MPs call for debate on draft energy national policy statements

23 March 2010

In a report published today on the proposals for national policy statements on energy, the Energy and Climate Change Committee calls for a debate on an amendable motion, offering the possibility of a vote, preferably before the end of the current Parliament, or at the earliest opportunity in the next Parliament.

Launching the report, Paddy Tipping MP said:

"The national policy statements (NPSs) on energy will be crucial for delivering our energy and climate change objectives. As Ministers will no longer determine planning consent for nationally important infrastructure in the future, it is vital that the NPSs are underpinned by a full democratic mandate."

The report also highlights a number of concerns with the current drafting of the NPSs. The Committee has "significant concern that decision-making by the IPC could give rise to an energy infrastructure that risks breaching the UK’s carbon budgets".

To prevent this, the report recommends the implementation of safeguards including;

  • A specific requirement in the NPSs for applicants to conduct a full life-cycle carbon assessment
  • The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to be made a statutory consultee for planning applications considered by the IPC
  • A requirement on the CCC to report annually on cumulative emissions arising from developments consented by the IPC

On new nuclear build, the Committee questions the Government’s robust assertion in the draft nuclear NPS that effective arrangements will be in place to manage the resulting radioactive waste. MPs call for significantly more detail in the NPS on what interim radioactive waste storage will entail for local communities and the integrity of sites chosen.

It also calls on Ministers to set out key milestones for the delivery of a long-term storage facility in the nuclear NPS and to report annually to Parliament on progress.

The report also criticises the Government’s assessment of the need for new generating capacity, which suggests the anticipated need for conventional generation over the next decade could be met already through projects that are either under construction or in development. The Committee recommends the Department looks again at its analysis, as "the current assertion of the need for new conventional generating capacity reduces the likelihood that the renewables target will be met".

Elsewhere the Committee calls for the IPC to have a role in assessing the sustainability of biomass and energy from waste fuel sources. It also recommends the Department of Energy and Climate Change reviews the current drafting of the NPSs in relation to carbon capture and storage (CCS). In particular, it calls for the Government to provide much greater detail on the development of a future network of carbon dioxide pipelines in conjunction with the deployment of CCS.

Finally, the report strongly criticises the Department’s public consultation on the draft NPSs and the manner in which their late publication has constrained the time available for parliamentary scrutiny and public engagement, particularly in relation to greenfield nuclear sites.

The Committee recommends the Government learns from this experience for future NPSs and develops more innovative ways of engaging the public. It also calls for a review of the resources available to local authorities to ensure they are able fully to undertake their role in the planning process.

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