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Sustainability watchdog slams Government’s energy plans

Ecologist

15th January, 2010

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has accused the Government of producing energy strategies that are 'carbon blind'

The Government’s energy plans have been strongly criticised by its green watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission.
 
Giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Committee, SDC officials said that the Government's National Policy Statements (NPS) on energy, announced at the end of 2009, were ‘not fit for purpose’ and should not be approved.
 
‘Carbon blind’
 
James Greenleaf, Senior Policy Analyst at the SDC, told MPs that the NPS did not fit with the Government’s 80 per cent energy reduction targets and could lead to more carbon intensive energy projects being given the go ahead.
 
He said it was a mistake for the new Infrastructure Planning Commission, the body that will give planning permission for new energy developments, not to consider the carbon emissions of new energy projects.
 
‘The NPS is essentially carbon blind. It basically says there is a need for lots of new technologies across the board from gas, coal, renewables and nuclear but you could have a situation where all new projects coming through could be gas fired,’ he said. 
 
Nuclear waste
 
Responding to questions about the UK’s nuclear plans, SDC experts said they were ‘very sceptical’ about the Government’s statement that it is ‘satisfied that effective arrangements had been made for nuclear waste’.
 
‘If we haven’t gone far enough down the line of actually constructing a process to deal with the legacy waste [waste from present and past nuclear programmes], should we be adding to the problem by commissioning new reactors,’ asked Greenleaf.
 
Public kept in dark
 
The SDC said that a lack of communication (the public consultation on the NPS closes on February 22nd) could lead to a backlash against the Government’s energy plans.
 
‘It is effectively creating one of the strongest planning regimes since the Second World War, and the community consultation and engagement to discuss that and approve it should be appropriate,’ said Greenleaf. 
 
‘These plans have been in the drafting stage for 2 years, it is only now that we are having a 12 week public consultation,’ he added.   
 
Jayne Ashley, the SDC’s Head of Sustainable Places, also said the Government’s failure to tell people where new energy infrastructure would be located was preventing open and transparent public debate. 
 
‘At the moment, nobody has a clue what may be put forward where.
 
‘Without having any spatial element, it is very hard to engage people in this whole process,’ she added. 

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