. A good example of this is electric and magnetic fields (EMFs), where planning inquiries considering overhead electricity line projects often spend much time debating the science surrounding EMFs. By setting out Government policy on EMFs and the compliance standards network operators will have to meet, everyone will know exactly what is required to make a prospective project compliant, and can therefore concentrate on the local issues such as the proposed route, the impacts, amenity issues and how to satisfactorily address them.

 

NPSs - Style, Content and Approach

 

Format and Style

27. BWEA welcome the format and style of the NPSs and in particular the cross-referencing between NPSs and the Planning Act 2008, which ensure consistency and provide information on:

What applicants must include in the Environmental Statement and application

The most common impacts associated with each technology

The most likely mitigation measures that could be used to offset or eliminate impacts

What the IPC should expect from applicants and with whom it should consult

 

28. The provision of information on impacts and mitigation will enable all stakeholders to know upfront what they can expect in terms of likely impacts arising from a project, including guidance to developers regarding the actions they will be expected to take in order to minimise that impact. Clear direction on these issues will enable all parties involved to efficiently assess a proposal's compliance with national policy and provide more time for detailed consideration of specific local issues, including the Local Authority Impact Report, Consultation Report and other issues raised by the community.

 

The Statement of Need for Renewable Energy Infrastructure

29. The national need for all forms of energy infrastructure is clear and well established. As such, it is essential that the "need" case for renewable energy infrastructure is confirmed within Overarching Energy NPS (EN-1). Without explicit clarification of the weight that should be accorded to the need case, when determining an application, there is a significant risk of undermining a fundamental function of the NPSs; the provision of clear direction on national energy policy, and it's interaction with the planning system. Current wording within paragraph 4.1.1 of EN-1, which states that need should be "taken into account" is insufficient and should be revised in line with existing guidance on the planning weight to be given to other material considerations, for example regarding flooding and coastal erosion (paragraph 4.20.15), and the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside (paragraph 4.24.6). We are concerned that without clear guidance on the great weight to be accorded to the need for electricity, the IPC will be required to place greater importance on other considerations which are currently accorded "great" or "significant" weight.

 

Non-Spatial Approach

30. With the exception of the Nuclear NPS, the suite of energy NPSs are non-spatial in nature. This is important for a number of reasons including:

The importance of the market in determining where and when to develop nationally significant energy infrastructure projects.

The range of technical, operational, commercial, ecological and other environmental considerations that determine where a developer might consider proposing a project e.g. the wind speed for wind energy developments or proximity to the grid network.

The evolution of energy technologies and mitigation measures which could quickly affect the legitimacy of any assumptions leading to spatial "mapping" for differing technologies, thereby quickly rendering the NPSs out of date.

The resource intensive nature of undertaking detailed spatial planning (be it centrally, regionally or locally) which would inevitably delay the introduction of NPSs.

 

Flexibility

31. Whilst the new regime very much improves the ability for the consenting authority and all stakeholders to consider the holistic implications of any nationally significant infrastructure project, through a new single consenting regime, it is also important that the new regime retains flexibility around the submission of different elements of a project, with the option for each in their own right being submitted as a NSIP, as currently put forward in section 4.9 of EN-1. This provision is likely to be important for much energy infrastructure, such as a proposed electricity generation project and any connection or indeed deeper reinforcement of the electricity network system.

32. For a range of technical, commercial or environmental reasons it may not be appropriate for a renewable energy developer to include within their consent application the connecting assets or any necessary reinforcement works. However, we support the requirement for the applicant who submits an application first to demonstrate that there are reasonable options available for connection to the electricity grid.

33. The proposed approach strikes the right balance enabling the IPC and other stakeholders to understand the likely full implications of a proposed development, whilst enabling the developers of the respective elements of an energy project, the opportunity to for one party to apply on behalf of all involved; to jointly apply or to apply separately.

 

Alternative Sites

34. BWEA welcomes the wording laid out in Section 4.4 (Alternatives) of EN - 1 the Overarching NPS, which confirms that when there is a policy or legal requirement to consider alternatives (such as under the Environmental Impact Assessment, Habitats or Water Framework Directives) the IPC should frame any consideration of alternatives in the context of the scale and urgency of the UK's need for energy infrastructure.

35. We also welcome confirmation that the IPC will not require applicants to assess possible alternative sites, other than as required by the Environmental Impact Assessment, Habitats or Water Framework Directives. Due to the magnitude of the investment in energy infrastructure required within the short to medium term, it is essential that the planning system enables the smooth and timely consent of acceptable proposals. The imposition of any burden for a proposal to meet a "best available" test would run counter to the Government's objectives set out in the Renewable Energy Strategy and Low Carbon Transition Plan, for the timely and efficient delivery of necessary infrastructure.

36. Section 4.4 of EN-1 also allows the IPC to potentially exclude vague or inchoate alternatives or to potentially place the onus on third parties proposing an alternative to provide any necessary evidence. Whilst energy developers will themselves normally consider all reasonable expedient alternatives, taking into account suggestions from the local community and other relevant stakeholders; a range of technical, operational, commercial, geological, ecological and other environmental factors will often significantly constrain the number of practicable alternative.

37. The proposed approach will ensure that all genuinely viable alternatives are considered whilst making sure that the proposing of alternatives is not used to unnecessarily frustrate or delay valid applications which have already been through the established process of consultation with the affected community, local planning authority (ies) and statutory consultees to develop the best all-round proposal.

Relationship with Existing Terrestrial Planning Regime

38. BWEA supports wording within EN-1 confirming that NPSs may be a material consideration in decisions made under the Town and Country Planning Act and welcome the further guidance provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government. However, we would support further clarity within the NPSs themselves regarding the weight to be given to NPSs within the local planning regime. This guidance would provide much needed assistance to local authorities in the preparation of local and regional development plans and in determining applications for energy infrastructure which fall below the thresholds of the Planning Act 2008.

 

Relationship with Marine Management Organisation

39. We welcome wording within EN-1 concerning the importance of a close working relationship between the IPC and Marine Management Organisation (MMO). This will ensure consistency between the MMO and IPC processes and prevent the creation of a two track approach. It will also ensure that the Government's Renewable Energy Targets, as communicated through EN-3, are considered by the MMO process. We would oppose a change to the relationship of the IPC and MMO.

 

Aviation

40. BWEA welcomes the wording, and the 'tests' included within Section 4.19 of EN - 1 the Overarching Energy NPS, which stresses the importance of protecting military and civil aviation interests whilst providing guidance to developers and the IPC on the issues that need to be considered and how potential impacts might be mitigated / avoided.

41. In particular, Paragraph 4.19.15 is helpful in stressing that "where there are conflicts between Government's energy and transport policies, the IPC should expect the relevant parties to have made appropriate efforts to work together to identify realistic and pragmatic solutions to the conflicts" and "in so doing, the parties should seek to protect the aims and interests of the other parties as far as possible." This encourages a constructive dialogue and partnership approach between all parties which is necessary if the UK is to deliver the level of onshore and offshore wind energy infrastructure necessary to meet the twin challenges of carbon reduction and renewable energy generation.

42. We urge the Committee to resist any proposals to streamline the content or reduce the level of detail of the suite of energy NPSs, which as currently drafted, provide both the stable policy framework energy developers need to invest, and the right level of detail to enable effective assessment of compliance with national policy, thereby providing more opportunity by the IPC and all stakeholders during IPC consideration or planning inquiries to consider and satisfactorily deal with the real issues that could affect a local community.

 

Balanced Approach

43. As stated, BWEA strongly support the general level of detail provided in the NPS suite. We support the generally constructive way in which issues of environmental and landscape protection are balanced with the need for new sustainable energy infrastructure and the reasonable approach taken to accommodate the introduction of new renewable energy schemes, in balance with existing interests, for example aviation.

44. However, we are aware of a number of minor inconsistencies in the current drafting of advice on potential impacts and mitigation measures throughout EN-3. In light of the fact that the IPC Commissioners and secretariat will not have had previous experience of many of the issues covered in EN-3 (including marine specific issues), and the ways in which these issues interact with the different technologies, we recommend that further care be taken to provide a necessary level of detailed advice to the IPC, across technologies.

45. These issues can be addressed with minor changes. In some cases this will require the addition of more detail and in others less detail. Our written submission to the Government will give details of the changes required.

 

Recommendations

46. In particular, we urge the Committee to:

Acknowledge the importance of the Statements of Need within the energy NPSs, as invaluable in stating beyond all doubt the need for the range of included technologies, thereby negating the need for lengthy debates on the need at each individual planning inquiry.

Support the need for NPSs to be robust and sufficiently detailed to enable assessment of applications for compliance, thereby again negating the need for further debate on national policy-related issues at planning inquiry.

Support the importance of flexibility around submission of different elements of a project, with the option for each in their own right being submitted as a NSIP, whilst endorsing the proposed approach, which requires developers to ensure that an appropriate level of detail is included to enable the IPC and stakeholders to understand any likely associated implications.

Support existing wording around the assessment of alternative sites as a proportionate approach.

Support the existing non-spatial approach taken in the NPSs.

Support the need for greater consistency in the treatment of different technologies and impacts within the suite of NPSs.

Acknowledge the need for further guidance as to the weight to be accorded to NPSs by local authorities when preparing plans and determining renewable energy applications below 50 MW.

Acknowledge that 2020 is not the end of the journey in terms of energy infrastructure investment, with significant amounts required well beyond, and suggest to DECC that they include further emphasis of investment requirements from 2030 to 2050, including reference to the Renewable Energy Strategy and the Climate Change Committee Report.

 

January 2010