Planning and environmental

Revised energy national policy statements – Law Society response

The proposals

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is consulting on revised energy national policy statements (NPS) that support decisions on major energy infrastructure.

The NPS set out the government’s policy for the delivery of energy infrastructure and provide the legal framework for planning decisions. They were first designated and published in 2011.

The energy white paper: powering our net zero future announced that the government would review the energy NPS to:

  • reflect the policies and broader strategic approach set out in the white paper
  • ensure that the planning policy framework continues to support the infrastructure required for the transition to net zero

This consultation seeks views on:

  • whether the revised energy NPS provide a suitable framework to support decision making for nationally significant energy infrastructure
  • the appraisals of sustainability (AoS) and habitats regulations assessments (HRA) carried out in relation to the draft energy NPS

Our view

UK government has issued its net zero strategy with the aim of the UK reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

Reviewing the energy NPS suite now is therefore right and timely and we’re keen to make sure that the relevant legislative provisions are met.

The energy NPS and other NPS need to align in a way that provides a clear route for the UK to transition to net zero; clarity and detail are key.

The suite of energy NPS have not been updated since 2011 so we welcome this review.

However, we note that the NPS on nuclear, as part of the suite, is not being updated at this time. We hope government will address this in due course.

The energy landscape has shifted dramatically in the last decade, particularly in terms of government’s climate change ambitions and energy policy is undeniably instrumental to achieving the UK’s net zero goals.

Our understanding is that the desired effect is to build more flexibility into the energy policy process to in turn allow more innovative energy solutions to develop over time to address net zero and energy security for the country.

We’re pleased to see that government is looking to align the policies now and with this goal in mind.

We understand the urgent need to review the energy NPS now in light of the renewed efforts government is making to address climate change in the context of COP26, but we recommend that government re-visit the NPS at a future point to ensure consistency with the white paper’s proposals when these are settled.

A key legal issue in need of consideration is the identification of alternatives with regard to building new energy infrastructure, most notably, the option to ‘do nothing’.

We would welcome clearer guidance from government on the need to consider such alternatives, such as to ‘do nothing’, in the context of climate change and environmental protection.

We take the view that there ought to be a more streamlined way of measuring projects and dealing with project thresholds.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 29 November.

Climate change is the greatest perceivable threat facing humanity and we’re committed to taking action.

Energy is a key component of tackling climate change and we’ll continue to engage with government to help ensure that national legislative targets are met.

Read the consultation on the GOV.UK website

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