Government begins review of energy national policy statements

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has said it will complete a review of the six national policy statements (NPS) for energy infrastructure by the end of the year, following a legal challenge.

The announcement was made on Friday, as the department opened consultation on how the review should be handled in relation to appraisal of sustainability (AoS, which incorporates strategic environmental assessment) and Habitats Regulations assessment. Input from statutory bodies and technical experts is requested by 6 May – only two weeks after the consultation opened.

The Good Law Project said in October that then business secretary Alok Sharma had agreed to review the statements. The organisation, alongside environmentalist George Monbiot and Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, had argued that they were now so grossly outdated that they must be reviewed under the Planning Act 2008.

Since their designation in 2011, major changes have been made to energy policy, most notably the goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and ending coal power by October 2024. The cost of renewable energy has also plummeted, while nuclear developments have stalled.

The documents reveal that the review began in March. The NPSs (the overarching energy NPS, fossil fuels, renewable energy, gas and oil pipelines, electricity networks and nuclear) will be subject to consultation themselves once the review is complete.

The AoS will examine the likely social, economic and environmental effects of the revised NPSs and recommend options for avoiding or mitigating such effects. The scoping document admits that it will have to have “a very wide remit”, covering biodiversity, noise, water, climate, waste, cultural heritage and landscape.

It also explicitly states that the Paris Agreement, net zero, the Clean Air Strategy and the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution are relevant to the review, not to mention the Energy White Paper and Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy.

Furthermore, government objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maximise use of renewable energy, increase energy efficiency and minimise use of fossil fuels will have to be accommodated in the review, it says. Prioritising brownfield development, reducing emissions of nitrogen dioxide and particulates, and preparing for extreme weather and sea level rise will also have to be considered, according to the paper.

The Methodology for the Habitats Regulations assessment says that it will be prepared “in accordance with relevant case law findings, including most notably the ‘People over Wind’ and ‘Holohan’ rulings from the Court of Justice for the European Union”.

Good Law Project director Jo Maugham said: "We are pleased that government has – at last – confirmed the review of the Energy National Policy Statement is going ahead. This is an important victory for all of us deeply concerned about the mounting climate crisis, and a significant advance in the battle to ensure government upholds its commitment to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However this does now beg the question - why won't government suspend and update the Airports NPS to take account of the net nero target in the same way?"

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