Spring consultations: waste carrier reform, renewables supply chain rules, low carbon fuels, powering ships in port, healthcare waste and more

ENDS’ round-up of the latest major government consultations, including reforming the transport and management of waste, the future of supply chain plans under contracts for difference, plans for a low carbon transport fuels strategy, bolstering the delivery of power to berthed ships and others.

Photograph: Christian Guthier‭ / Flickr

Waste carrier, broker and dealer system reform

Implementation of mandatory digital waste tracking

Two related consultations launched by DEFRA in January seek to make fundamental reforms to the transportation and management of waste.

The first addresses the waste carriers, brokers and dealers regime, which is widely considered discredited as it has cultivated the misclassification of waste and other criminal behaviour in the sector, says the department. Recognising this, a more tightly-regulated permit-based system will be introduced in October next year. Bad actors should also be weeded out through new technical competence requirements and background checks.

The consultation proposes the clearer terminology for the sector, introducing rules for ‘waste controllers’ and ‘waste transporters’. Existing holders of lower tier registrations would be required to register for a permit exemption, while upper tier registrations would become subject to full environmental permits. In some low-risk situations, the transport of waste would not be subject to registration at all.

For those who would be subject to permitting under the plans, the display of permit numbers on vehicles may become mandatory. Permits may also have to be renewed regularly.

The second consultation paper explains how the government intends to set up a cohesive way to keep tabs on the 200m tonnes of waste that are produced in the UK each year, by setting up a digital tracking system. This would replace the paper-based waste transfer note system.

It asks what waste should be tracked; what information should be recorded and when; how it should be recorded; what the enforcement consequences of failing to record should be; and how the system should be paid for.


Contracts for Difference (CfD): call for evidence on proposed amendments to supply chain plans

Contracts for Difference (CfD): proposals for changes to supply chain plans and CfD delivery

BEIS has opened two parallel consultations on the future of supply chain plans (SCPs) within the contracts for difference (CfD) price support mechanism for nuclear power and renewables.

CfD allocation round 4, the current one, demands that projects with a capacity of 300 megawatts or more submit the plans for government approval. They must contain information such as component breakdowns, UK content declarations, ownership structures, the names of suppliers and key delivery dates.

BEIS is consulting on a series of changes for the next allocation round, such as the minimum quality of plans, the content of a questionnaire and extending SCPs to floating wind projects. Responses are due by 15 March.

The call for evidence, which closes on 29 April, seeks views on more fundamental alterations, such as changing the capacity threshold, introducing a negotiation process for them, and establishing a graduated financial penalty regime if commitments are not upheld. These could be introduced for allocation round 6.


Low carbon fuel strategy: call for ideas

The Department for Transport (DfT) is seeking inspiration for the development of a long-term low carbon fuels strategy for the transport sector, as part of its work under the Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Low carbon fuels include biogas, bioethanol and renewable hydrogen, which “will remain essential in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport”, says its call for evidence, which closes on 3 April.

The department wants insight on the trends, risks and opportunities for technologies, production pathways, interactions with other markers and policies for the sector, and how the environmental and economic benefits of these fuels can be maximised.


Use of maritime shore power in the UK: call for evidence

The DfT has launched a call for evidence on the costs, benefits, impact on air pollution and technological options for powering vessels from the shore while docked, also known as cold ironing. Given the scale of ships’ engines, keeping them running while in port can be a substantial contributor to poor air quality.

Last year’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan made a commitment to consult on how the government can support the wider deployment of shore power, a process that began in October with the commencement of an industry-led task force. This initial engagement identified that more information is needed on the scale of ships’ emissions when at berth, shore power’s potential to reduce emissions, the barriers to its adoption and the impact of potential solutions.

The call for evidence therefore does not identify preferred options, though it does identify that the DfT could mandate the provision and use of shore power, or explore the use of economic incentives instead.

Responses are due by 25 April.


Guidance for the storage and treatment of healthcare waste

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is consulting on new guidance that would require different forms of waste from healthcare premises to be “rigorously separated” to ensure that more is diverted to recycling and recovery.

There is currently no legal requirement for such wastes to be segregated and packaged “by anything other than its characterisation, compatibility, classification and disposal route”, the draft guidance notes. In the absence of firmer regulation, SEPA recommends that a system based on industry best practice is adopted, which would allow orange-bagged non-infectious waste to avoid incineration.

The consultation closes on 29 April.


The disproportionate cost assessment for derogations to improvements to the water environment

SEPA is consulting on amendments to how proposed variations to authorisations under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, otherwise known as CAR, may be challenged on cost grounds.

The plan is to replace the current ‘disproportionate expenses test’ with a more transparent system that takes into account all relevant ecosystem services and the latest valuation studies. The amended regime will be used to screen out improvements to the aquatic environment that would clearly involve disproportionate expense.

Responses are due by 18 May.


Enabling a national Cyber-Physical Infrastructure to catalyse innovation

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has called for evidence on how it could boost national capabilities in so-called cyber-physical systems. As the consultation paper states, these “bring together the digital and physical worlds, where data from the physical world feeds insight and decision making in the digital world, which can then be implemented either by a person,  machine or collaboration of both”.

The government says that they will have a critical role in reaching net zero, which the paper describes as “the ultimate systems and innovation challenge”. For example, ‘digital twins’, or simulations of complex systems that are updated with real-time data, could help to manage variable inputs to the electricity grid from wind, solar, tidal and storage and predict demand. In the same way, weather data could also be used to inform urban traffic management, optimising congestion and emissions.

Digital prototypes can also help reduce the time, cost and carbon required for innovations, says BEIS, accelerating progress towards net zero.

Responses are due by 11 May.


Consultation on Designation of Wolvercote Mill Stream as a Bathing Water

DEFRA is consulting on designating a second watercourse as a bathing water, after having done so for the river Wharfe in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, last year. The move would require the Environment Agency to monitor the site for bacterial contamination during the 15 May to 30 September bathing season and classify the results as excellent, good, sufficient or poor.

The area proposed is Wolvercote Mill Stream on the river Thames at Port Meadow in Oxford, the subject of a campaign by local MP Layla Moran against the discharge of untreated sewage. She says that a number of people have fallen ill after swimming there.