REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 3

Revolt news 8/03/2012 Print (pdf) Version

1. Good news from Stour Valley Underground (SVU), campaigning against the proposed NG 400kV Bramford – Twinstead line. They have put forward a proposal which does away with the need for a new 400kV substation. It is for an underground 132kv line to be installed from Braintree Substation, near Freeport, to Rushley Green Diamond near Castle Heddingham. This new line would connect to and deliver power to the north-going electricity distribution line from Rushley Green instead of the NG proposed substation. SVU are told that this proposition is currently being considered by both National Grid and the local distribution network operators, UK Power Networks (UKPN), who are in negotiations with one another and are both currently unwilling to comment (on this proposal).

2. Yet another undergrounding report has been published this year, on 17-1-12, along with the PB Power report produced 31-1-12 through IET (news349) for NG and the UK government (DECC). The 17-1-12 report is specifically on the Meath-Tyrone Interconnector by an International Expert Commission for the Irish government (DCENR). The same caveats apply as for the PB Power report, and again it provides a useful perspective to add to the others. However the 13MB file for 67 pages, which also petty-mindedly prevents copying extracts, is unreasonably user-hostile!

3. The Meath-Tyrone report had a brief to consult stakeholders including objectors and to consider their perspectives, and to do so in the light of latest technology and benchmarks. As with the PB Power report, both GIL and HVDC are considered. Underground HVDC is recognised as “a viable option”. Section 4.3 of the Meath-Tyrone report shows the progress and scale of HVDC installations reaching 7000MW per line over 1500 – 2500 km. The report does not recommend any particular technology but recommends against fully AC undergrounding from Meath to Tyrone (not against HVDC). However, like the PB Power report, it only assesses technical engineering aspects and costs, not human and environmental impacts.

4. Powerwatch identifies a disturbing case of EMF exposure: “Barking Riverside is a major infrastructure development, properly started in 2009 (but in planning before that) for over 10,000 homes (mostly social / affordable housing) on a site that is crossed by several powerlines.” Some homes come within some 60 metres from a “completely unbalanced” 275kV line, and a 550-pupil primary school is between the 275 and 400kV lines. The government response to the SAGE report did not adopt a policy option to separate new homes and lines, leaving the Barking development probably compliant with government policy; SAGE had adopted the ALARA principle (to make EMF exposures as low as reasonably achievable) but this has been lost sight of in the government’s blunt general policy.

5. Andrew Darke advises of important clarification from Ofgem (at APPENDIX A below), resulting from dialogue between PLACE and Ofgem in January and February. PLACE had asked whether RIIO-T1 would enable funds for the undergrounding of the Stalybridge to Woodhead section of the 4ZO 400kV line beyond the Peak District National Park.

6. The Ofgem Factsheet 109 referred to in the clarification is called “Visual Amenity and Network Regulation”, dated 24.20.11. It includes: Our new RIIO approach to network regulation (Revenue = Innovation + Incentives + Outputs) helps us to make an informed funding decision. The new RIIO model provides scope for companies to justify higher expenditure in the near-term to deliver long-term value for money.

7. In summary, Ofgem has a funding allowance for mitigating existing transmission lines in National Parks and AONBs, and can allow funding for mitigation of new lines anywhere provided it is supported by cost-benefit analysis. In both cases (existing and new lines), the power company would have to take the initiative (or else be forced by a planning decision).

8. Like PLACE, we do not yet see National Grid taking the initiative, despite its encouraging words in its new Approach to undergrounding (news339 – “proof of the pudding is yet to come”).

9. Ofgem’s inclusion (in its clarification at APPENDIX A below) of health problems among the “wider socio-environmental considerations” reflects what we have long argued: that even if the potential health concerns may not on their own outweigh cost considerations for mitigation, they should be included as a contributory part of the whole impact to be weighed in total against costs. However the power companies’ approach, post-SAGE, seems to be to limit health considerations to compliance with ICNIRP plus the limited general precautionary measures approved in the government response to SAGE. In this way the power companies fragment and sideline health concerns as a mere compliance issue, thereby dismissing them as an “acceptable” impact removed from the total assessment. That is not what SAGE recommended!

10. Andrew Hope draws attention to the ENSG updated Feb 2012 report on its Vision for 2020 for transmission in Great Britain. The updated report considers “possible alternative reinforcements” and “possible provision of new subsea links from Scottish Islands to the mainland, the inclusion of further options for reinforcements notably a possible HVDC subsea link from North to South Wales and a possible third HVDC link between Scotland and England”. “Possible reinforcement options” for the AC transmission grid and “potential offshore HVDC links” are listed. For example, tables 27 and 28 (pages 107-8) and the map at page 106 illustrate possible developments for the English east coast. The report is an important industry update of strategic possibilities (see Revolt strategy guide with news318).

11. The ENSG Vision for 2020 suggests, on page 17, that there are six alternatives to the overhead 400kV AC line through Somerset from Hinkley Point to Seabank, which is currently before IPC after NG consultation. They include subsea lines, either AC or HVDC, from Hinkley Point to Seabank (up the Severn estuary) or to Aberthaw in South Wales (across the estuary, a much shorter distance).

12. The public inquiry in Armagh into the NI interconnector started on Tuesday 6 March. It is said to be “still at the preliminary stage of arguing whether the application is valid or not”. The application is only for the shorter part of the project, the part in Northern Ireland, which prevents proper assessment both of more radical whole-island alternatives and of whole-project cumulative effects.


APPENDIX A Clarification from Ofgem on funding mitigation of powerlines

Ofgem pointed out that its statutory powers to set a general allowance to address visual amenity impacts of existing lines end at statutory boundaries. Nonetheless, under RIIO-T1, it is also within scope for the companies to propose extra funding for the purpose of mitigating the specific impacts of a new line on visual amenity or other features of special interest where it can demonstrate the that long term benefits of doing so is greater than the costs. It is also within scope for Ofgem to approve a specific allowance to mitigate the impacts of a new line within the RIIO-T1 framework wherever it is situated i.e. within designated or non-designated areas, as long as it can be demonstrated it is a value for money proposal over the long term, taking into account wider socio-environmental considerations, including where relevant loss of amenity, loss of property value, deaths, injuries and health problems associated with ohtls, and loss of tourist income over the 40 year life of the asset. The costs and benefits of new lines will vary according to the specific circumstances associated with the development. Therefore, each new line are subject to detailed planning scrutiny and will be considered on a case by case basis as set out in the Government’s national planning statement. Ofgem suggests PLACE should look at a factsheet it published last year for more information on the approach under the new regulatory framework RIIO:




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