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MPs: NPS 'must be improved'

MPs propose a parliamentary vote for National Policy Statements (NPSs) for energy, and total emissions by projects approved by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which makes decisions based on NPSs, should be monitored to ensure the UK meets its carbon emissions targets.

The energy and climate change committee of MPs said: “We believe there are a number of ways in which the statements must be improved if they are to serve their purpose successfully.”

Acting chair of the energy and climate change committee, 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,” he said.

The committee was also concerned that large projects could risk breaching the UK’s carbon budgets because decisions of the new planning body the IPC, which uses NPSs to form the basis of decisions, has no explicit link to carbon budgets.

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.”

They suggest three measures to ensure UK carbon budgets are stuck to:

  • 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; and
  • A requirement on the CCC to report annually on cumulative emissions arising from developments consented by the IPC.

The committee also said government assertions that interim radioactive storage facilities would be ‘in place’ for new nuclear plants was not detailed enough, and key milestones for new storage facilities should be set out, and progress reported annually to parliament.

The government had claimed in the NPS that enough conventional generation is in development or under construction now, so need for new plant is reduced over the coming decade. The Committee recommended that this asserion be reviewed, 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 criticised the public consultation conducted by DECC, as late publication of NPS restricted the time available for parliamentary scrutiny and public engagement, particularly for greenfield nuclear sites.

The Committee said the Government had to learn more innovative ways of engaging with the public, and called for a review of resources available to local authorities, to ensure they are able to execute their role in the planning process.

Director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Tom Foulkes said: “ICE echoes the concerns raised by the Energy and Climate Change Committee that without a proper process for monitoring the cumulative carbon impact of energy projects approved by the IPC, our future energy network would hinder our progress towards a low carbon economy. Giving the Committee on Climate Change a role in the consent process will help ensure that the UK delivers the energy infrastructure needed meet our emission reduction goals.

“It will be crucial however that progress in the development of the NPSs isn’t derailed by having to start the process again with a new parliament. Time is ticking for the UK to deliver the energy infrastructure needed to meet future demand - the next Parliament must avoid unnecessary delays as an upmost priority,” he said.

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