937: BEIS committee reports on revised energy NPSs and a general NPS round-up
Today’s entry reports on the report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy House of Commons committee into the five draft revised energy National Policy Statements, and sets out where we are on the other NPSs.
The report can be found here. It is the main document that reflects the views of the House of Commons on the NPSs, and if precedent is anything to go by, is likely to be the main source of amendments to the NPSs.
This blog got rather good coverage, being referred to five times in footnotes to the report. You know where to come for authoritative analysis!
The report is not long at 29 pages, and you can skip to page 21 if you just want to see the recommendations. Noting that the drafts were issued before the Net Zero Strategy, the report calls for the commitment to net zero to be made more explicit and that climate change should be prioritised in decision-making. The NPSs should be stronger on the need for energy infrastructure to deliver net zero, and as a result take precedence over conflicting local or statutory bodies’ policies.
Targets for renewables should be included, failing which the NPSs should refer to where targets are contained elsewhere. The final NPSs should better reflect current plans for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Roadmaps should be produced for different new technologies and the NPSs should align with them. Frustratingly, the Committee does not recommend any change to the draft NPS which suggests the mere ‘indication’ of a habitat impact by a statutory nature conservation body (such as Natural England) should mean providing a ‘without prejudice’ derogation case (paragraph 4.2.10). On carbon, the Committee doesn’t seem too concerned that the draft EN-1 does not require the Secretary of State to assess individual applications for planning consent against operational carbon emissions and their contribution to carbon budgets, net zero and our international climate commitments.
The committee recommend that the NPSs are reviewed every five years (as originally envisaged) – this review was ten years after first designation. The government should also consider having an overarching NPS across all sectors (ie not just energy) and report back by February 2023 on that.
EN-2 should take the Hydrogen Strategy into account. EN-3 (and the Planning Act 2008 itself) should re-include onshore wind. EN-4 should be more precise about hydrogen and CCS. There should be language on resilience of fossil fuel infrastructure in use until 2035. I’m not quite sure what that last point means, it seems to be in the context of having no more unabated fossil fuel generation by 2035.
EN-5 should be updated to take into account the Offshore Transmission Network Review. This is looking into coordination between offshore wind projects to minimise lengthy onshore cables. Finally, undergrounding of electricity lines should be considered where network resilience, eg from extreme weather, is more likely.
What normally happens next is that this report, together with the public consultation responses, are analysed and amendments are made to the NPSs. The revised drafts are then laid before Parliament, debated and voted upon, whereupon they are ‘designated’, ie finalised. There does not tend to be a second round of consultation.
At a conference on 1 March we were informed that the designation of the new NPSs would be by ‘summer 2022’. I don’t think anyone believed the original target of the end of 2021 expressed in the Energy White Paper (page 55), but hey, it was something to aim for.
Other National Policy Statements
A review of the Nuclear Power NPS EN-6 is not part of the general review of energy NPSs, it started in 2017 but has stalled since then, not taking any of the further steps listed on page 6 of this consultation response– though as we previously reported, the Benefits of Brexit document promises a new EN-6. The existing NPS has effectively expired, eg the Sizewell DCO application will be decided (by 25 May) under the no NPS provision, section 105 of the Planning Act 2008.
We were also told at the conference that the National Networks NPS (ie road, rail and rail freight) would be designated by autumn 2023 and the Water NPS was going through final checks before being designated. The Commons committee report into that was published in April 2019, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.
There was no mention of the Ports NPS – the latest on that was that the response to the freeports consultation in October 2020 said a review would be considered (paragraph 5.17).
The Airports NPS was designated in July 2018, suspended by the Court of Appeal following several legal challenges and reinstated by the Supreme Court. In September 2021 the government announced it was not being reviewed until the Jet Zero Strategy had been finalised, which will supposedly happen later this year.
The Hazardous Waste NPS, Waste Water NPS and Geological Disposal Infrastructure NPS were designated in June 2013, February 2012 and October 2019 respectively. There are no signs that any of them are to be reviewed despite two of them being well over five years old.
Finally, the government has consulted on whether there should be a separate nuclear fusion NPS on page 49 of this document.