REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 332

Revolt news 26/06/2011 Print (pdf) Version

1. Andrew Hope (mid-Wales group STOP) draws attention to NG’s Quarterly Connections Updates (TNQCU) which includes updates to SYS and ODIS. The 2011 SYS (Seven Year Statement, dated 31 May 2011) is now available on the web. Its data-freeze-fate is 31 Dec 2010 so the April 2011 Update succeeds it. We are with ODIS 2010 until renewal in September though there are recent future-scenario notes. GettingConnected/ContractedGenerationInformation/TNQuUpdate/

2. The final NPSs (news331.9-10) documents include a government response to consultation. One serious flaw seems to be that in para 3.63 it rather pushes aside appraisal of underground cable (UGC) alternatives since they don’t require consent. However, Environmental Impact Assessment requires that alternatives are properly assessed, so comparative assessment of overhead lines (OHL) and UGC should be central to policy.

3. A further key flaw in the government response to NPS consultation is that in paras 3.64 / 3.67 the government takes its usual position of deferring to industry to decide whether to propose UGC in part or whole. This can’t be left to industry! Industry is constrained with financial interest arising from the regulator Ofgem’s decision not to allow UGC costs to be recovered in prices, unless they are required by consent and planning decisions. Such constraint prevents NG from volunteering UGC. This full issue should be addressed in national policy and NPSs, otherwise the buck continues to be passed, so preventing fair up-front consideration of UGC.

4. The government response in 3.76 says it is “never out of the question, in principle, to consider alternatives to overhead lines (e.g. as part of an environmental statement), even if the latter remain the developer’s preferred option and are considered acceptable in planning terms”. That would seem to imply that Secretary of State could decide, on advice of the IPC or planning inspectors, to reject an NG-proposed OHL even if it were (intrinsically) acceptable in planning terms, on the grounds that a better UGC alternative would be available. That’s rather contradictory to the other two policies of “no view on UGC” and “let industry decide”! The whole consideration is prejudiced from the start, as NG is constrained to start with preferring OHL.

5. The reference in 3.81 to Ofgem encouraging burying powerlines in National Parks and AONBs is gratuitously misleading, as that is financially relatively insignificant and amounts to a few short lower voltage lines. It is a pity the government so misleadingly overplays this cosmetic token.

6. Stour Valley Underground (SVU) newsletter 25 June highlights four topics: - National Grid's imminent Bramford to Twinstead Corridor Announcement - The threat to the Waveney Valley - National Grid start to mobilise - The Government's National Policy Statements - have they got them right? - The Supergrid: Its implications for us

7. SVU report that NG has determined Bramford-Twinstead route corridor 2B as ‘preferred’. The old story, 2B or not 2B! The option would also need a new substation “on very high ground for this low relief landscape”. It will be important for objectors not to concede any “least worst” route. Local authorities in Cleveland and Yorkshire made that mistake in 1992. If it was a mistake! It becomes an invitation to inspectors to recommend that route on the grounds that it is admitted as “least worst”.

8. SVU sends generous offers of help to others facing the threat of pylons, not least in the tranquil Waveney Valley between Norfolk and Suffolk. Contact

9. SVU sum up the published NPSs, which are to be debated in Parliament, saying “much more lobbying is still required”. One criticism which resonates with us and with NG’s consultation is “An example is the gross overstatement of the size of the swathe of land that is required to underground power lines”. Anyone is welcome to come to Yorkshire and see how benign UGC is in practice, even with old technology. No visible swathe at all!

10. Great credit to SVU for developing the future electricity scenario grandly under the banner “Supergrid comes to the rescue”, encouraging government to think big. Even larger scales of transmission will be needed, with opportunities for new UGC technologies. A “step change” is signaled in evidence here to the Parliamentary Select Committee. SVU say “What is required is not just evolution or a need for patching up of the old system … [which is] utterly wrong and likely to be superseded in the near future … [and] could leave vastly costly transmission assets stranded”.

11. We would like to see more such forward thinking from UK government, along the lines of SVU above, instead of leaving piecewise shorter-term development to industry. National Grid’s extended NETSO responsibilities (para 3.67 of government response to NPS consultation) do not achieve this; they just extend the piecemeal approach to the near-offshore.

12. On underground technology, SVU report “In a paper presented this year to the IEEE (available here), it was shown that going forward, GIL for HVAC and Elpipes for HVDC are the most economic technologies for transmission in the future, costing less per unit of electricity transmitted than overhead lines”. The government’s response to NPS consultation (3.70 etc on piecemeal approach to UGC; 3.72 on cost) is some way off the mark since it still clings to the assumed relative cheapness of OHL; that may apply to small piecemeal development but not, according to the above, to the large-scale step changes needed strategically.

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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