The approval version of the Overarching Energy NPS (EN-1) was laid before Parliament on 23 June 2011 following the conclusion of the second consultation on the revised draft in January 2011.
The approval version largely follows the same structure as previous drafts, and takes into account policy developments since publication of the first draft by the Labour Government in November 2009. It has been amended in light of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) initiatives contemplated in DECC's guidance note published in November 2009, the updated Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5) in relation to the historical environment published in March 2010, the 2050 Pathways Analysis published in July 2010, DECC's Electricity Market Reform consultation launched in December 2010, and future planning reforms contemplated by the Localism Bill.
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 need for new nationally significant energy infrastructure projects
The Overarching Energy NPS sets out how the suite of five sector-specific energy-related NPSs will work and establishes the urgent need to develop a mix of new energy infrastructure. When considered alongside the sector-specific NPSs, the Overarching Energy NPS will provide the primary basis for decision-making on applications.
Taking into account the UK Government's energy and climate change strategy and its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically and promote sustainable development - at the same time as achieving energy security - the approval version of the Overarching Energy NPS clarifies the urgency of the need to develop the types of infrastructure covered by the technology specific NPSs, including new nuclear power.
In deciding whether or not to grant consent for a project, it will still be necessary to balance the need for the development against its impacts and take into account the cumulative adverse impacts and the cumulative benefits. The Overarching Energy NPS contains guidance setting out the assessment principles to which the IPC/MIPU should adhere when considering applications for development consent.
To a large extent, these principles will reflect and clarify the existing practice of the Secretary of State in consenting nationally significant energy infrastructure, and are intended to ensure that the IPC/MIPU focuses on appropriate issues, applied in a consistent manner. The principles also explain what information the IPC/MIPU should expect to receive from applicants for development consent.
Impacts must be assessed
The impacts themselves may be specific or generic. Specific impacts are listed in the sector-specific NPSs. Generic impacts, whilst not listed exhaustively, are laid out in the Overarching Energy NPS together with guidance on the way in which the applicant should assess them, and on the way that mitigation should be considered. The scope of the generic impacts was broadened in the revised draft published by the Coalition in October 2010 which re-categorised certain sector-specific impacts as generic impacts applicable to all types of energy infrastructure. This remains the case in the approval version, but whereas the October 2010 version stated that equal weight should be afforded to impacts regardless of whether they were found in the Overarching Energy NPS or a technology specific NPS, the approval version provides that a technology specific NPS may override the Overarching Energy NPS by expressly giving certain impacts more weight than others.
Generic impacts are wide-ranging. Matters for consideration include pollution, biodiversity and geological conservation, defence interests, coastal change, historic environment, flood risk, visual amenity, and transport and socio-economical impacts. The principles that the IPC/MIPU must consider in assessing the impact are also laid out.
Two other documents inform the content of the Overarching Energy NPS (and the sector-specific NPSs) - an Appraisal of Sustainability and a Habitats Regulations Assessment. The Appraisal of Sustainability to the Overarching Energy NPS, which incorporates a Strategic Environmental Assessment, was revised in October 2010 to reflect the responses to the consultation on the initial draft of the Overarching Energy NPS. Taking into account the social, economic and environmental considerations to achieve sustainable development, the revised Appraisal of Sustainability to the Overarching Energy NPS concluded that the development of new energy infrastructure was likely to result in both positive and negative effects, but in general it should be possible to mitigate satisfactorily the potential negative effects of new energy infrastructure consented in accordance with the Energy NPSs. The Government has now published a Monitoring Strategy setting out the approach, roles and responsibilities for monitoring the significant positive and negative effects predicted by the Appraisal of Sustainability. The Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) in relation to the Overarching Energy NPS was a high-level strategic overview and concluded that the potential for adverse effects on the integrity of European Sites from new energy infrastructure could not be ruled out. Applicants for development consent will therefore need to carry out a project-level HRA, which may result in the refusal of consent for a particular application.
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.