Motion to Resolve (Continued)
My Lords, from European affairs, we return to planning matters in the United Kingdom. As a preface to my Motion, I completely agree with my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding’s view that the phrase,
“there is a significant need for new major energy infrastructure”,
in the Government’s conclusion on need in EN-1 gravely underestimates the critical nature of the situation that we face.
In moving my Motion, I return to a subject that I first raised in an energy debate in this House on 27 October 2005, when I spoke of my anxiety about the way in which the planning applications for two new liquefied natural gas terminals in Milford Haven had been handled. I concluded that speech by saying:
“I pray that no serious accident involving LNG will occur, but it seems clear that the present arrangements, fractured between shore and ship, and with marine controls that are not sufficiently independent, open or subject to second-party review, are seriously flawed. Any major accident would not only have a tragic impact on those directly affected, but would have devastating consequences for LNG operators and British energy policy. Before applications are made for terminals at other places, we need sounder planning and safety management arrangements put in place. Port authorities should be statutory consultees in the planning process. A port authority dealing with safety issues should not be able to plead exemption from the Freedom of Information Act or to withhold information about safety issues on grounds of commercial confidentiality. I question whether a voluntary port safety code is an adequate defence; and surely if a commercial organisation is the policing authority, there should be a process that enables a truly independent body to review its actions and intervene if serious faults are revealed. The case for a review before something goes badly wrong is surely compelling”.—[Official Report, 27/10/05; cols. 1338-39.]
On 11 March this year in the Grand Committee debate on the draft national policy statements, I repeated many of those arguments and expressed astonishment that the solitary paragraph about safety issues in policy statement EN-4 refers to the Control of Major Accident Hazards—COMAH—regulations and the roles of HSE and the Environment Agency, which apply only to the land-based facilities. There is no mention of maritime risks that arise from LNG shipping operations within a port, believed to be significant by both HSE and the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators. In the Grand Committee debate, I quoted from the recommendations issued by SIGTTO. The operators’ exemplary record has been due to strict adherence to those recommendations. Safety is by far the most important factor on which decisions about the siting and operational rules for LNG marine facilities should be based.
In the draft overarching national policy statement for energy, EN-1, there are just two paragraphs relevant to LNG. Paragraph 4.11 on page 48 states that,
“the IPC should consult with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on matters related to safety. HSE is responsible for enforcing a range of health and safety legislation applying to the construction, operation and decommissioning of energy infrastructure. Compliance with this legislation is not, therefore, likely to be relevant in the determination of development consent by the IPC”.
The second paragraph states that some energy infrastructure will be subject to the COMAH regulations enforced by HSE and the Environment Agency. Given more time, I would challenge the dubious assumption that compliance with these aspects of health and safety legislation is not likely to be relevant in the determination of development consent. The COMAH regulations and the work of HSE and the Environment Agency do not cover the marine port risks.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, like his noble friend the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, in the 2005 debate, confessed to ignorance of what he said was rather a new issue to him. I do not blame him for that. He referred me to page 13 of the appraisal of sustainability document, which—it is my turn to make a confession—was new to me. It said that,
“the safety of shipping and navigation is an important issue for all shipping, especially LNG tanker shipments. The existing legal framework and its enforcement will ensure that LNG tanker shipments are safely regulated”.
I wish that were true but I fear it is not. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, went on to quote from the appraisal document’s description of the arrangements covering operations at sea and then the single sentence about port operations, that,
“there are special rules regarding port operations for LNG vessels with detailed procedures set out port by port”.
I asked the Minister’s private office to send me the document and was grateful to the official who told me that I would find the page numbered 13, rather curiously, on page 311 of the 360-page appraisal. It is also on page XIX of the introduction. The document describes itself as a non-technical summary of the appraisal of sustainability, or AoS, report. I hope that means that the actual report is more impressive than the summary, although the thought that it will be much more than 360 pages is pretty daunting.
The appraisal is primarily directed at environmental and sustainability targets and not at safety issues. One important point is clearly made: the appraisal will not guide the decisions of the IPC. Page III says that,
“for this infrastructure, EN-1 in conjunction with the gas supply infrastructure and pipelines NPS (EN-4) will be the primary basis for IPC decision making”.
That being so, safety issues must be adequately dealt with in EN-4.
What happened in Milford Haven provides ample evidence that the existing legal framework is not satisfactory and is incapable of creating the level of public confidence that the Government should be seeking to achieve. It would be shocking if Parliament approved a planning system that encouraged the IPC in England, or the Welsh and Scottish authorities, to take decisions on the basis that the existing legal framework was adequate in its present form. The draft EN-4 must now be amended to include a proper statement of the regime that applies to LNG vessels operating in British ports, and, I hope, of a much-improved regime.
As a start, the IPC should be required to consider—as is the case in some other countries—whether these facilities should ever be placed in close proximity to large centres of population. There needs to be guidance about the desirability of using offshore systems which allow regasification and delivery at sea. The Energy Act 2008 established licensing arrangements for offshore facilities, yet there is no reference to them in EN-1. In EN-4, there is a statement that the IPC should note that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will be responsible for licensing offshore facilities.
Paragraph 2.7.5 states:
“There are some important siting considerations which will affect the choice of LNG import and storage facility sites”.
but the following paragraph mentions only conventional “land-based terminals. It goes on to state:
“Safety considerations and proximity to dwellings, workplaces and other buildings … used by the public, will be relevant factors”,
as will as pipeline access. If they are relevant factors, and I believe that they certainly are, in a document that sets out,
“the high level objectives, policy and regulatory framework”,
there should surely be a section that indicates the potential importance of offshore terminals. Among the advantages that they offer is safety, because they can be sited well away from centres of population. They can be positioned to avoid the need to construct lengthy pipelines. In the case of Milford Haven, the pipeline crosses the whole of Wales and part of England, and includes a section through a national park. It may be possible to use existing pipelines and offshore facilities that are no longer fully being used, as has happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore terminals can be sited close to offshore salt caverns that can be used for storage, and to existing shore-based gas reception terminals.
Offshore terminals are varied in type. The terminal operated by Adriatic LNG, which is 17 kilometres offshore near Venice, uses an artificial island gravity-based structure with a large concrete box on the sea bed housing LNG storage tanks. Excelerate Energy's floating terminal, which opened in 2005, and is 116 miles off the south coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, houses purpose-built regasification vessels. Just as the US gulf coast hosts an extensive natural gas pipeline network, so does the North Sea.
My objective today is not to produce a final wording for inclusion in EN-4. To do that is not possible within the constraints of a Motion that has to be brief, and I am not a legal draftsman. My Motion stands on its own, but is primarily a prompt to the Government for further thought and action. It has been suggested to me that my Motion would be clearer if, before the reference to a quantitative risk assessment, it had some words added about the “specific duties required of a statutory harbour authority regarding the assessment of maritime risks in relation to natural gas terminals and facilities”. I hope that that suggestion, given that it comes from an expert source, will be looked at by the department.
As I said in my 2005 speech, new rules are needed for port authorities. The authorities vary in size; they may vary in relevant experience and competence; and they may, and probably will, have a strong financial interest in securing a terminal and the connected shipping movements for their port. We probably need a statutory rather than a voluntary code. There needs to be a process that ensures that an independent body reviews the actions of the port authority and can intervene if it judges that to be necessary. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport and already has the responsibility for ensuring the safety of LNG tankers at sea. At present, because the port marine safety code is voluntary, the MCA is not empowered to ensure compliance. The COMAH rules are enforced jointly in England by HSE and the Environment Agency. I see no good reason why the maritime risks within ports should not be handled in a similar way. It is important that there is no exemption for port authorities from the Freedom of Information Act, and that comprehensive information about risk assessments and measures taken to ensure operational safety are made available to the public. In Grand Committee, I quoted SIGTTO’s strong and wise words on that subject.
The current arrangements should be reviewed urgently—all the more urgently because it is already four and a half years since I first asked for a review, and we now have to ensure that the safety provisions are suitable and adequate for the underpinning of a completely new planning regime in which safety must be a paramount consideration.
My Lords, I have been instructed by the Government Whips to say that I do not beg to move my Motion at this point, but I am going to talk to it at this stage. In fact, I am not going to talk at great length because we have been through this issue a number of other times and I am sure the House does not want me to go through all the same points.
The document itself had a very important section specifically around government policy criteria for fossil fuel-generating stations and that is why I put this Motion forward. I put it forward again at this stage because emission performance standards are an important and fundamental part of management of carbon emissions from the United Kingdom. I make the point again that when we are able to set performance standards for fridges, homes and vehicles, I do not understand why we cannot set them for the most carbon intensive of operations outside maybe cement production: power stations themselves.
I have mentioned to the House before, while trying to get my words right, the large combustion plant directive; I think I have it right this time. The directive talks about SO2—sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, particulates and other types of emissions, but not carbon dioxide, which is very much the matter of the moment in terms of climate change, although those other gases are important. In the past the Government went through and said they were incompatible with emissions trading schemes. That is not at all true. American states certainly use both types of policy instrument. Again, the Government talk regularly, and rightly, about using various approaches to climate change in terms of carbon reduction instruments. This is another one which would clearly make sense.
That is my case. I will not keep the Government Whips on the edge of their seats; I am not going to put this to a vote when I am finally asked whether I am going to move it. I am aware that this is a little like a debate on Devon and Norfolk that I sat through. After four hours there was a Motion to ask the Government to do something, but on these occasions the Government tend not to take much notice. However, this is an important point and I wish to register it again. We feel this is an important instrument for the future. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, as I know she supports us in this area. I will not test it but I hope the Minister will listen.
Finally, I do not know what the protocol for this is but I should like to thank the Minister for his clear dedication to this area, his quick learning and his very positive responses to me throughout all the debates in which I have been involved since being spokesman for the Liberal Democrats on energy and climate change. I do not agree with all the Government’s climate change policy but it has certainly moved forward. Whether it is enough or whether it is quick enough are matters for big debate for us all, but under his guidance and work from the government Benches in this House we have had very good debates and very good sessions, and again I compliment his dedication to, and belief in, this subject.
My Lords, on an equally optimistic note I should like to say how thorough a job the Government have done and how thorough a service they have provided in setting out the background to major infrastructure and planning decisions in the energy area, because that is what this is all about.
Today and on other occasions, a number of noble Lords, and of course Members of the other place, have raised some important issues that the Government will no doubt reflect on carefully before coming to final views. However, setting out the policy background within which major planning decisions will be taken in the future is enormously important. The careful consultation processes that the Government have been through, spanning two or three years and probably even longer in some respects, has been painstaking but extremely worth while and will, I hope, be of benefit when the Infrastructure Planning Commission, or whatever it may be called in future, makes its decisions.
If I understood our discussions correctly, essentially over the next 10 years a number of our energy-generating plants will close, particularly coal-fired and nuclear, being replaced overwhelmingly by more gas-fired power stations and onshore and offshore wind. However, what happens beyond 2020 is still a matter of considerable uncertainty. The Energy Market Assessment document, which the Government published at the same time as the Budget and which looks at the whole question of the financial, regulatory and pricing backgrounds and frameworks within which energy policy will develop beyond this decade, will be as important as these energy planning documents.
The one word of caution that I would give to people reading these documents is that they should understand that, looking ahead to 2020 and 2030 through to 2050, the precise way in which our energy requirements will be met is by no means set in stone. When reading documents such as these, there is a temptation to think that they set out how the world will be. However, saying that there are uncertainties and that technology, pricing, market effectiveness and the consumer will all play their part is not to gainsay the importance of having a clear statement now of government policy that will be a guide to important planning decisions over the next few years. At the same time, it is important to say to the public, “Don’t think that this is a simple matter that remains fixed or easy to predict in the years ahead”.
I look forward, as I am sure do many other noble Lords, to discussing the outcome of the consultations on this latest document. The decisions that follow from those recommendations and the White Paper will be very much more difficult than planning decisions. Creating the financial, fiscal and regulatory framework that will result in the best outcomes for nuclear, wind, biomass and other forms of energy will, in many respects, be much more difficult. I suspect that it will certainly be much more difficult to get consensus across the political parties. So far there has been a great deal of consensus in this area—something on which the Government and all parties are to be congratulated. That has been very important and I hope that consensus can be found on pricing and regulation, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has already demonstrated, that may not be as easy as this stage has been.
My Lords, I shall speak to two of these Motions. The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, goes slightly further than I would, so I support its sentiment if not its actual wording. It would make it conditional that fossil fuel power stations approved by the IPC met CO2 emission performance standards as laid down by the Secretary of State, but we need some understanding about timescales. Fossil fuel power stations will simply not meet these standards if they are being approved in the next, short period; we need an expectation and a timescale for emission performance standards to be met by these stations.
It made my brain hurt to think this through, because the risk of laying emission performance standards on developers of fossil fuel generation capacity is that they will simply stop investing. They will say either that it is too uncertain or that when there has to be retrofitting of abatement technology—carbon capture and storage, or whatever—it will be too expensive, so will be a barrier to investment by these companies. What, though, is the alternative? Is it to say, “We will build a few coal or gas—or both—generating stations and if they happen to be rather heavy in carbon emissions and we cannot find an economic or practical way to abate that in the future, well, you win some, you lose some”? This does not seem to be entirely in accord with the Government’s climate change policies or with the advice they are receiving from the climate change committee. The answer must be to promote speedy piloting of carbon capture and storage and bring that—if it can be done—to marketability standards. At the same time, we must give developers of power generation a degree of clarity by laying down a date and a standard for EPS to ensure we achieve the decarbonisation of the power sector by 2013 in line with the spirit, if not the exact words, of the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change.
You could say that the new reporting clause in the Energy Bill on more regular reporting on decarbonisation of the power sector and commercialisation of carbon capture and storage might be a driver in itself; we know how government, with great cheerfulness, can continue to report on failure in other fields. You could say that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will drive decarbonisation, but the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has already said that it is not doing enough to tighten the cap on emissions. Were the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to really be a powerful driver in forcing down and capping emissions, the developers of these stations would be in the same position—they would still have to find one means or another of decarbonising on a retrofitting basis or of reducing the hours of generation of these stations. There is a real conundrum here.
An amendment to the Energy Bill, tabled in another place, proposed a timescale for the Government to come forward with a suitable framework set at a manageable level, taking account of the needs for energy security. If that were to be built into the policies we are looking at today, it would give clarity to investors, instead of the current position—that we will try to pilot carbon capture and storage and, if by 2018 it is not working, we will scratch our heads and think of something else. That is a thoroughly unsatisfactory proposition for developers in an area where we need the pace to be maintained if we are to meet the challenge of climate change. As I said, I support the sentiments behind the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, although I would like an element of timescale to be built into it.
I now turn to the second battle of Dungeness and to the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that Dungeness should come back on to the list of sites that are suitable for the development of new nuclear power on the basis that it would be premature to exclude it. It is clear that he was not impressed by my arguments about spirituality and medicinal leeches, so I shall now try to impress the House with arguments that are based on hard-nosed science, the might of the law and the fear of European fines.
This site should be excluded at this point, as even very preliminary analysis at this stage shows that it is patently not suitable. First, it should be excluded on the grounds of flooding and coastal erosion. The Environment Agency hedged its bets a bit and said that you could protect the site against flooding and coastal erosion, but because it sits on an eroding frontage it will also be subject to a rise in sea level. In the agency’s view, therefore, it will face significant difficulties. The best that the agency was prepared to say was that it will have to be further considered. Simply defending the site and holding the line would give rise to issues of habitat regulation, since it would prevent the coastline from changing and adapting naturally. Increased wave heights and increased wave energy as a result of climate change have not yet been assessed at all, so the Environment Agency’s proposition on coastal erosion might have to be considerably changed.
Protection from marine flooding relies on an existing seaward shingle embankment and is replenished, not quite daily but almost daily, with fresh shingle to shore it up. The Environment Agency said that it was concerned that it might be increasingly problematic to use present shingling recycling methods and that there is a risk of increasing the complexity of sourcing additional shingle material for beach recharge. Flood protection is a kind of treadmill process.
The most important issues for me are not coastal erosion and flood protection but the nature conservation value of Dungeness in its geomorphology, its plant and invertebrate communities and its bird life. It is protected by every designation in the alphabet soup of designations. Under the habitat regulations, it is a Natura 2000 site, a special area of conversation, a special protection area, a Ramsar site as an internationally important wetland, a site of special scientific interest and a national nature reserve. If you can find me another designation of protection, I would be vitally, wonderfully pleased, but I do not think that there are any apart from those.
The Government’s decision to drop Dungeness as a potential site for further nuclear development was based primarily on Natural England’s advice on the ability to compensate for the loss of the shingle habitat. This site is highly protected. It is one of the jewels in nature conservation in this country and one of the internationally important sites. It is not just some spare bit of shingle; it is a vitally protected international site. The habitat regulations require that a project that will have an adverse effect on a Natura 2000 site must go ahead only if three conditions are met: there are no alternative solutions; there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest; and compensatory habitat can be provided before the damage occurs.
The Dungeness nuclear proposal satisfies none of these conditions. There are alternatives; more than one power station could be built on several sites on the long list of sites, and we could jack up our activities on energy conservation, which would help as well. Secondly, if there are alternatives, almost by definition you cannot say that there is the imperative reason of overriding public interest that we damage this site. Thirdly—this is the killer blow—habitat compensation is not simply about finding more bits of shingle somewhere; it entails finding and establishing shingle with the appropriate vegetation communities. At Dungeness, these shingle and vegetation communities have developed over 5,000 years, and reflect the ridge structure and the way in which the pebbles and sediments have been formed within them. The vegetation is linked to the way in which each ridge has been deposited over history, and there have been successive waves of vegetation colonisation. Even if a fit place for compensatory habitat could be found, the very long timescale—up to 5,000 years for it to form geomorphologically and for similar vegetation to come in—would mean that we might be waiting a long time to build the nuclear power station there.
Dungeness is also an important international site with a long and detailed history of scientific study into its geomorphology and vegetation, as well as into its coastal processes. It represents over two-thirds of the exposed shingle habitat in the UK—an internationally protected habitat. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, might say that the nuclear power station proposal only impacts on about 50 hectares, but we do not want to return to the ways of old, which I mentioned when we debated this in the past. It was a kind of axiomatic truth that, if you were going to build a big piece of public infrastructure in the past, you appeared to look for an SSSI to build it on, and we had many public protests as a result.
I hope that we have come beyond that and that roads, airports and other strategic developments are not going to be built at the expense of some of these very important habitats directive sites. That was why the habitats directive was invented, and I was proud to play a part in its invention. Surely we can find ways to direct strategic infrastructure—no matter how important for climate change—away from sites of international importance. I was looking for an analogy, and it is a bit like saying that we are going to put advertising hoardings on Westminster Abbey because it happens to have a set of rather well sited walls.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that the appropriate place for this to be considered would be at the IPC and that it was wrong for the Government to drop this site. The IPC should be given the opportunity to consider it, but when a decision like this is clearly going to be in breach of European law—where the Government get fined, not the IPC, and the fines are substantial and daily—the Government would be well advised not to place Dungeness in harm’s way, as it were, with the risk that the IPC makes the wrong decision and that then the Government get it in the neck from European law and from European fining. We do not need a detailed plan to know that it transgresses European law, even with the high level of initial assessment that has been revealed.
I am encouraged rather than deterred by the DECC committee’s mealy-mouthed way of putting its recommendation. The DECC committee’s report on the policy statements asked the Government to keep an open mind and to consider the Shepway District Council evidence. It did not come out and say, “We think Dungeness should be on the list”; it simply hedged its recommendation. I believe that Dungeness is in the right place in not being on the list, and I hope the Minister will continue to support that.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have enabled us to have a further discussion about the national policy statements as a result of the Motions before us. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, explained well in his introductory remarks the role of this debate and of parliamentary scrutiny. I do not intend to repeat myself, but I would echo my noble friend Lord Woolmer in paying tribute to the thoroughness with which the whole process is being developed. I assure noble Lords that in responding to the Motions before us, and to the parliamentary scrutiny in general, we will take careful note of all that has been said. There is a lot of work before us, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, implied, before we come to a decision about adoption of the national policy statements. What is not in doubt is that there has been extensive consultation and that parliamentary scrutiny has proven to be effective and detailed, as it ought to be.
On the first Motion, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that my noble friend really answered the point, which is that, as far as the 2050 road map is concerned, a report by the Treasury and my department, the Energy Market Assessment, has been published alongside the Budget. At the back of that report there is a succinct reference to the work in relation to the 2050 road map. As my noble friend Lord Woolmer suggested, while the pathway to 2020 is clear, the initial conclusion of the assessment is that the current market framework will need further reform if it is to deliver the necessary investment beyond 2020. The report seeks to set out a number and variety of policy levers with which it could influence the outcomes delivered by the electricity market. I have no doubt that, after the election, there will need to be extensive debates on this, which I would welcome—as I would welcome standing here at the Dispatch Box responding to those debates on behalf of the Government. I do not believe that what is in the report impacts on the national policy statements before us, because it sets the context for immediate decisions to be made by the Infrastructure Planning Commission when it receives consents for infrastructure. However, it will prove to be an interesting debate in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, believes that the case in the overarching energy NPS should be strengthened from being of “significant” to “critical” importance. I do not think that we need another debate on the challenges that we face in moving to a low-carbon economy or on the fact that much of our current generation capacity—about 25 per cent over the next 10 to 15 years—is due to go out of business. However, I make it clear that the Government are not complacent. A large amount of generating capacity is in construction or has received consent and our modelling shows that, for most of the current decade, the derated electricity capacity margin will be around 15 per cent.
I recognise that there is a right balance to be struck between consenting and building new energy infrastructure and the importance of protecting the environment. That is why, advisedly, we use the word “significant” rather than “critical”. That does not seek to undermine the importance of energy infrastructure in the future—the fact that we are here is a visible sign of that importance—but we have to strike the right balance between consenting and building new energy infrastructure and the importance of protecting the environment, as well as the right balance between the importance of our national energy needs and security and protecting the quality of the lives of those who live in the communities where the infrastructure is located. That is why we think that the word “significant” takes into account the challenges that we face in a more appropriate way than the wording suggested in the Motion.
The second Motion proposes that EN-1 should spell out the Government’s environmental targets to mitigate climate change. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, referred to the absence of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, who I know takes a close interest in these matters and supports the noble Lord in this regard. This is an interesting matter. In writing the NPS, we have attempted to balance information on our overall energy policy with the detailed information that the IPC needs to take into account when it is examining and consenting nationally significant energy infrastructure projects.
The suite of draft energy national policy statements already runs to many hundreds of pages. We have tried to ensure that each NPS is no longer than it really needs to be. We also wanted to avoid unnecessary repetition, so where detailed information is available elsewhere, such as in the Low Carbon Transition Plan, we have not quoted it chapter and verse in EN-1. Our intention is for EN-1 to provide the necessary background information so that the reader understands the context of our energy policy and to set out where further information can be found in more detail. In the light of tonight’s debate, I will certainly look at whether we need to have a more comprehensive system of cross-referencing to other government documents and legislation.
National policy statements are not the right place for all the Government’s environmental targets to mitigate climate change to be set out in detail. We have to be clear on the roles of the IPC and the national policy statements. The IPC is there to examine and make decisions on nationally significant infrastructure projects. Consideration of the potential impacts—both positive and negative—of projects on the environment will be a central consideration for the IPC. It is not the role of the IPC to be responsible for all aspects of the Government’s climate change and environmental policy or to meet the targets that we have set to safeguard our environment. That responsibility clearly falls on the Government. We have established other organisations, such as the independent Committee on Climate Change, with a specific remit to scrutinise and hold the Government to account on meeting these targets.
We recognise that the IPC has an important role to play. That is why the national policy statements set out a detailed framework for decision-making, providing the IPC with information on how the environmental aspects of an application can be mitigated during the construction, operation and decommissioning phases. These are vital details that commissioners will need to take into account during their examination and decision-making. Parliamentary scrutiny is vital in the process of designating national policy statements. We will take into account many of the issues raised during that scrutiny where they directly concern the work of the IPC. While we want to avoid unnecessary repetition, we have set out clearly in the overarching energy NPS the Government’s commitment to tackling climate change, but we feel that including the extensive information envisaged by the amendment would lead to both repetition and an NPS containing detailed specific information that can more readily and more properly be found elsewhere.
The third Motion relates to Dungeness. We have already had an extensive debate on this matter in Grand Committee, which will be very helpful when we come to make a final decision on the designation of the national policy statements. We have also had the recommendation by the Select Committee in the House of Commons. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggested, the Select Committee recommended that we maintain an open mind throughout the current consultation, that we consider carefully the evidence submitted to the committee by Shepway District Council and any other evidence submitted during the consultation and that, if necessary, we reconsider our position. It was a very statesman-like recommendation and we will certainly give due consideration to considering whether we should consider it.
Let me come to the nub of the point. We have assessed the site against objective criteria, on which we consulted. We said in 2006 in relation to nuclear development that we would produce a list of potentially suitable sites because we wanted to avoid long-term blight as far as possible. That is why we have gone through this special process for new nuclear sites. We have undertaken an appraisal of sustainability and a habitats regulations assessment and we have sought the advice of the Government’s statutory advisers. We excluded Dungeness because we do not believe that a new nuclear power station could be built there without causing adverse impacts on the integrity of the Dungeness special area of conservation, or that adverse impacts could be avoided or mitigated. As has been pointed out, Dungeness is the only nominated site that overlaps with a European site to such an extent that avoidance of adverse effects is not possible and mitigation of the effects of direct land take is assessed as being unlikely to be successful.
As the noble Baroness said, the Dungeness special area of conservation is considered to be the most important shingle site in the UK and Europe; indeed, it is one of the largest shingle expanses in the world. The pattern of shingle ridges at this site has built up during 5,000 years. The shingle also supports fen and open-water communities and a large and viable population of great crested newts, which form part of the special area of conservation designation. The site is considered to be one of the best shingle areas in the UK and one of the most diverse and extensive examples of stable vegetated shingle in Europe.
The imperative reasons of overriding public interest do not extend to Dungeness because of the alternatives available; that is, the other 10 sites listed in the draft nuclear NPS. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that it could well be that not all the sites eventually go forward. He must be right, because even if we were to confirm those 10 sites and applications were put forward, the decision would be down entirely to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. It is my understanding that developers have already proposed 16 gigawatts of development on sites not including Dungeness. We should not discount the opportunity of either twin or triple reactors on each site. Therefore, because of the alternatives available, we do not think that the imperative reason of overriding public interest extends to Dungeness.
This is a hugely important point. How few sites will there have to be before the imperative overriding reason, which is allowed under the European habitats directive, is activated? Does it have to go down to there being no sites left at all? The Government need to make it much clearer, so that people know where they stand.
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not give a precise answer, because I am not in a position to say, for example, “You reach two or three sites”. He will know that we have said that we reckon that, by 2025, we will need about 25 gigawatts of electricity generation which is low-carbon but non-renewable, and that nuclear developers should be enabled to make applications for consent up to that point. As it is possible for there to be multiple reactors on a particular site, it is not possible for me at this stage to say that, if one comes down to four sites, for example, the imperative reasons of overriding interest can be applied. I shall take the point that the noble Lord has raised and see whether any further advice needs to be given. At this stage, I need to be assured that enough sites for potential development are available which do not hit the problems that we see in relation to Dungeness. I stress to him and other noble Lords that I do not have a closed mind on Dungeness; we are seriously considering those points. Equally, I should not underestimate the real difficulties that we see in relation to Dungeness as a new site. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, was right to raise flood risk and coastal erosion.
At this point, therefore, we thought it right not to list Dungeness as being a potentially suitable site when producing the national policy statements. We will listen to the arguments and take into account the recommendation of the Select Committee, but we should not underestimate the problems that arise with Dungeness.
My noble friend’s words might be misinterpreted on nuclear energy. He may have said that applications that took generation up to 25 gigawatts should be considered. I understood the Government’s policy to be that there would be no artificial limits set to nuclear energy so applications for nuclear energy that went beyond that would also be considered. Am I correct in my assumption?
My Lords, if I have confused the House, I apologise. With the kind of capacity that we think needs to be available by 2025, we believe that around 25 gigawatts of low-carbon non-renewable energy are likely to be required. The nuclear industry is very welcome to make applications for new nuclear power stations in that context. I do not believe that we have placed any arbitrary limit; equally, we were being helpful in describing the kind of scenario that we thought would be required going up to 2025 in relation to both renewable and non-renewable energy. In the end, it will be up to the developer to put forward the application and for the IPC to come to a view on it. Essentially what we are signalling is that nuclear energy has a very important role to play in future. If the noble Lord invites me to say that again from the Dispatch Box, I am only too willing to do that.
I turn to the very interesting point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on the duties of statutory harbour authorities. Clearly one issue is the respective responsibilities of the IPC in relation to planning consent and other statutory bodies in relation to safety issues, both inland and on the sea. It is clear that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, is not satisfied with the current regulatory regime in relation to tanker movements and the role of the port authorities. I shall come on to that. Since I have had a little time to discover a little more about the subject, I shall point out what action can be taken by government.
On planning, the IPC is responsible for determining development consent for an LNG facility in England, although that is slightly different in Wales and Scotland. I take the English situation as an example, however. LNG import facilities are most likely to be sited on the coast; they will have unloading facilities including a jetty, onshore storage capacity for the LNG and a regasification plant. The safety of installation in such cases is enforced jointly by the HSE and the Environment Agency under the COMAH regulations. This enforcement continues throughout the life cycle of the installation from the design and build stage through to decommissioning. Under these arrangements applicants will need to assess the safety risks and how to control or mitigate them. The IPC will consult the HSE about the applicant’s compliance—
For the benefit of the House, I thought that I would clarify that we are talking about two different regimes. Encouraged by noble Lords, I come to the issue of marine safety.
Regulation for safety of LNG tanker movements is a separate matter for the harbour authority. Specific duties apply to all statutory harbour authorities, which are set out in the port marine safety code. It is not a mandatory code, but there is a very strong expectation by the Government and by other regulatory authorities that harbour authorities will comply with it. Failure to comply with the code may be relevant in determining whether the harbour authority is in breach of certain legal duties. In order to comply with the code, harbour authorities must have an effective marine safety management system which employs formal risk assessment techniques to manage their marine operations. The system should ensure that there is proper control of ship movements within harbour waters, should protect the general public from danger arising from marine activities within the harbour and prevent accidents or emissions that may cause personal injury to employees or others.
My understanding is that LNG shipping has an exemplary safety record. In more than 44,000 loaded voyages, there has never been an incident that has resulted in the loss of containment of LNG cargo. The noble Lord mentioned the Marine and Coastguard Agency. That monitors and enforces the certification regime and international standards apply to ships used to transport LNG into the UK. While all UK harbours have a duty to maintain an open port, the port authority has duties to direct vessels and to prohibit entry of vessels which are dangerous or which are carrying dangerous goods. The master of the vessel is responsible for the safety of the vessel. In the case of Milford Haven, Milford Haven Port Authority is responsible for managing operations within the port safely and efficiently. The Secretary of State can intervene if an accident occurs and there is a risk to safety or a risk of pollution by a hazardous substance. Harbour authorities are accountable for safety in their waters; they have a duty to conserve and facilitate the safe use of their harbour and powers to direct vessels. Ultimately, of course, anyone can challenge the decision of the harbour authority by judicial review.
The Secretary of State’s representative can intervene if there is a significant incident which risks significant pollution or threatens safety. In future it is possible, of course, that the Secretary of State may have powers of intervention to direct a port if it is acting unsafely. It is one of the proposals on which we consulted for the draft marine navigation Bill. The intention, if that Bill is brought before a future Parliament, is that the power would be used only in exceptional circumstances and after first consulting the harbour authority.
There is clearly a combination of national and local legislation which affects the movement of vessels in harbour waters, especially those which carry dangerous cargo. I am sure that this is not going to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, but I have tried to set out how we see statutory regulation applying. I know that he is suggesting that we, at the very least, give minimal signposts in the NPS to this position. While I cannot see a case for making these requirements part of the national policy statement, I have taken his point about the need for there to be a clear signpost to where the duties, for instance, of the harbour authority are set out. I assure him that I will consider that and see how that might be done.
I am not going to delay the House by moving my Motion but perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to draw the attention of the Department for Transport to these points? I am sorry that he has made no mention of the very real alternative of the offshore facilities, about which I spoke, and which are now in use in a number of other countries, of which I gave two examples. I hope that he will consider all these points very carefully before we have an accident with disastrous consequences.
My Lords, I have discussed this matter with Department for Transport officials and I will ensure that the point raised by the noble Lord is communicated to them.
On the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, first, I thank him for his kind remarks. It felt a bit like an obituary, but I hope it is not so. Energy is a fascinating brief, it has been a great privilege to debate these matters and I hope that I will be able to do so in the future. The emissions performance standard is a difficult issue. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggested, that is why we are having this debate. Of course, we have to reduce emissions from our fossil fuel power stations. We already have the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, but I recognise that it is not, on its own, sufficient to reduce emissions from the power sector to the extent required. That is why we have the policy of developing renewables and new nuclear and clean coal. In order to develop clean coal, we have introduced the most environmentally ambitious standards for new coal-fired power stations anywhere in the world.
Of course, with the full chain of CCS processes still not proven at a commercial scale on a power station, we know that legislation and planning frameworks are not enough. That is why we are providing crucial practical assistance. We debated some of this during the Second Reading debate on the Energy Bill only last week. We have made it clear that we expect participants in the CCS demonstration programme to retrofit CCS to the full capacity of the power station by 2025 and our aim is that coal-fired power stations built after 2020 are fully CCS from day one.
I come to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The time to consider measures such as an emissions performance standard is when the technology has either been proven at commercial scale or has been found not to work. Our worry is that to set a standard now, or at any time before we have seen results from the demonstration programme, is really not the way to go. Accordingly, we are committed to a rolling review process, which will report by 2018, to consider the appropriate regulatory and financial framework required to facilitate the full transition to clean coal.
As the noble Baroness said, the new reporting measures in the Energy Bill will inform this process, as will the future reports of the Committee on Climate Change. The new reporting regime guarantees that Parliament has the opportunity to challenge the Government on delivery of CCS. Our real concern is that the introduction of an emissions performance standard would create a level of uncertainty in the industry that would significantly undermine plans for investment in new fossil fuel generation plant. That would put at risk the demonstration of CCS and any delay in investment in gas-fired power stations will pose significant risks to our security of supply.
I know that there are concerns at what has been described as a potential dash for gas. This is not the intention of our low-carbon strategy, nor do we believe that it will be an outcome. The low-carbon transition plan sets out policies to deliver 40 per cent of our electricity from low-carbon sources by 2020. The energy market assessment, to which I have already referred, is concerned with ensuring that we have the right market mechanisms to get the right balance between the different energy technologies and to meet our emission reduction targets. The investment issue is therefore a very serious one. The energy industry, the CBI and the TUC have made it clear that it would have an adverse impact on investment in new power generation. The Committee on Climate Change did not recommend the introduction of an EPS at present.
We think that the introduction of an EPS at the moment would be premature, but we will listen to this very carefully and as the years go by, as we see the outcome of the CCS, we might have to come back to the point. I do not disagree with the noble Lord’s reasons for wishing to pursue this, but we have a real concern about a hiatus in investment. We need to see how the scaled-up CCS projects develop before we come back to the point.
This has been a very interesting debate; I think that parliamentary scrutiny of the national policy statements has been very effective. My department now has a great deal of work to do in order to come to a final view, but I have no doubt that it has been very valuably informed by our debates in your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I promised that I would not exercise my right of reply at any length, and I will not. On the Minister’s final point, I am not satisfied that the way that we have dealt with this has been the best one. The right answer—I said this during our debates on the Planning Bill—would have been to have had a Joint Committee of both Houses so that this House as well as the other place could have listened to the evidence and had the chance of examining witnesses. We did not have that; instead, we had what I might call unilateral debates in the Moses Room. I want to put that on the record. There will be further national policy statements, and it would behove whichever Government is in office after the election to have another look at that.
It would be sensible, once we have gone through the initial national policy statements, for there to be an opportunity for a discussion, perhaps in a debate or through the usual channels, about how we felt the current process worked and what improvements could be made. I agree with the noble Lord on that.
The Minister has also indicated that he is going to take “careful note” and that he has considered everything that has been said—I have taken all his words down—so it would be entirely otiose if I were to go on any longer. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.