UK: Energy National Polic Statements Published By DECC

Last Updated: 17 July 2011
Article by Humphrey Douglas and Wei Wu

On 23 June 2011 the Department of Energy and Climate Change published the finalised Energy National Policy Statements (NPSs). This follows an initial consultation on the first draft of the Energy NPSs between November 2009 and February 2010 launched by the previous Government and a second consultation on the revised draft Energy NPSs between 18 October 2010 and 24 January 2011.

The Energy NPSs set out national policy on a number of key energy policy areas. Five of these cover specific technologies: fossil fuels; renewable energy; gas supply and gas and oil pipelines; electricity networks; and nuclear. These five sit below an overarching Energy NPS framework, and play an important role in the new planning system for major energy infrastructure.

The Energy NPSs are described as a blueprint for decision-making on individual applications for development consent for nationally significant energy infrastructure. It is said that the Energy NPSs will clearly set out the Government's policy in so far as it relates to planning applications for major energy infrastructure and will give investors the certainty they need to bring forward proposals to maintain security of supply and ensure progress towards decarbonisation.

Overarching Energy NPS (EN-1)

EN-1 may be helpful to local planning authorities in preparing their local impact reports as it has effect, in combination with the relevant technology-specific NPS (see below), on the decisions by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) on applications for energy developments that fall within the scope of each of the technology-specific NPSs.

The Planning Act 2008 (PA 2008) sets out the thresholds for nationally significant infrastructure projects in the energy sector. The PA 2008 empowers the IPC to examine applications and make decisions on the following nationally significant energy infrastructure projects:

  • Electricity generating_stations generating more than 50 megawatts (MW) onshore and 100MW offshore

    This includes generation from fossil fuels, wind, biomass, waste and nuclear. For these types of infrastructure, EN-1, in conjunction with EN-2 on fossil fuel generating stations, EN-3 on renewable energy infrastructure or EN-6 on nuclear power generation as appropriate, will be the primary basis for IPC decision-making.
  • Electricity lines at or above 132 kilovolt (kV)

    EN-1, in conjunction with EN-5 on Electricity Networks, will be the primary basis for IPC decision-making.
  • Large gas reception and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and underground gas storage facilities

    EN-1 in conjunction with EN-4 on Gas Supply Infrastructure and Gas and Oil Pipelines, will be the primary basis for IPC decision-making.
  • Cross-country gas and oil pipelines and Gas Transporter pipelines

    EN-1, in conjunction with EN-4 on Gas Supply Infrastructure and Gas and Oil Pipelines, will be the primary basis for IPC decision-making.

Technology-specific NPSs


Technology-specific NPS

Infrastructure covered


Fossil Fuel Electricity Generating Infrastructure

  • Electricity generating infrastructure of the following types over 50MW electricity generating capacity:

    - coal-fired;
    - gas-fired;
    - integrated coal gasification combined cycle; and
    - oil-fired.


Renewable Energy Infrastructure

  • Energy from biomass and/or waste (>50 MW);
  • Offshore wind (>100MW); and
  • Onshore wind (>50MW)


Gas Supply Infrastructure and Gas and Oil Pipelines

  • Underground gas storage and LNG facilities which meet one of the following two tests:

    - Storage or working capacity test: a project would pass this test if the storage capacity on completion of the proposal is expected to be at least 43 million standard cubic metres (Mcm) of gas or higher; or
    - Maximum flow rate test: a project would pass this test if it has a projected delivery flow rate of at least 4.5 million standard cubic metres of gas per day (Mcm/d).
  • Gas reception facilities with a projected maximum flow rate of at least 4.5 Mcm/d (no capacity test).
  • Gas transporter pipelines which are:

    - expected to be more than 800mm in diameter and more than 40 kilometres (km) in length; or
    - likely to have a significant effect on the environment. The design operating pressure must be expected to be more than 7 bar gauge.
  • The pipeline must be expected to convey natural gas for supply to at least 50,000 potential customers.
  • Pipelines over 16,093km (10 miles) long which would otherwise require consent under section 1 Pipe-lines Act 1962 together with diversions to such pipelines regardless of length.


Electricity Networks Infrastructure

  • Ground electricity lines whose nominal voltage is expected to be 132 kV or above of electricity networks which can be generally divided into the following two main elements:

    - transmission systems (the long distance transfer of electricity through 400kV and 275kV lines), and distribution systems (lower voltage lines from 132kV to 230V from transmission substations to the enduser) which can either be carried on towers/poles or undergrounded; and
    - associated infrastructure, eg, substations (the essential link between generation, transmission, and the distribution systems that also allows circuits to be switched or voltage transformed to a useable level for the consumer) and converter stations to convert DC power to AC power and vice versa.


Nuclear Power Generation

  • Capacity of more than 50MW on the following sites:

    - Bradwell;
    - Hartlepool;
    - Heysham;
    - Hinkley Point;
    - Oldbury;
    - Sizewell;
    - Sellafield; and
    - Wylfa.

Next steps

The Energy NPSs have been laid before Parliament and the House of Commons plans to hold a debate and vote on their approval. If Parliament approves the Energy NPSs, the Government plans to designate them as soon as possible thereafter.

In addition, in line with the Planning Act 2008, the NPSs were drafted on the basis that once they are designated, the IPC will be the decision-making body on applications for development consent. However, following the election in May 2010, the Coalition Government announced that it intended to abolish the IPC and replace it with a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) based in the Planning Inspectorate, with decision-making returning to Ministers. Legislation to enact the abolition of the IPC is proposed in the Localism Bill currently before Parliament.

If these provisions are enacted, then once they enter into force, examination of applications would be carried out by the new MIPU, which would make recommendations to Ministers, who would take final decisions on applications. Both MIPU and Ministers would need to follow the policy framework provided in the NPSs, subject to limited exceptions set out in the PA 2008. In the case of energy projects, this function would be carried out by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.


Planning has historically been one of the biggest impediments to getting UK energy projects developed promptly and the PA 2008 together with associated NPSs are designed to unblock planning delays. Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy, commented on the finalised Energy NPSs:

"Around a quarter of the UK's generating capacity is due to close by the end of this decade. We need to replace this with secure, low carbon, affordable energy. This will require over £100 billion worth of investment in electricity generation and transmission alone. Industry needs as much certainty as possible to make such big investments. These plans set out our energy need to help guide the planning process, so that if acceptable proposals come forward in appropriate places, they will not face unnecessary hold-ups."

Given the changes in planning policy administration since the PA 2008, the finalised Energy NPSs should provide greater certainty to investors. Whilst the PA onus is now on developers to have consultation and other matters in hand before planning applications are submitted, the prioritisation of infrastructure projects covered by the Energy NPSs are a wide-ranging and positive step for most developers. Whilst it remains to be seen whether this will speed the planning process in the short term, medium and longer term debottle-necking should follow.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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