This is entry number 116, first published on 23 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 the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee's view of the six energy National Policy Statements.
The Energy and Climate Chance Select Committee of the House of Commons took the lead in scrutinising the six energy National Policy Statements (NPSs) that were issued in draft by the government on 9 November. The Committee held 10 morning and afternoon evidence sessions, interviewed 55 witnesses and asked 820 questions. Today the Committee has published its report, which can be found here.
The report is less critical than the Transport Committee's equivalent report on the draft Ports NPS, as it does not in terms say that the NPSs are 'not fit for purpose', but it does express a number of criticisms.
There is a useful summary box on pages 3 and 4, and then a longer set of conclusions and recommendations on pages 49-56. But you can get by just by reading what follows.
The report addresses whether the NPSs actually set out government policy (which is the test that the government has set itself, rather than whether the policies are the right ones). It concludes that the objectives of government policy are not set out clearly enough. Furthermore, the combination of already-consented gas power stations and the lack of likely renewable and nuclear projects appear to mean that the present formulation of policy in the NPSs will result in renewable energy targets not being met. It recommends that the Committee on Climate Change (CCC, not CoCC, sadly) should report annually on the cumulative carbon impact of the schemes that the Iinfrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) approves, thus rejecting the argument that the IPC should do this itself. It does recommend, however, that the IPC should consider the life-cycle emissions of each application and any evidence that the CCC presents to it (a role the government did not anticipate the CCC should have). It also recommends that the government adopt the CCC recommendation that the electricity industry should be fully decarbonised by 2030 (albeit not currently government policy). The government should explain why its figures for gas imports differ so much from National Grid's predictions.
The way Carbon Capture Readiness (CCR - that fossil fuel plants should be designed to be capable of capturing carbon emission in the future) and Combined Heat and Power (CHP - using waste heat from power stations) are expressed in the NPSs should be reviewed, and the NPSs should include consideration of CO2 pipelines, biomass fuel sources, and that energy from waste plants will really be fuelled by waste. The Committee accepts that tidal energy need not be included in the Renewables NPS yet.
The nomination of 10 sites for nuclear power stations is accepted, albeit without having considered the ten sites in detail due to lack of time. It does not go as far as calling for the dropped Dungeness site to be re-included as well, but asks the government to reconsider the evidence for its exclusion and 'if necessary' amend its decision. Perhaps most controversially, the Committee accepts the statement in the Nuclear Power NPS that the IPC need not consider what to do about long-term radioactive waste (which the report says is an issue of national policy), although it should consider on-site interim storage.
The Committee calls for the government to consult on guidance on how the NPSs fit in with the existing planning policy system, which 'could be' assisted by a national spatial strategy, something the Royal Town Planning Institute has long called for. The non-nuclear NPSs could be a little more spatially specific without being site specific.
Finally, the Committee notes concerns about the consultation on the NPSs and hopes that it will learn from this in the future (i.e. stopping short of calling for it to be rerun).
As with the Transport Committee, the Energy and Climate Change Committee calls for a debate on the Floor of the House of Commons on the NPSs, but supplements this by saying the debate should be 'on an amendable motion, offering the possibility of a vote'. That latter proposal is Conservative Party policy.
The publication of this report means that the debates on the Floor of either House of Parliament are all that remain before the government is able to republish and 'designate' (finalise, adopt) the seven draft National Policy Statements. An eighth NPS on 'National Networks' (i.e. covering nationally significant road, rail and rail freight interchange projects) is expected to be published in draft imminently, and the Waste Water NPS may follow shortly thereafter.