Largely unnoticed amid the furore over energy prices, the UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey yesterday announced changes to legislation covering major energy infrastructure projects.
Currently, major projects are considered under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 instead of the government’s recent Planning Act. Unlike planning consents, Section 36 consents are inflexible so that developers cannot change the specifications of the work. If a developer did want to make a change to a permitted plan, it would be subject to a completely new application, which can take over a year to complete.
Now the government is proposing to use the Growth and Infrastructure Bill to remove that red tape and allow developers to apply for changes to projects consented under Section 36. Instead of a lengthy reapplication process, in most cases only a 3 month consultation will be required.
Davey paints the change in a rosy light, suggesting in comments to the business lobby group the CBI yesterday that the simplified process will allow developers to add a few more turbines to a wind farm or a generator to switch fuel type in a power station.
But environmental group Friends of the Earth says the changes will allow developers to ride roughshod over local councils and communities.
“The proposals completely undermine the principle that planning is based on consent,” says the group’s planning advisor Naomi Luhde-Thompson. “These reforms… totally ignore climate change and the wider environment – a few developers may profit, but it will do nothing for local people.”
Another change announced by Davey yesterday will resolve a legal ambiguity in the Gas Act 1986, which will allow energy regulator Ofgem to move ahead with a new funding mechanism to boost efficiency in the gas grid, unlocking £160 million of investment over eight years.
Article source: http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/i/5469/