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Current policy is hurting, not helping, UK’s low-carbon goals

PaperworkBritain’s current energy planning system poses a barrier to energy security and a low-carbon future, Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband told Parliament this week.

In presenting the draft National Policy Statements (NPS) for reform, he also set out an ambitious new policy for the transition to clean coal using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The UK needs to develop significantly more energy-generating capacity to both meet its low-carbon goals and deal with the intermittency of wind power, Miliband said. One third of that larger future generating capacity must be consented and built over the next 15 years to 2025

While there are already proposals to build more energy infrastructure, more is needed to bring about the shift  to a low-carbon future, the Secretary said. The NPSs include clear direction towards a massive expansion in renewables, a new nuclear programme based around 10 sites assessed as potentially suitable for new build and a programme to demonstrate clean-coal technology.

“The threat of climate change means we need to make a transition from a system that relies heavily on high carbon fossil fuels, to a radically different system that includes nuclear, renewable and clean coal power,” Miliband said. “Change is also needed for energy security. In a world where our North Sea reserves are declining, a more diverse low carbon energy mix is a more secure energy mix, less vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of any one fuel.”

He continued: “The current planning system is a barrier to this shift. It serves neither the interests of energy security, the interests of the low-carbon transition, nor the interests of people living in areas where infrastructure may be built, for the planning process to take years to come to a decision.

“That is why we are undertaking fundamental reform of the planning system which will result in a more efficient, transparent and accessible process.

“And our new policy framework for clean coal will drive the development of CCS which will be essential for reducing the impact of coal-fired power stations on the environment.”

Miliband said the new system will be faster and fairer for everyone involved:

  • Decisions on proposals bigger than 50 megawatts (or 100 megawatts for offshore wind) will be reduced from two years, sometimes much more, to one year.
  • Clearer and better opportunities for the public and local communities to have their say.
  • Up to £300 million a year will be saved in unnecessary expense incurred by UK industry.

“The course of our country’s future will be set by investments in new energy sources, water supplies, ports, railways and other transport networks,” said Housing and Planning Minister John Healey. “The National Policy Statements do what they say on the tin — they are Britain’s policy blueprints within which the Infrastructure Planning Commission will run a faster and fairer planning system, with fuller public scrutiny of larger developments.

“Instead of major projects going through, three, four, five separate applications, sometimes sequentially, there is now one single consent system, with one full expert and public examination. This includes new steps that require open public consultation before applications can even be submitted.”

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