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On local government, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, asked me about the letter sent by the chief planning officer. My understanding is that the quotation that he gave from the clarification that has been given is absolutely correct. There was no intention in the letter of suggesting that the draft NPS should be treated any differently from any other statement of government
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The noble Lord, Lord Reay, also touched on climate science. I am not going to go there, except to say that we should be very wary of saying that the whole of climate science is at risk because of what happened at the University of East Anglia, into which there is an ongoing inquiry, and the IPCC and the glacier issue. That is not true at all. Scientists are overwhelmingly of the view that climate change is happening, and we cannot take the risk. The potential catastrophe for the world, unless we start to take action to mitigate carbon emissions, is so great that we have to proceed in the way in which we have decided.
Of course, we cannot discuss national policy statements on energy without discussing the energy infrastructure over the next few years. I may have suggested in my opening remarks that we might do so, but I did not think that we would get away with it. Then we came to the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord Dixon-Smith, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on that subject. We are well aware that a number of organisations have expressed concern about the impact of the closure of some of our current energy infrastructure because of the large combustion plant directive and the fact that many of our existing nuclear power stations will go out of commission in the next 10 to 15 years, but at the moment we are seeing significant investment in the energy sector and significant generating capacity is being commissioned. We are confident that we will have sufficient electricity generation in the next 10 years and, although one should never be complacent, one should be very wary of falling into the trap of thinking that for some reason the mixture will not be right and will not provide enough energy. We cannot, of course, be complacent.
I read with great interest the Project Discovery work by Ofgem, which I describe as a contribution to the debate, because it is for government to set the policy while Ofgem is an economic regulator. No doubt it has a view in the light of its experience, but the key point here is the Government's own work on markets, ensuring that they and the energy structure that we have continue to be fit for purpose while moving on over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. We are very busily working on that at the moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, referred to the interview given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in the Times two or three weeks ago. We are working on a project called the energy market assessment, alongside work on the road map to 2050. Essentially, it is looking very hard at the energy mix that will be required in the years ahead to make sure that the Government have the right interventions to get the energy mix that we require. We hope that some of the preliminary work on that will be available at the time of the Budget.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, went on to suggest that because we were doing that work, it called into question the relevance of the national policy statements
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The noble Lord, Lord Broers, once again made an interesting intervention. He was pressing me to say on what the scenarios and indications that we have set out of the kind of energy mix that we need in the future were based. Perhaps I might refer him to the draft overarching national policy statement, which refers to modelling work undertaken by Redpoint Energy and Trilemma UK Ltd to assess options for changes to the renewable obligation. That work focuses on the lead scenario published in the renewable energy strategy document, and represents one scenario of how the UK could meet our renewable energy target. I shall write to him with further details of that, and I hope that the work we are now doing on the energy markets assessment to 2050 will also contain some helpful information.
Perhaps I might move on to some questions that were raised about the energy mix, in particular to an old favourite of ours in your Lordship's House: whether the Government's emphasis on renewable energy is right. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, once again raised concerns about the policy of developing renewable energy. He was backed up particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby De Broke, in the sense that the argument-if I have understood it-is that the intermittency of many renewables means that they are not an efficient use of energy.
I do not think that we are going to agree on this. We have set ourselves a target of moving to 15 per cent renewable energy by 2020, which roughly translates into about 30 per cent electricity, 12 per cent heat and 10 per cent transport. We need a diverse energy mix in which renewable energy has an important role to play. Yes, one has to accept that, because of the intermittent nature of renewable energy, some generating plant may not be in use the whole time. Indeed, one issue that we are looking at in the energy markets assessment is whether there is a particular issue with investment in those fixed costs. We are aware, of course, of what that can mean to investment. Noble Lords refer to Germany, but it is not as though that country is alone in moving towards and recognising the impact of renewable energy. Even the countries that found themselves in great difficulty at Copenhagen in coming to an agreement have policies of developing renewable energy. Given the resource that we have in wind, it seems senseless for us not to see it as a big resource. It is becoming clear that companies are now very interested in coming to the UK to develop manufacturing capacity for wind, particularly the offshore wind industry. That brings great investment opportunities for this country.
On biomass and Drax, I met the chief executive of Drax this morning. We already have a group looking at grandfathering the renewable obligation on biomass. I also discussed the separate issue of the recognition of or a cap on renewable obligation certificates for co-firing with biomass. I think that we had a constructive discussion, and I am sure that my officials and the people at Drax will continue to have discussions. I am keen to see a resolution of this issue.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool was disappointed that the national policy statement did not make enough of climate change. In a sense, that was replicated by a number of other comments. Essentially, the argument is that the IPC should either be directly concerned with carbon emissions of a particular application or, as has been suggested, that there might be a hierarchy of consents whereby the lowest carbon-emitting application would go to the top of the tree. I well understand why noble Lords argue for that, but the risk is that it would turn the IPC from a body that should be concerned with consent applications and that deals with them on their own individual merits to a body that essentially takes over government policy responsibility. That is why we have not gone down that route.
It is for government to ensure that the whole system works and that we get the energy mix that we require and have set out. It is not for the IPC to do so. If it turns out that it is not working and we are not seeing the right energy mix, it is not for the IPC to intervene but for government. In a sense, the work that we are doing on the energy market assessment is an illustration of that; the Government are asking whether we have the right interventions and whether the changes that we need to make are in the market or are incentives to ensure that we get the right mix. I do not think that it would be right for the IPC to do it-and it is noteworthy that the IPC itself, when asked about that in the DECC Select Committee, made that point, too.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised the issue of energy efficiency. Of course, he is right; we need to do more on energy efficiency, but again that is not an issue for the national policy statement or the guidance that is given to the IPC. That, again, is for the Government to set out their policy and ensure that it is implemented.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the question about Dungeness raised by the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord Dixon-Smith. I was somewhat worried because the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, suggested that I may have given too much hope in this regard. I clearly said that these are draft national policy statements. The Government are listening very carefully to the comments that have been made. We will come to the Dungeness issue in due course, so perhaps we should resist talking about it any more until we come to the nuclear national policy statement, which sets out the reasons why we decided not to choose the site. However, we are listening to the points that are being put to us.
The right reverend Prelate raised the subject of climate change and the impact of flooding. I reassure him that all nominated sites were assessed through the strategic site assessment for protection against flooding risk, storm surge and coastal processes against projections for sea rise until 2100, which is as far as we have
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I noted the questions about the appraisal of sustainability and the relationship between the national policy statements and other policy guidance. I make it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and my noble friend Lord Judd, that the national policy statements have been drafted to be consistent with planning policy as laid out in the PPSs. The NPSs have primacy for IPC decision-making; the Planning Act requires the IPC to decide in accordance with the relevant NPSs, unless certain circumstances apply, including whether the adverse impacts outweigh the benefits. I am very clear that what is set out here is consistent with other government policy.
Lord Judd: I do not question that it may be consistent, but some of us are looking for an opportunity in this policy statement to say that the Government are determined, as a matter of priority, to ensure that in all these developments our rich heritage in the environment, the countryside, the national parks, the areas of outstanding national beauty and the rest will be paramount. The point is not that the policy is consistent with regulations but that this is part of the vision.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My noble friend tempts me. I am not going to go down that path but may come on to this matter in a moment because he used the word "paramount". I worry about that because we have clearly set out the hierarchy of decision-making that has to take place. However, if my noble friend is asking whether this is a blanket mechanism to allow our beautiful countryside to be ploughed up for masses of concrete infrastructure, the answer is no because the whole point about the national policy statement is that we have set out the need. It sets out how the IPC has to take into account the various factors, but the document is entirely consistent with other current policy mechanisms issued by the Government. A number of comments have been made, and I will look at this and double-check that we have got this absolutely right, but this has been the subject of extensive work across Whitehall to make sure that there is consistency. For instance, EN-1 is intended to be consistent with existing policy as set out in PPS7, including the policy on the protection of nationally designated landscapes, such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
I turn to spatial planning. The intention is that the different planning consenting regimes for large-scale and smaller-scale energy developments are consistent. Specifically, the renewable energy NPS is intended to be consistent with planning policy statement 22 on below-threshold renewable developments dealt with under the town and country planning regime. However, the NPSs being intentionally clear statements of the latest government policy on energy infrastructure should be regarded as material considerations by local planning authorities that are considering smaller-scale infrastructure and could be expected to influence their decisions.
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The matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, of spatial issues and the input of the regional bodies and local authorities takes us to the issue of locational-specific work which is suggested and which we have done in relation to the 10 potential nuclear sites for development by 2025. We did that work on new nuclear power stations because in 2007 we said that we should do it. Given the special characteristics of nuclear power sites and given the fact that the number of sites will inevitably be very limited, we thought it right to do that work. If one thinks of doing that for the whole of the energy sector, there would potentially be no limit to the detailed work that would need to be undertaken to consider every possible site for all types of energy infrastructure. One has to think of the potential of blight, of cost, of the inhibition in terms of development in order to realise that it would not be a straightforward process at all.
On local impact reports, I want to make it clear that Section 104(2) requires the IPC to have regard to any such reports submitted to the IPC in its decision. I can also reassure noble Lords that guidance is being prepared by the Government for local planning authorities on their role in the process.
The question of need is very interesting. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has said that he will propose a Motion on need and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has made it clear that she will oppose that Motion. We can clearly see that there is a very lively debate to be had about the way in which we have worded this and the kind of approach that the IPC will have to making decisions. I refer noble Lords to Section 104(7) of the Planning Act which says that the IPC must decide for an application only if the adverse impacts do not outweigh the benefits. The IPC will be taking that role of balancing the impacts with benefits very much to heart. It goes to the core of its decision-making process. It seems to me that it would not lightly turn down applicants in the sense that they will have to see whether the balance is right. Clearly, if the adverse impacts outweigh the benefits, they will not agree to the application. I make it clear that the IPC can consent to new infrastructure only if it is in accordance with the NPS. However, it can refuse consent to the infrastructure, even though it is in accordance with the NPS, if it finds factors to be important or relevant or if they would be illegal, for example, under the habitats directive.
At some stage, it must be up to the IPC to make those individual decisions, but that is how we think the balance should be drawn. Of course, biodiversity is important; of course, my noble friend Lord Judd is right to proclaim the outstanding beauty of Cumbria. The NPS sets out how an applicant should undertake detailed assessment of the impact on landscape bioversity and geodiversity. Applicants are required to submit environmental statements, which would include an environmental impact assessment or similar information. It would set out what the significant impacts of the proposal would be and how the applicant would mitigate or avoid them. In some cases, neither mitigation nor
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My noble friend Lord Judd raised interesting points about Cumbria. On the one hand, it is clear that Cumbria is a beautiful county-he is absolutely right; on the other hand, it has been home to the nuclear industry for many years and it is clear that there is a lot of support in that county for continuing to support it. I have been interviewed by local newspapers and local media on this issue, and we will take very careful account of it. Is it not a microcosm of the balance that has to be drawn? I know that concern has been expressed about having three potential sites in Cumbria alongside geological disposal. There is also a very strong viewpoint around the whole idea of the "energy coast", which sees Cumbria as being the engine room of investment in energy, with huge potential for jobs. All I can say at this stage is that these are matters that we will consider and deal with as sensitively as possible. I have taken rather a long time to comment on this issue. I assure noble Lords that if there are matters that I have missed I will write to them, and we will certainly take them into account.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, asked why there is no NPS for marine energy. It is because wave and tidal are such new technologies. At the moment, we are still talking about trials and prototypes. When the situation has matured, we would expect to bring forward proposals in relation to a national policy statement. We do not think that we are quite there, although I agree with the noble Lord that there is enormous potential. He mentioned the Pentland Firth. In terms of the work that the Crown Estate has done there on licensing areas to be exploited for wave and tidal, I agree with him that there is great potential for the future.
This has been a very good debate. All noble Lords have made important points which will be considered carefully. I hope that noble Lords will recognise that, although we have been given a relatively limited number of days to undertake scrutiny, we will not allow an election to get in the way of those due days. This is a rigorous process to which the Government will give very careful consideration.
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