The approval version of the National Policy Statement for Fossil Fuel Electricity Generating Infrastructure (Fossil Fuel NPS) largely follows the same structure as the revised draft published for consultation in October 2010. The changes that have been made following the conclusion of that consultation to prepare the Fossil Fuel NPS for approval include clarification that the UK's carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration programme is open to gas-fired generating stations as well as coal-fired generating stations. Other changes include revisions to the sections of the Fossil Fuel NPS that relate to the landscape and visual impact of a proposed project, the addition of text concerning residue management and ash mitigation, clarification that "good design" for noise and vibration reduction is not solely about buildings, and a minor drafting change to the section on water quality and resources.

As with the other NPSs, references to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will be taken to be references to the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) or the Secretary of State after the Localism Bill has been enacted and comes into force.

The Fossil Fuel NPS is designed to be read side by side with the Overarching Energy NPS (EN-1). The approval version, like the previous drafts, sets out Government policy against which the IPC will determine applications in England and Wales for fossil fuel powered generating stations with a capacity over 50 MW. Applications in Scotland will continue to be dealt with by Scottish Ministers, but because energy policy is generally a matter reserved to UK Ministers, the Fossil Fuel NPS may also be a relevant consideration for planning decisions in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, policy and planning consents for all Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects are devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive. The IPC/MIPU will not therefore examine applications for energy infrastructure in Northern Ireland, and unlike the position with regard to Scotland, there is no indication that the Fossil Fuel NPS may be a relevant consideration for planning decisions in Northern Ireland.

The Fossil Fuel NPS covers coal-fired, gas-fired, integrated coal gasification combined cycle and oil-fired generating capacity.

Carbon Capture Readiness (CCR) must be demonstrated

The Fossil Fuel NPS confirms that all new combustion generating stations with a generating capacity at or over 300 MW shall be "carbon capture ready" (CCR) and comply with criteria set out in the Overarching Energy NPS. In the revised Fossil Fuel NPS, the IPC is directed to include conditions on any consent granted, requiring operators to:

  • retain sufficient additional space (whether on or near the site) for carbon capture equipment and the ability to build carbon capture equipment on this space in the future; and
  • submit updated reports on the technical aspects of their CCR status to the Secretary of State or DECC. These reports should be required within three months of the date on which a consented station first begins to supply electricity to the grid and every two years thereafter until the plant moves to retrofit CCS equipment.

As regards coal-fired generation stations, the Fossil Fuel NPS confirms that new generating stations in England or Wales are required to be constructed with a full CCS chain fitted on at least 300 MW net of the proposed generating capacity. Coal-fired generating stations with a capacity of less than 300 MW are required to show that the proposed generating station will be able to capture, transfer and store CO2 in respect of its full capacity.

According to the Fossil Fuel NPS, the applicant should provide evidence to show:

  • technically feasible plans for a CO2 capture unit that meets the minimum size requirements;
  • an Environmental Impact Assessment that addresses impacts arising from the capture plant; and
  • documentation to ensure compliance with all other existing policy, including that any of the plant’s capacity which is not to be fitted with CCS at the outset is carbon capture ready.

In addition, an application must contain sufficient information on the proposed plans for CCS to enable the IPC/MIPU to determine whether the proposal meets the criteria set out in DECC's ''Draft Supplementary Guidance for Section 36 Electricity Act 1989 Consent Applications for Coal Power Stations'', published in November 2009. The IPC/MIPU should also have regard to advice from the Environment Agency relating to the technical feasibility of the applicant's proposed CCS plans. The IPC/MIPU may also seek further independent advice, but is not required to do so.

If the IPC/Secretary of State is not satisfied that the proposal meets the CCS criteria set out in the Overarching Energy NPS and the Fossil Fuel NPS, consent should not be granted.

The carbon capture readiness requirements will continue to apply to the full capacity of the coal-fired generating station until such time as CCS equipment is retrofitted onto the remainder of the capacity of the plant.

The revised Fossil Fuel NPS also directs the IPC/Secretary of State to include conditions in any development consent granted for a coal-fired generating station requiring the applicant to provide the following before construction can commence:

  • evidence that all necessary consents, licences and permits are in place for construction of the CCS chain, including consents for any onshore and offshore pipelines used to transport CO2;
  • evidence that a CO2 storage licence for the intended storage site is in place; and
  • evidence that an Environmental Permit has been obtained from the Environment Agency which incorporates conditions around the operation of the CCS chain.

The revised Fossil Fuel NPS makes it clear that no construction, other than preliminary works, should be allowed to commence until the IPC/Secretary of State is satisfied that these conditions have been met in full.

Projects must take into account Climate Change adaptation

In addition to showing their carbon capture readiness, applicants are required to set out how the proposed generating station would be resilient to:

  • coastal changes and increased risk from storm surge;
  • effects of higher temperatures, including higher temperatures of cooling water; and
  • increased risk of drought leading to a lack of available cooling water.

The IPC/MIPU is advised in the Overarching Energy NPS that resilience to climate change should be assessed as part of the relevant impact assessment in the Environmental Statement accompanying an application. For example, an assessment of climate change impacts on the availability of cooling water as a result of higher temperatures should be covered in the impact assessment section on water quality and resources.

Projects are expected to incorporate Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

The IPC/Secretary of State is directed not to grant development consent unless satisfied that the applicant has provided appropriate evidence that CHP is incorporated, or that the opportunities for the incorporation of CHP have been fully explored. For non-CHP stations, the applicant may be required to ensure that its stations are configured in order to allow heat supply at a later date.

Consideration of “good design” for energy infrastructure

Applicants should demonstrate good design, particularly in respect of landscape and visual amenity, and should seek to mitigate potential impacts such as noise and vibration, and air emissions.

Further guidance is provided for applicants

The revised Fossil Fuel NPS provides additional policies in relation to the factors that influence site selection by the developers of fossil fuel infrastructure.

It also provides detailed guidance on the impact of fossil fuel power stations through:

  • air quality and emissions;
  • landscape and visual impact;
  • noise emissions and vibration;
  • the release of dust by coal-fired generating stations;
  • residue management for coal-fired generating stations; and
  • effects on water quality and resources;
  • as well as any mitigating steps applicants may need to undertake.

Summary of changes

The table below sets out the latest changes made following the conclusion of the second consultation in January 2011 to create the version of the NPS laid before Parliament for approval.

Click here to view table.