The revised draft National Policy Statements on energy - Energy and Climate Change Contents

Memorandum submitted by Friends of the Earth

We believe that the Government has not adequately responded to the recommendations of the Energy and Climate Change's report on National Policy Statements (NPS). And bearing in mind the importance of the issues and the long timescales over which the NPSs will have effect proper scrutiny is critical and we hope this is a role which the ECC committee will play.

Our concerns fall into four categories:

  1. (1)  Climate change, and compatibility of NPS with the carbon budgets in the Climate Change Act 2008.
  2. (2)  The "need" for all types of electricity generation.
  3. (3)  The revised Appraisals of Sustainability.
  4. (4)  Good scrutiny and public consultation.


There are two concerns here—first, that the Government's medium-term vision is too hazy, second that there are insufficient safeguards to prevent lock-in to high carbon infrastructure.

1.1  Vision

The Committee recommended that the Government take on board the CCC's proposal to fully decarbonise the electricity sector by 2030. The Government ignored this recommendation.

It is of deep concern that the Government is only looking at the short-term (to 2022 the end of the first budget period) and the long-term (the 2050 target). It is of course the cumulative carbon emissions over the whole period 2010-50 which matter from a climate change point of view, not the start and end points—the 2030 issue is critical. The Government's assertion (section 4.38) that it does not need to measure carbon emissions of new power stations because it is on track to meet its budgets to 2022 is dangerously complacent—these stations have a working life of several decades, not just to 2022. Similarly the Government's statement (section 4.8) that the only climate goal in energy policy is the 80% target ignores the critical issue of the trajectory to that goal.

The CCC is issuing its 4th Budget report on 7 December. We believe that the Government must amend their NPS and energy policy to be compatible with necessary targets for 2030 for the electricity sector.

1.2  Safeguards

The Committee recommended (Recc. 9) a requirement on applicants to conduct a full life-cycle carbon assessment of their proposals.

The Government's response—that this is not necessary because applicants are already required to do this by the EIA Directive, and that there's no point because the CC Act exists—is inadequate for three reasons:

First, applicants are not doing this carbon reporting adequately under EIA, nor is the EIA clear what information should be provided. It would help ensure better quality reporting by making a clear requirement within the NPS.

Second, the CC Act only covers UK emissions, yet full-life cycle emissions cover emissions abroad.

Third, the climate data is needed for purposes other than meeting the CC Act. The NPS is clear (Part 4.1) that the IPC needs to assess adverse impacts and benefits of applications, "environmental, social and economic" in its decision-making process. The IPC, now within a Government body, should be using Treasury Green Book guidance, which recommends valuation of impacts where possible, and the DECC carbon pricing guidance, which shows how to do this for climate change, to enable it to measure adequately the carbon impacts of the proposal against other benefits and costs of the proposal. If the applicant does not provide this data, the IPC cannot do this job properly.

2.  NEED

The Committee recommended (Recc 6) that the Government should look again at its need argument in EN-1. The Government has done this, and re-asserted its claim that there is need for all types of generation capacity, and "this need is urgent". If anything, the data in the new EN-1 is even clearer that the Government has not made this case.

This is an absolutely critical issue. There is an extreme danger that the UK will lock itself into a new dash-for-gas. Although gas is less carbon-intense than coal, it is still very high-carbon. The CCC has highlighted this concern, and also in evidence to the ECC committee recently has said that there is no need for more gas beyond what has planning approval already[2]. This need argument is at the heart of the NPS—without is there is no justification for non-renewable capacity. The figures are:

  1. Energy NPS says UK needs 59 GW of new build.
  2. Around 33GW of this to 2025 needs to come from renewables to meet UK renewables targets.
  3. So, 26 GW of non-renewables needed.
  4. Energy NPS says 8 GW of this 26 is already under construction, leaving a "balance of 18 GW from new non-renewable capacity".
  5. Energy NPS also says in a footnote that there is a further 9 GW of capacity with planning permission.
  6. Energy NPS argues this 9 GW should not be counted "as we cannot be certain that these projects will become operational, the Government considers it would not be prudent to consider them". Around 5 GW of this is non-renewable.
  7. In addition there are also a large number of planning applications "under consideration" under the pre-IPC regime. As of Jan 2010 this included 7 GW of new gas alone. The list is now even longer—a further 2.3 GW of gas has been added. .
  8. Therefore, of the 18 GW needed, if the applications with planning permission and those in the pre-IPC get built, that is 14 GW already. There appears to be very little need for new non-renewable capacity at all. If just two nuclear power stations got built, there would be no need for new gas. If just two additional gas plants were built, there would be no need for new nuclear.
  9. There are already applications in front of the IPC for 5 GW of new gas and 15 GW of new nuclear.

It is not difficult to foresee a situation whereby all these early gas and nuclear applications are granted, and this glut suppresses the market for the 33GW of new renewables the Government wants to see built.

It is also not difficult to foresee a situation of lock-in to high carbon infrastructure, particularly given recent reports of a weak EPS for gas and coal power stations, and CCS requirements on only a small fraction of fossil-fuel generation.

The Government needs to put in place stronger policies to prevent lock-in to high carbon infrastructure, and to ensure that renewables development is not crowded out by new gas and nuclear. The need argument is not robust, and it is being used to justify unnecessary non-renewable build.

The fact that there is already 20GW of non-renewables in front of the IPC also negates the Government's argument that there should not be safeguards in the NPS on climate because they can always take remedial action if necessary, for example through stronger policies. By then it will be largely too late. If it gets approved we will get locked-in.


The Appraisals of Sustainability for the draft NPSs have been substantially revised—this step was taken following consultation responses and evidence submitted to the ECC committee explaining that the approach which had been taken did not comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and thus the NPSs would have been open to legal challenge on designation. DECC had originally asserted that the approach taken was compliant—this development in itself demonstrates the power of effective scrutiny to save wasted time and resources further down the line.

The Committee has had no opportunity to hear expert evidence on the new Appraisals of Sustainability, which contain a significant new body of information on the environmental impacts of the NPSs, nor to scrutinise the new approach and satisfy itself i) that it is legally compliant, and ii) that the choice of policy in the NPS has been properly assessed and justified. Not only in relation to the impact of the energy NPSs on the UK's carbon budgets, but in relation to other environmental and social impacts.


4.1  Select Committee Scrutiny

The Government last time gave a clear commitment that the NPS would go through a proper scrutiny process.

HC Deb 20 May 2009 cc1533-40 (Ian Wright)

"We have given an undertaking that Committees will have at least four to six weeks after the end of the three-month public consultation period to complete their work. This is an important and valuable part of the parliamentary scrutiny process. It means that the interval between the proposal being laid and the Committee producing its report will not be less than four months and will usually be longer than that. In practice, the relevant period will therefore usually be about six months, but my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State who will be laying the proposals are fully aware of the need to consult Select Committees about the timing of the scrutiny process at an early stage. I hope that this explanation reassures the House that the process will be timely and focused, but certainly not rushed."

However last time round the ECC Select Committee process and the public consultation were carried out in parallel—so the above commitment was not adhered to. Friends of the Earth believes that the Select Committee scrutiny process is a very important (and unusual) part of designating these nationally important policy documents which will have considerable legal weight.

4.2  Public Consultation

Friends of the Earth is also concerned that the Government is not carrying out the public consultation process as set out in the Planning Act 2008. We wrote to DECC in Feb 2009 setting out our concerns on this point—especially around NPS-EN6 on nuclear energy as it refers to specific sites.

To recap, Section 7(5) of the Planning Act 2008 provides as follows:

If the policy set out in the proposal identifies one or more locations as suitable (or potentially suitable) for a specified description of development, the Secretary of State must ensure that appropriate steps are taken to publicise the proposal.

Section 8(1) of the 2008 Act provides:

Eight Consultation on publicity requirements:

  1. (1)  In deciding what steps are appropriate for the purposes of section 7(5), the Secretary of State must consult:
    1. (a)  each local authority that is within subsection (2) or (3), and
    2. (b)  the Greater London Authority, if any of the locations concerned is in Greater London.
  2. (2)  A local authority is within this subsection if any of the locations concerned is in the authority's area.
  3. (3)  A local authority ("A") is within this subsection if:
    1. (a)  any of the locations concerned is in the area of another local authority ("B"), and
    2. (b)  any part of the boundary of A's area is also a part of the boundary of B's area.

In other words, where (as for EN-6) an NPS identifies particular locations then the Secretary of State must consult a specified set of local authorities with a view to deciding what steps are appropriate to publicise the proposal(s). The reason for that is, presumably, that such local authorities will be best placed to advise the Secretary of State on how to ensure that local public consultation is effective and meaningful in the context where a local site has been specified as suitable for development.

The effect of section 8(3) is that a considerable number of local authorities are required to be consulted on that issue (including all district and county councils within which a proposal is to be sited and all adjacent district and county councils).

Friends of the Earth has written to DECC for confirmation that consultation has been carried out with local authorities around the nuclear sites but so far we have received no information from them saying that they are.

November 2010

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