The energy National Policy Statements (NPSs) are intended to be a blueprint for decision-making on individual applications for development consent for the relevant types of infrastructure. The six energy NPSs set out national policy against which proposals for major energy projects are assessed and decided on by the National Infrastructure Directorate (NID) within the Planning Inspectorate. NID will use NPSs in its examination of applications for development consent, and Ministers will use them when making decisions.
So, for example, the Nuclear NPS (EN6) is intended to establish the ‘need’ for new reactors, so the subsequent planning process will only deal with site specific issues. When the 2008 White Paper on Nuclear Power concluded that nuclear power should have a role, it was expected that a finalised Nuclear NPS would be published by Autumn 2009. But the first six NPSs covering energy were not published for consultation until November 2009. The consultation closed on 22nd February 2010.1
Then on 15th July 2010, after the General Election, Charles Hendry, the Minister of State for Energy in the coalition government, announced that there would be a second consultation on the National Policy Statements. This second consultation ran from 18 October 2010 to 24 January 2011.2
On 18th July 2011 the House of Commons debated and approved the six finalised Energy NPSs and the then Secretary of State Chris Huhne designated them under the 2008 Planning Act the day after.
On 26th August 2011 Greenpeace UK served legal papers on the government for unlawfully pressing ahead with plans for new nuclear reactors at eight sites in England and Wales through the Nuclear National Policy Statement without waiting to take into account relevant considerations arising from the Fukushima disaster. The group accused the Government of regarding Dr Mike Weightman‘s Interim Report into the lessons from Fukushima as a ‘green light’ for proceeding with the Nuclear National Policy Statement even though the report highlighted areas of serious concern requiring further investigation. Since then the Government was caught out working hand in glove with the nuclear industry to thwart this legal challenge. They have even handed over documents lodged by Greenpeace with the High Court to the Nuclear Industry Association.
Greenpeace sought a judicial review of the Government‘s decision to designate eight sites for new nuclear power stations in the Nuclear National Policy Statement before learning the lessons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. On 12 December 2011, Greenpeace was informed that its application had been refused. (See Taking Stock for 2012: National policy statement, NuClear News No.36 January 2012)
The Overarching NPS for Energy (EN1) says that the Government expects total electricity generating capacity may need to more than double or even triple by 2050. This compares with Germany’s plans to reduce electricity demand by 25% by 2050, as well as phasing out nuclear power and meeting similar carbon reduction targets to the UK.3
The Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Lord Marland, responded to letters questioning this doubling of demand saying the Government had set out the evidence for this assertion in the 2050 Pathways Analysis. This is misleading because seven of the sixteen scenarios in the 2050 Pathways Analysis do not envisage a doubling of electricity demand. But this was ignored in Lord Marland’s letter, which selectively quotes the Pathways evidence. What the Pathways analysis actually shows, based on what the Government says is ‘robust’ evidence, is that electricity demand does not need to double. (See Corruption of Governance, NuClear News No. 40, May 2012)
Ravi Gurumurthy, DECC’s Director of Strategy until recently, wrote in a blog on DECC’s website on 5th March 2012 that: “All of our main scenarios for 2050 tell us that we need to plan to meet an increase in demand of between a third and two thirds, as transport and heating shift onto the electricity grid.” Not a doubling of demand at all. Gurumurthy goes on to say: “…no one can yet say for sure what the relative costs will be decades hence…” If this is true, surely the Government should not have claimed in EN-1 that “new nuclear is likely to become the least expensive form of low carbon electricity generation.’
The letter from Lord Marland also says that nuclear will be ‘price competitive … with many other forms of low carbon technologies’. Note the word ‘many’ – not ‘all’. So the Government admits that nuclear is not the cheapest, as MPs were previously told. (See Corruption of Governance, NuClear News No. 40, May 2012)
A new report called ‘Nuclear Power: New Evidence’ has been sent by Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd. This says there was no assessment of whether new infrastructure was required before Hinkley C was approved, nor of the potential for energy efficiency and energy saving which the government itself says is the cheapest and most cost effective way of delivering its energy policy objectives.
The latest pathways evidence on the DECC website in 2014 shows circumstances have changed radically since 2010. In fact the four latest government scenarios show increases in demand of only between 29.6% and 52.9%. TASC has drawn up eight pathways, using DECC’s model, all of which are cheaper than the cheapest of the four Government scenarios demonstrating that a non-nuclear, more demand-side-led energy policy would save money and more successfully achieve other government energy policy objective. In fact new nuclear power stations will hamper the achievement of government energy policy objectives. The total savings to the UK economy of following a non-nuclear pathway could be very large indeed.
TASC argues that Secretary of State is under a legal duty pursuant to review those parts of the Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (EN-1) presented to Parliament ‘for approval’ in June 2011 that relate to ‘the role of nuclear electricity generation’.
1. New Nuclear Monitor No.17 December 2009 ―Overview for NFLA members on the National Policy Statement Consultation and the National Nuclear Policy Statement (NPS).
New Nuclear Monitor No.19 February 2010 Response of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities to the National Nuclear Policy Statement Consultation.
The original November 2009 consultation documents.
2.The Revised Consultation Documents (consultation 18th Oct 2010 to 24th Jan 2011)
The NFLA Response to the Revised Consultation, January 2011.
3. Energy Concept for an environmentally sound, reliable and affordable energy supply, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology & Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, September 2010. (See page 5)