7 December 2009

Archaic system and complex red tape threaten UK energy security

Archaic system and complex red tape threaten UK energy security

THE UK’s desperate attempts to achieve energy security by 2015 are hamstrung by an archaic planning system, poor infrastructure and complex and ever-changing legislation, according to a new report.

Experts predict that 2015 will be the year in which demand for energy outstrips supply in the UK, an unthinkable situation for an economy already deeply mired in debt. However, too little is being done to pave the way for low carbon generation to come to the fore, according to the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Policy Working Group.

The group, made up of business leaders, renewable energy specialists and services professionals associated with the energy industry, has produced a report entitled Generating Growth which is published on the day world leaders gather for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The NECC report, published in partnership with Eversheds LLP law firm, has highlighted a raft of urgent changes the Government must make if a power crisis is to be averted. It raises concerns that the current planning system is not fit for purpose and says a simple mindset change among planners from one of development control to one of growth would free up major projects that are currently stalled.

It illustrates how confusing and complex the current regulatory environment is for all operators. This is arresting the flow of vital private sector investment needed for projects to reach fruition.

In addition, it outlines urgent action needed to address planning, infrastructure and red tape issues to enable the private sector to address the growing problem of rising demand for energy against a backdrop of falling production.

NECC’s Generating Growth energy policy report also highlights the positives, including how the North East of England is ideally placed to play a leading role in solving the problem through its growing expertise in low carbon power generation, renewables and energy-producing heritage.

By making the right improvements to enable the UK to avoid the 2015 energy supply time bomb, the Government will also create a gilt-edged opportunity to bridge the North-South prosperity divide by smoothing the path for long-term, sustainable power generation, according to the report.

Enabling the North East – the first part of the UK to be named a specialist region for low carbon vehicles - to take the lead in areas such as low carbon vehicles and carbon capture and storage (CCS) could bring well in excess of 40,000 jobs to the North East and as much as £10bn new investment between now and 2030.

However, it illustrates the need to have the right supply chains in place to meet the economic opportunities that new energy industries will bring, as well as the importance of ensuring companies can access the right skilled workforces to meet demand. In addition, the report outlines how businesses themselves must make greater efforts to work together with universities to innovate in the future low carbon economy.

The working group’s chairman, Peter Nesbit, who heads up Eversheds' North East Planning Team, said: “This report is a vital step forward in recognising the opportunities for businesses in this region in the energy sector. The group, which has a uniquely private sector focus, has worked hard to uncover a number of case studies which do not simply serve to highlight the barriers facing the sector but also exemplify how we might react more positively to improve our position as a region.

“Immediate action is required in some key areas and the working group has provided a number of recommendations that are considered most likely to be effective in realising our aspirations.”

Martyn Pellew, NECC president and a member of the energy policy group, said: “The UK is on a collision course with a future of blackouts as early as 2015 because too little is being done to address how we maintain levels of energy production – be it nuclear, fossil fueled or renewable.

“NECC’s Generating Growth report identifies key areas that must be addressed if we are to avert this crisis and to push ahead with low carbon energy generation in a confident and sustainable way. The consequences of inaction at this stage are unthinkable.”

The NECC Energy Policy Working Group comprised: Jon Bird, CE Electric; John Bone, Sembcorp Utilities; Ian Burdon, PB Power; Mark Dowdall, Banks Group; Dr Keith Farmery, Graphite Resources; Ian Finch, Narec; Daniel House, ARUP; Wayne Johnson, British Energy; John McCabe, Rio Tinto Alcan; Peter Nesbit, Eversheds; Martyn Pellew, PD Ports; Prof Dermot Roddy, University of Newcastle; and, Andrew Sugden, NECC.

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