REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 317

Revolt news 317 16/01/2011 Print (pdf) Version

1. The group PLACE has made a late submission to the KEMA review. The submission includes papers by Prof Oswald with direct comparisons of costs of overhead versus underground 380kV cables for particular projects in Germany. PLACE also notes from NG’s own figures that the cost-ratio for cables through an existing disused railway tunnel compared with overhead is only 3 to 1.

2. PLACE’s submission refers to “the internationally acclaimed beauty and variety of the British landscape” and to “Access to tranquil and undamaged countryside”. It calls for evaluating “the costs to the community and to the environment of NOT undergrounding” over a 40-year life span, in agreement with CPRE. We also support this call.

3. PLACE argues for non-overhead solutions for the Woodhead-Stalybridge 400kV line in the Peak District National Park. Among such solutions it suggests the “surface trough” method, which is like underground cables carried in a duct on the surface of the ground, and can suit certain terrains. In particular, PLACE reports NG said in 2009 that surface troughing (along an old railway track) would be viable for 11km down Longendale. The Terms of Reference for the KEMA review do expressly include surface troughs among methods to be considered.

4. The Terms of Reference for the KEMA review state “The availability of an independent and authoritative report should avoid time being wasted at IPC hearings dealing with this issue”, an objective with which we heartily concur in principle. In practice however there are already several so-called independent and authoritative reports, but they do not agree. Rather their conclusions tend to reflect their sponsors, be they government, industry or objectors. The KEMA review will be yet another, funded by NG at the request of government department DECC and Sir Michael Pitt, chair of the IPC. To achieve the stated objective, perhaps pooling the adversaries may help. A joint report establishing common ground could be most useful. I suspect there is a good deal of potential common ground which could be established. I also suspect that the very hasty government-industry KEMA review with its shortcomings in stakeholder engagement may only exacerbate the disagreements. I hope IPC will not try to use it as a steamroller.

5. Suffolk County Council is organising a National Symposium on Future Electricity Networks on 19 Jan at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London, to be chaired by Tim Yeo MP, chairman of the House of Commons Committee on Energy and Climate Change. Presentations will be led by NG, government and industry, with a slot for “Suffolk / Somerset Amenity groups”. I regret I am unable to attend at short notice, but it is a timely meeting of wide public interest across the country in view of the current NPS re-consultation and other events.

6. Given the longer-term ambitions to create some tens of GW wind energy capacity in the north and west of Scotland and elsewhere, it is likely that in the longer term there will be several more 400kV powerline proposals than are presently discussed in strategic papers. Although the network is more complex and displaced generation is involved, the underlying arithmetic is simple, if at peak power there is an additional, say, 20 GW from northern Scotland to southern England by new double-circuit 400kV powerlines with typical capacity around 4GW each. Either the British landscape is to be radically transformed by powerlines (and turbines), or under-sea and under-ground long-distance alternatives such as HVDC will need to be installed, unless other radical new developments for energy storage and transmission change the nature of the electricity system.  

7. It is important that the potential strategic development of the electricity systems (in the UK and EU) should be openly debated with public consultation and neither determined nor prejudiced behind closed doors by joint industry and government interests in ENSG or elsewhere. The full picture of potential strategic development should be disclosed when local proposals for new substations or powerlines are discussed, because of the future mutual implications between those local proposals and national strategy.

8. The latest IPC newsletter (14-1-11) highlights the Localisation Bill. Its sponsoring government department DCLG sees the Bill as heralding “a shift in power to councils and communities” and anticipates that “the functions of the Infrastructure Planning Commission will transfer to the Secretary of State in April 2012”. The Secretary of State will be advised by a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit in the Planning Inspectorate with policy set out in the NPS. I am not convinced that this will be any more “local” than the IPC.

Statements made by the editor or by other parties and quoted for information do not necessarily represent the views of Revolt. Criticism of government and industry, and grievances from members of the public, are in the nature of Revolt's work, though we try to give credit where it is due. Revolt is strictly non-party-political and regrets any offence which may be inadvertently caused.




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