REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 348

Revolt news 20/1/2011 Print (pdf) Version

1. Montgomeryshire Against Pylons (MAP) gave evidence on the 12th January to the Welsh Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the renewable energy policy TAN8, blamed for blighting much of mid-Wales as an industrialised area. MAP has detailed maps, for display in local communities on request, of National Grid’s powerline proposals for mid-Wales and Shropshire.

2. From the latest MAP newsletter: “The slogan NO Pylons NO Windfarms has united people throughout mid-Wales and the Shropshire borders in a campaign to fight the desecration of our countryside and sent a clear message to politicians and planners.” The combined impact of proposed windfarms and pylons will be severe indeed on a large scale, in mid-Wales as in much of the UK. This was foreseen by early protesters going back more than ten years, and they did successfully resist some proposals, but the technique of ‘salami-slicing’ the developments in small increments successfully hid the ultimate cumulative impact from the wider public. Until now!

3. Responding to the government consultation on ROCs, the subsidy for renewable energy, MAP calls for zero ROC for wind farms. This may be the “Consultation on the Renewables Obligation Banding Review”, Reference Number: 11D/876, which closed 12 Jan. Revolt has since 2005 called for wind power to be re-classified as non-renewable because of the high level of non-renewable backup required (news184-185), except for “Good Quality Wind Power” e.g. with its own renewable backup and storage. The note from 2005 is attached as a pdf file.

4. Recent enquiries have highlighted the need for a wider understanding of precaution for EMF. The findings of the UK SAGE Group’s first interim assessment 2007 deserve to be properly understood and communicated. The UK government’s interpretation is too one-sided. APPENDIX A below summarises key points which may be missed by government and officials.

5. An enquiry from Denmark asks about safe distances from buried 150 kV cables. The electricity company plans to bury them 40 m away from houses, where the calculated magnetic field would be only 0.03 microtesla. That is about as good as it gets and we confirm that is indeed adequate precaution.

6. An enquiry from London concerns a substation to be built next to E. Wood butchers’ shop. The Islington community is said to be "outraged by how things have been handled". An Islington Councillor is quoted from an article in the Evening Standard: "I think it's a great shame that Maurice is going to close. But there's no evidence that having a small sub-station next door poses a health risk," he said. "If the council had been shown any evidence whatsoever, it would have been considered, but we haven't." It looks like the classic put-down of “there is no evidence” (news347) in the face of hundreds and even thousands of relevant peer-reviewed scientific papers. We would draw the council’s attention to the WHO EHC237 report and the UK SAGE report and the comments at APPENDIX A below.

7. The case in Islington would depend on technical details about the substation and its siting. It is possible the butchers’ shop already has higher exposures from its own internal wiring and nearby cables than would be expected from the substation. Nevertheless it warrants checking. We understand that Powerwatch has investigated this case and concluded it is too late for formal response as approval was given last year.


APPENDIX A Key points of SAGE 2007

The SAGE report (but not the government or HPA response to it) is to be recommended as a quasi-independent group effort. Members of the group had individual associations, but the group included members from public concern groups as well as academics and government, public health and industry representatives. The group could not agree on key proposed recommendations, so the reader of the SAGE reports should look further than the recommendations which were made.  

Some key points agreed or acknowledged in the group and in the reports were:  

1. There is a case to consider and some precaution is warranted (this is also agreed by WHO).

2. Precaution should be on the ALARA principle (as low as reasonably achievable), although much depends on the meaning of 'reasonably'.

3. There are two key views of the science; SAGE called them the HPA/WHO view and the California view. Both are legitimate and based on evidence. The HPA/WHO view is the most recognised and 'established' but the other view cannot be ruled out.

4. These two views are manifest especially in the range of health impacts they recognise. The HPA/WHO view recognises only childhood leukaemia (for which the risk is typically doubled for 24-hour average exposure above 0.4 µT compared with below 0.1 µT). The California view recognises other associated outcomes for which there is a basis of scientific evidence. Since the SAGE 2007 review this evidence base has strengthened, notably in neurological diseases and especially Alzheimer's. These two views of the impact were denoted by SAGE as CL (for childhood leukaemia alone) and CL+.

5. The difference between the two views would correspond to a factor of around 100 in the impact. The reason is that there are several more diseases or outcomes in CL+, and some of them (like depression and Alzheimer's) have much higher incidence in the population than the comparatively rare childhood leukaemia.

6. The impact, capitalised to allow for future years of exposure, on a typical home in England exposed above 0.4 microtesla was noted as around £1,000 on the basis of CL. Therefore the capitalised impact on the basis of CL+ would be around £100,000 per home.

7. Based on the HPA/WHO view, the group could not recommend a general policy of burying high voltage (HV) powerlines, and could not recommend a general policy of separating HV overhead powerlines (OHL) from residential homes by a set distance (to create a separation corridor). That does NOT mean that the group agreed to recommend against these options. Simply, the group could not agree to recommend them.

8. The above recommendations, particularly the corridor option, could have been supportable in some form on the basis of the higher impact of CL+. Burying a HV powerline might be supportable on cost-benefit analysis in some circumstances, though SAGE did not pursue this. Depending on the population density, it may be worth, with cost-benefit analysis based on CL+, burying some lines by reason of health concern alone [there can also be added reasons such as visual amenity].

9. The recommendations which SAGE did agree (jointly from both viewpoints) were therefore weaker than either a separation corridor or burying.  

Overall, SAGE recognised plural valid views, but could only agree precautionary measures supported by the more restricted view (HPA/WHO). A proper independent and pluralist view, still staying within legitimate scientific evidence and interpretation, could allow stronger precautionary measures, on the basis of impacts lying within the range of the two views.

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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