This is entry number 120, first published on 30 March 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.
Today’s entry reports on yesterday's debate in the House of Lords chamber on the energy National Policy Statements.
The House of Lords held a debate on four of the six energy national policy statements yesterday, in response to five motions tabled on them by Lords Jenkin, Crickhowell and Teverson. The report of the debate can be found here, starting at column 1191. See this blog post which analyses and explains the motions.
The debate took less time than the previous Lords' committee debates on the energy NPSs, had fewer peers participating (indeed, only one who did not move a motion and was not the government minister). However, the debate inched forward in one or two respects, and its taking place on the floor of the House of Lords accords it a higher status.
Lord Jenkin spoke on his three motions: upgrading need for non-fossil fuel electricty generation from 'significant' to 'critical'; spelling out climate change targets to 2050 and re-including Dungeness as suitable for a nuclear power station. He said that he thought a road map for decarbonisation to 2050 was supposed to have been produced with the Budget, but he couldn't find it.
Lord Crickhowell repeated his concerns about safety of vessels docking at liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, particularly Milford Haven but also the way safety is expressed in NPSs EN-1 and EN-4.
Lord Teverson introduced his motion calling for emissions performance standards (EPS) at new fossil fuel generating stations.
Baroness Young partially supported the EPS motion and opposed the Dungeness one, describing the issue as 'the second battle of Dungeness' (which prompted me to look up the first one, which was in 1652 between the English and the Dutch: the Dutch won). She likened the proposal to putting advertising hoardings on Westminster Abbey.
Lord Hunt replied for the government. He said that an interim roadmap report had been published with the Budget (and you can find it at page 45 of this document). He said that 'significant' was better than 'critical' because there had to be a balance struck with impacts such as environmental ones. On the second motion he said that the NPSs were long enough already and did not need to repeat what was in the government's Low Carbon Transition Plan (which you can find here), but said that some cross-referencing could be added.
On Dungeness he said that imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI - for developing the site in the face of damage to a protected environmental site) were not present for Dungeness because of the availability of the ten other sites listed in the NPS. That could be a hostage to fortune should further sites be proposed. Lord Jenkin raised the prospect of IROPI being weakened for the remaining sites each time a site was developed. It will be interesting to see how that one unfolds.
On LNG terminals Lord Hunt had had time to investigate further since the previous debate and said that 44,000 tanker movements had taken place to date without incident. I thought that a weakness in his argument was that the port marine safety code was only a voluntary code for harbour authorities, although he added that the draft Marine Navigation Bill included powers of government intervention in ports it regarded as unsafe.
On EPS he said that retrofitting of carbon capture and storage (CCS) was likely to be required by 2025, and that all new coal-fired power stations would have to have full CCS from 2020 (the present policy is only that the first 300MW must have it). He said that imposing EPS now would have an adverse effect on projects coming forwards and would mean CCS technology would get put back as a result.
Lord Jenkin reiterated that he would have preferred a joint committee (of MPs and peers) looking at the NPSs rather than the two different systems that had emerged and Lord Hunt said that he agreed ... that the process should be reviewed.
The four motions were not moved by the respective Lords and so there was no vote on any of them. They will therefore have the status of consultation responses rather than directions to the government. The debate took an hour and a half.
That is likely to be the conclusion of Parliamentary scrutiny of NPSs in either House this side of the election. Unless the DfT publishes the National Networks (road and rail) NPS or Defra publishes the Waste Water NPS, attention is now likely to turn to the IPC and prospective applications.