Memorandum submitted by RWE npower (NPS 27)

 

 

1. RWE npower supports and welcomes the draft National Policy Statements (NPSs) and believes they will provide a coherent and practical framework within which the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) can assess future planning applications for energy infrastructure.

 

2. The NPSs, as currently drafted, provide a robust and stable policy framework which will help to give energy developers greater confidence to invest, balanced with an appropriate level of detail to enable the IPC and all stakeholders to assess both the compliance with national policy and the genuine issues that could affect a local community.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

3. RWE npower ("RWE") welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the above Inquiry. RWE npower plc, part of the German-based RWE multi-utilities group, is a leading UK integrated electricity generating and electricity and gas supply company, which owns and operates several major coal-fired, oil-fired and combined cycle gas turbine electricity generating stations in England and Wales. It has also formed a joint venture (Horizon Nuclear Power) with E.ON UK plc for the possible development of nuclear power stations at two sites in England and Wales. In addition, it has an interest in two further sites potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations. RWE Innogy is a major and developing renewables energy business which operates in the UK under the name of "npower renewables". Its activities include offshore and onshore wind power development and operation, together with the development of wave, tidal and hydro energy schemes. Our evidence to the Committee presents the view of all RWE's interests in the UK.

 

 

4. RWE is supportive of the Planning Act 2008 and views it as an integral part of the solution to the challenge of meeting the Government's energy policy goals of addressing climate change through a move towards a low carbon economy, whilst ensuring the continued security of the UK's energy supplies. RWE is particularly mindful of the Government's Low Carbon Transition Programme and the Renewable Energy Strategy, as well as the statutory target under the Climate Change Act 2008 of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, together with the target of achieving 15% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020 in accordance with the EU Renewable Energy Directive.

5. In order to help meet these targets and to seek to avoid the anticipated "energy gap" towards the end of the next decade, RWE is currently intending to invest around 1 billion per annum over 10 years from 2008-2018 in lower carbon energy sources. Further investments in nuclear power will cost several billions more. Such levels of investment are only feasible against the background of a stable long-term policy framework and a planning regime that is timely, certain and effective - a regime which RWE believes the Planning Act 2008 reforms are capable of delivering.

NATIONAL POLICY STATEMENTS - GENERAL

6. RWE therefore welcomes the publication of the draft National Policy Statement (NPS) documentation. The NPSs are central to the Planning Act and are crucial to the success of meeting the Government's energy policy goals. However, NPS's will not, on their own, resolve the delays associated with the current system of planning for new infrastructure projects - the effective and successful operation of the Infrastructure Planning Commission will also be crucial.

7. A particular strength of the NPSs is the recognition of a national need for new low carbon generating capacity and the associated need for investment in the associated electricity and gas networks. RWE is firmly of the view that all available low carbon technologies will be required if the UK is to meet its energy policy objectives of achieving environmentally sustainable, secure and affordable supplies of electricity. Once designated, the NPSs will help avoid each application having to justify the strategic need for each individual project and enable all parties to focus on assessing the local impacts of a proposal and whether these can be satisfactorily resolved or mitigated.

8. RWE welcomes the scrutiny of the NPSs by this Committee, together with the ongoing public consultation, and believes this will lead to greater efficacy and legitimacy in the consideration of and status for the designated NPSs. This is extremely important as the NPSs need to provide clarity and robustness on potential impacts and how they should be addressed, so as to enable the IPC to undertake timely and effective assessment of individual applications.

OVERARCHING NPS - EN-I

9. This NPS sets out the Government's energy policy priorities, together with the need case for each technology and RWE is supportive both of the need for a very substantial amount of new capacity and the view that a wide range of energy technologies is necessary for the foreseeable future. We are of the view that given potential major concerns surrounding security of supply and the need to greatly increase generation from low carbon sources, the need case for new energy infrastructure should be given more emphasis both generally and also in terms of the weighting which the IPC is to grant "need" - this appears to vary from need having been demonstrated (3.1) to the IPC "taking need into account" (4.1.1(iii)). It is our view that need, having been demonstrated in accordance with the NPSs, should then be accorded very substantial weight in any decisions made by the IPC.

10. EN-1, together with the other NPSs does not appear to consider the period post-2020 (for renewables and gas) and post-2025 (for nuclear and coal). Given the nature, scale and timescales of the investments required, the NPSs need to recognise that investment will be required beyond these timescales, as confirmed by the Climate Change Committee report which considers potential investment in the period 2030 to 2050.

11. Although the Planning Act aims to create an holistic planning regime, with the purpose of enabling the cumulative effect of different elements of the same project to be considered together, it is important that EN-1 recognises that flexibility may be required in respect of the planning approach to different aspects or components of a project, particularly where different aspects of a project may, in themselves, be a nationally significant infrastructure project. In such cases, these different aspects may be undertaken by different legal entities with different regulatory and commercial backgrounds. We therefore welcome the wording in 4.9.1 - 4.9.3, but it should be noted that the need for separate applications may apply in some cases to other components than the grid connection.

12. RWE supports the approach to Alternatives set out in EN-1 (at section 4.4) on the basis that it understands this section to be stating that no assessment of alternatives should be required by the IPC, other than as required by the requirements of the Habitats Regulations or the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. Any consideration of alternatives should be set in the context of the scale and urgency of the UK's need for energy infrastructure.

13. With regard to the relationship between the IPC and pollution control and other environmental consenting regimes, RWE is pleased to note that EN-1 directs the IPC to work on the assumption that the relevant pollution control regime will be properly applied and enforced. It is not normally possible to apply for permits or consents under other regimes, such as pollution control, prior to a Development Consent Order being granted and any attempt by a planning regime to await determination of such permit or consent will only exacerbate the delays which the new planning regime is seeking to mitigate.

FOSSIL FUEL ELECTRICITY GENERATING INFRASTRUCTURE - EN-2

14. RWE supports the content of EN-2 and particularly welcomes the recognition that site selection should be left to applicants and not the Government.

15. Whilst we appreciate that the draft NPS merely reflects current Government policy on CCR and does not introduce any new requirements we are concerned about the application of the policy which, given the state of CCS development, could easily lead to inappropriate requirements for new generating stations.

 

16. We fully accept that all new fossil-fuelled power plants should be CCR but it is important that application of the CCR policy does not place unnecessary additional costs or risks onto projects in anticipation of future developments that may or may not be realised. The Government's intended light touch approach, in that developers should demonstrate no barriers exist to an eventual CCS retrofit, must be retained and requirements must reflect the early stage of CCS technology development.

 

17. We remain sceptical that the coal-fired CCS policy of demonstration, mandatory retrofit and/or unspecified operation constraints will actually encourage early demonstration of the emerging technology and, in contrast to CCR, it is difficult to see how a light touch approach can be applied. However, we would advocate that developers are given adequate time to develop CCS technologies to commercial scale and that maximum advantage is taken of what flexibility there is in the Government's CCS policy to allow this to happen. Care will be needed to ensure that decisions taken with regard to the expected pace of development by 2020 or 2025 enhance, rather than reduce, the chances of coal playing an important part in the future UK energy mix.

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE - EN-3

18. RWE broadly welcomes and supports EN-3 although it will be making some detailed comments in the formal NPS consultation process.

19. RWE supports and endorses the statements in 2.1.2 of EN-3 to the effect that (other than in relation to offshore wind) site selection is a matter for the applicant and that each proposal should be considered on its merits against the criteria and considerations set out in the NPSs.

20. One key issue is the role of the NPS under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended). In order to meet the Government's renewable energy target many renewable schemes will need to be brought forward which, although not nationally significant infrastructure projects within the Planning Act 2008, share the same characteristics and impacts of developments covered by EN-3. EN-3 (para 1.2.4) currently states that it "may" be a material consideration in decision making on an application under the TCPA. RWE is firmly of the view that this should be strengthened and that the NPS should be applied to such applications. Indeed, we believe that all the NPSs should be afforded an equivalent level of consideration in the TCPA regime.

 

21. Paragraph 2.1 states that the need for renewable energy has been demonstrated but the NPS then fails to state what weight should be attached to that need when making decisions. We would propose the IPC should accord very substantial weight to the need for new renewable energy development.

ELECTRICITY NETWORKING INFRASTRUCTURE - EN-5

22. RWE supports the broad content of EN-5, although it has a concern that where an application for such infrastructure is submitted separately to a related project, then EN-5 does not emphasize the need case in a manner consistent with the emphasis it is given in EN-1.

NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION - EN-6

23. RWE welcomes the contents of EN-6 and Annex A ("Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest") which support EN-6 in identifying the urgent national need for new low carbon electricity generating capacity including nuclear. RWE believes that the appropriate specific criteria that the IPC should take into account for new nuclear power stations is laid down in EN-1 and EN-6.

24. We welcome the identification of specific sites that are potentially suitable for deployment by 2025 and support the detailed sustainability and ecological assessments (ie., the Appraisals of Sustainability and Habitats Regulations Assessments) which underpin the NPS and its site specific sections.

25. We consider the Government's preliminary conclusion on the sites in which RWE is interested, both in its own name (Braystones and Kirksanton) and through its interest in Horizon Nuclear Power (Wylfa and Oldbury) to be valid. We feel the potential positive and negative impacts of developing at these sites have been set out in clear terms in EN-6 and its accompanying documentation, along with the potential for dealing with those impacts appropriately.


26. We have no specific site-related comments with regards to the suitability of the other potential sites included in the draft Nuclear NPS. However, we do welcome the preliminary conclusion that a number of sites may be potentially suitable for the development of new nuclear power stations. As the Government recognises in the draft NPS, it is by no means certain that every candidate site would eventually achieve development consent. We therefore agree it is appropriate that sufficient sites are included in the designated Nuclear NPS to enable new nuclear to fulfil its potential role as a major contributor to carbon emissions abatement and to the security of electricity supplies.

27. At an overarching level, we feel that the draft Nuclear NPS overstates the distinction between Greenfield sites and others; to the possible detriment of the Greenfield sites. We would point out that all development (even when in close proximity to an existing site) will take place on land which is currently undeveloped. In some cases (e.g. Heysham) that land is not even in the ownership of the nominating developer, and its characteristics are probably less understood than the Greenfield sites which have been nominated. RWE therefore encourages assessment of each site on its technical merits rather than on an artificial distinction between Greenfield and others.

28. We have no specific comments to offer on the Government's considerations of alternative sites. We do however have confidence that the NPS process to date, including the SSA process and rigorous sustainability and habitats regulations assessments, has led to the identification of a list of suitable potential sites deployable by 2025. As noted earlier, and building on the need case set out in EN-1, EN-6 is also further underpinned by Annex A, which sets out the Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI), for concluding that the sites identified as potentially suitable should be available for development according to IROPI.

29. Consistent with paragraph 11 above, it is important that a clear division between the regimes for planning and regulation of the nuclear industry is maintained.  We would also emphasise that the IPC should not review or revisit any regulatory decision that has already been made in relation to the proposed development and that it need not consider matters which are within the remit of the nuclear regulators.


 

CONCLUSION

30. RWE supports and welcomes the designation of the draft NPSs and believes they will provide a coherent and practical framework within which the IPC can assess future planning applications for energy infrastructure. As currently drafted they provide a robust and stable policy framework (particularly given the emphasis attached to the Statements of Need) which will help to give energy developers greater confidence to invest, balanced with the appropriate level of detail to enable the IPC and all stakeholders to assess both compliance with national policy and the genuine issues that could affect a local community.

January 2010