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Trans-European Energy Infrastructure

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

I am today designating the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change as the national competent authority for the United Kingdom for permitting processes for projects of common interest under article 8(1) of regulation (EU) no 347/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure.

“Projects of common interest” (PCIs) in the regulation are projects that member states’ regional groups have determined are cross-border developments which constitute PCIs according to the criteria in the regulation. They will contribute to completion of the European energy network, which may include electricity interconnector cables, “smart grids”, electricity storage, gas transporter pipelines, underground natural gas storage facilities, CO2 pipelines and CO2 storage. The regulation streamlines permitting processes for PCIs that have been agreed by regional groups to ensure that they are not unduly delayed through slow planning consent procedures in member states. It will also give the developers of PCIs access to European funding.

The national competent authority is responsible for co-ordinating the permitting process in its member state and working with other member states to ensure that the pre-application process, including appropriate public consultation on the PCI proposal as set out in article 9(4), is completed within the indicative timetable of two years and that co-ordinated decisions are made within one year and six months of formal application, as set out in article 10(1).

These time scales are broadly in line with the consenting regimes for major infrastructure under the Planning Act 2008. Other consenting regimes in the UK do not have statutory timetables, but determination of consents is normally within these time limits and may be much faster.

In implementing the requirements of the regulation our intention is to be as transparent as possible and, wherever practicable, to maintain the existing permitting processes for major infrastructure.

Under article 8(2) of the regulation, the responsibility of the competent authority and/or the tasks related to it may be delegated to, or carried out by, another authority, either for a category of PCIs or on a case-by-case basis. To respect the devolution settlements for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, I propose the general approach that the responsibilities of the competent authority should be delegated to the relevant devolved Administrations where both that part of a PCI in the UK is wholly within their national territories, an adjacent area of the UK territorial sea or an area of the UK continental shelf and where they exercise all the relevant consenting functions.

For PCIs where more than one UK Administration exercises consenting functions in respect of the project, I propose to consider delegation of the CA responsibilities on a case-by-case basis, after consulting all the relevant consenting authorities.

In proposing to delegate competent authority responsibilities to the devolved Administrations, I intend that they should apply the “collaborative procedure” described in article 8(3)(c), which requires the competent authority to agree with the other authorities concerned, a reasonable time limit within which the individual decisions shall be issued on a case-by-case basis and monitor compliance with the time limits by the authorities concerned. This will provide all of the authorities involved in the permitting process with clarity about the time scales and processes for reaching co-ordinated decisions, as well as clarity on who has responsibility for carrying out the competent authority’s functions in relation to a particular PCI, while reflecting existing arrangements under the devolution settlement.