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ICE: we need planning reform and financial incentives for future energy

ICE says new government guidelines must incentivise a low-carbon future.

New government energy policy statements will be useless without planning reforms that reverse the delays and underinvestment of the past, the ICE said last week.

Energy minister Chris Huhne published the Energy National Policy Statement (NPS) last week. He laid out plans for a “mixed portfolio” of energy sources.

This included plans to build 33GW of new renewable energy capacity, and the designation of eight sites suitable for nuclear energy power stations, all to be deployed by 2025.

Better planning system

But ICE director general Tom Foulkes said that the NPSs “must be supported by an effective and timely planning system that avoids the unnecessary delays that have been a barrier to investment in the past - both at a national and a local level.”

A quarter of the UK’s energy generating capacity is due to be closed down by the end of the decade, so there is a growing need for a clear strategy for how this gap in the UK energy supply will be filled, said Huhne.

The policy statements are the result of two consultations on UK energy supply, one under the Labour government and a second launched last year by the coalition.

The latest consultation received more than 2,500 responses.

The resulting NPS has been designed to address issues relating to nationally significant energy projects, with small-scale energy sources unaffected by the guidelines.

Nuclear is key

Some renewables including tidal and wave technologies have not been addressed by the energy NPS. Government said that a sub-NPS for tidal energy will be drafted when the technology becomes “commercially viable”.

Nuclear appears to be a key energy resource in the UK’s future ‘energy portfolio’, with the NPS citing it as a low-carbon solution to the energy supply gap.

The ICE has made promoting the use of low carbon energy one of its priorities for meeting the demands of the Climate Change Act, which set out the requirement that the UK achieves an 80% reduction on 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Foulkes said that “the energy NPSs need to underpin the ongoing reforms in the energy sector by supplying a clear roadmap to a decarbonised, secure supply in future.”

Financial incentives

Foulkes also said that energy suppliers need to be offered financial incentives to persuade them to favour low-carbon power. “This will provide the certainty industry, the supply chain and investors have been waiting for. If supported by market reform that sufficiently incentivises low carbon generation, [the NPSs] will pave the way to a secure energy future for the UK.”

The NPSs will now be debated in parliament before being ratified. As yet no date has been set for this.

Foulkes urged the government to put the policy statements into action quickly. “It is important that the NPSs are ratified without delay, to maintain investor confidence and ensure critical infrastructure programmes go ahead as planned.”

Key points from the NPS

If approved by Parliament, the energy National Policy Statement (NPS) is a blueprint for planning decisions on all future nationally significant energy infrastructure.

The NPS has five sub-statements detailing the government’s guidelines governing nuclear, gas, fossil fuels, renewables and the electricity networks. The NPS and the response from the consultation that preceded the NPS, published this week revealed:

  • 33GW of new renewable energy supply to be created
  • Eight new potential nuclear power plant sites identified
  • An estimate of over £100bn of investment in electricity supply required by 2020
  • Information published on new, independent research into wind turbine noise and how it will affect future planning applications
  • An “increasingly important role” for energy generation from biomass and waste


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