Revolt news 173
1. At last night's REVOLT AGM, it was decided to keep the name REVOLT without a specific form of words for the acronym, but to allow multiple variations, including "Reason and Evidence versus Overhead Line Transmission", which, although appropriate, was thought rather dry. The original was Rural England etc. but we soon found we were just as involved with urban concerns and we had support beyond England. Suggestions please!
2. The outcome of last night's review of objectives was to replace the first objective, which referred to the Lackenby - Picton - Shipton line, by a more general version, and to add a fifth objective. The resulting set is: * To oppose unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development; * To press for a co-ordinated UK energy policy; * To monitor developments related to powerlines and to liaise with similar organisations; * To promote a precautionary policy on public health matters relating to powerlines; * To promote alternative systems of transmission.
3. The AGM also considered a draft position statement in depth and made several amendments. The result is published for consultation and response from members and other contacts (APPENDIX 1).
4. The Chairman's Report of October 2004 is at APPENDIX 2.
APPENDIX 1 REVOLT Position Statement October 2004
REVOLT was founded in 1991 principally to object to the proposed 50-mile 400 kV overhead transmission line from Teesside to York, using evidence, analysis and technical expertise. A second objective was to promote rational energy distribution policy. The group had all-party support and worked in collaboration with the several local authorities involved.
The Electricity Act 1989 had privatised the UK electricity industry. A "dash for gas" characterised generation in the early 1990s, as North Sea gas was exploited. This threatened to exacerbate the north - south separation of generation from demand. In the 21st century, gas is running out and government policy is driving renewable generation, especially wind farms.
After several public inquiries and hearings, with unprecedented numbers of landowners refusing to grant voluntary wayleaves, and after objectors won many concessions and delays, the new Yorkshire line was completed in 2003. By this time REVOLT was an internet-based international focus for public concerns about transmission lines, related energy policy and electro-magnetic fields (EMFs).
This position statement declares REVOLT's stance on key issues at October 2004.
2. Politics and argument
REVOLT is strictly non-party-political and has enjoyed support from all the main UK parties. We seek to follow reason and evidence in arguing a balanced and credible case, informed by up-to-date science and technology, and so welcome discussion and stakeholder dialogue.
3. Public electricity supply
While bulk generation of electricity involves waste, pollution and energy costs, REVOLT recognises the benefits of a public electricity supply and accepts the need for distribution and transmission networks. Connection to a public network can make local and renewable generation and CHP more economically viable. We do not necessarily accept all the compulsory powers in their present form and we are concerned about human rights issues.
4. Energy policy
REVOLT takes no position on economic growth or privatisation, but recognises the importance of secure and reliable energy supply, of sustainability and of efficient use of natural resources. The benefits of competition have to be weighed against the problems of private interests, regulated monopolies and market distortion. We support the broad principles of localisation and CHP, diversity of energy sources and methods, and low-carbon energy. We encourage the development of renewable and hydrogen-based energy in place of carbon-based energy.
5. Global warming
REVOLT recognises the scientific evidence, and the uncertainty, on the different questions of * the nature and extent of global warming, * the increase in greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, * the relative influence of human and natural (e.g. solar) effects upon climate change, * the risks and benefits of climate change.
REVOLT supports reducing human greenhouse gas emissions as a precautionary measure, provided that such measures are proportionate and do not unfairly or unreasonably create other forms of damage. We recognise the importance of climate change but feel the view of the Environmental Audit Committee (of UK MPs) that "combating climate change remains the single most urgent priority facing mankind" overstates it.
6. Wind farms
Wind power can provide some net renewable energy, but has serious limitations arising from its intermittence and high variability. Factors to be taken into account include: * energy cost of concrete foundations and construction, and of local infrastructure, * economic cost of stand-by generation and grid reinforcement, * environmental impact of infrastructure and grid reinforcement, * limited market penetration due to grid stability and balancing issues, * bulk long distance transmission implications.
As a precautionary measure in response to the uncertainty of global warming, REVOLT encourages wind power development near areas of net demand and not in areas of high landscape value, subject to local consent and careful environmental impact assessment. With these provisos, large offshore developments near the Thames and Mersey may be appropriate, whereas large-scale wind farms in the Hebrides would not be.
7. Nuclear power
REVOLT takes no firm position on nuclear power per se. On the one hand there are advantages of an essentially carbon-free, large-scale source of energy. On the other hand there are dangerous waste products, albeit in small volume, with both political security and long term disposal problems.
Nevertheless REVOLT encourages continued research and appraisal of nuclear technology, including the use of distributed small-scale generators, either based on standard submarine engines, or with new cleaner technology such as pebble-bed reactors, and calls for feasibility studies for use in the UK.
8. Transmission lines
REVOLT accepts the need for a basic transmission grid to provide a secure public electricity supply, although we oppose unnecessary, excessive and intrusive development. We advocate more local generation and CHP with the aim of broad balance of regional generation with demand. Inter-regional grid will still be needed for security and balancing purposes, but bulk dislocation of generation from demand should be reduced. Transmission standards should be applied carefully in the public interest, for a minimal necessary grid, and not abused in order to promote excessive or speculative development. We encourage technological innovation into alternatives to overhead lines and into better pylon design and location, for example along motorways.
9. Underground cables
REVOLT recognises that underground cables are more expensive than overhead lines, though suspects the difference is sometimes exaggerated, as is the impact of undergrounding. We encourage research and development into new technologies. Remote drilling and tunnelling technologies are already well established. DC cables offer advantages for long undersea or underground cables. Superconducting technology offers potentially more favourable cost ratios when the large savings in electricity losses are taken into account. We recommend short-stretch undergrounding to reduce residential impacts, and pilot development of new technologies for long-distance transmission in scenic areas such as the Ullapool - Beauly - Denny proposal in Scotland.
10. Environmental appraisal and protection
REVOLT supports the environmental principle of internalisation: that is the secondary effects and environmental damage caused by a project should be assessed and charged to the project, in determining its viability. This also reflects the polluter-pays principle.
In a hybrid economic system with private regulated monopolies, costs borne by utility companies may in any case be passed on to consumers through allowed price increases. This is one way to fund undergrounding and new technology in the public interest.
Proposals for new power stations should be required to include all transmission implications as secondary effects within their formal Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). An appropriate share of the cost "deep reinforcement", in addition to local connections, should be charged to the power station developer.
Where wayleaves for power lines are due for renewal, with or without the voluntary agreement of the landowner, and the original installation was not subject to EIA, an EIA should be required in the public interest. Local planning and public responses should then be sought, in the light of which Secretary of State should have the power to revoke consent.
11. Property devaluation and compensation
While there is no entitlement to a view in English law, there is a serious injustice when significant damage to quality of life or loss of property value is imposed disproportionately upon residents, as a result of a public or private development. The injustice is particularly great when a new powerline passes through a neighbouring property close to a family residence, leaving the family with no influence on wayleave matters and no compensation, yet facing losses possibly greater than their life savings. The injustice applies both to imposed visual impact and to imposed EMF exposures and health fears, particularly in urban housing.
REVOLT feels that compensation for new powerline developments should, in the public interest, reflect property devaluation and should extend to all residents affected as well as wayleave grantors. Although wayleave grantors receive compensation, current levels are far too low and should be reviewed. The lack of adequate compensation for wayleaves should not be allowed to create an unfair inducement to concede permanent easements. The cost of all such compensation should be incorporated in the cost of the powerline project, and allowed by the regulator within reasonable limits to be passed on to consumers.
We accept that such compensation may not readily extend to all commercial development, but recommend such a policy for quasi-public developments such as powerlines, wind farms and phone masts, as a matter of public interest and justice. Adequate levels of compensation would reduce objection and deter excessive development.
12. Public health issues
Electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) from powerlines are recognised by IARC (the International Agency for Research in Cancer) as a possible carcinogen, in the light of the persistent association with childhood leukaemia. There is a body of evidence suggesting other diseases, such as cancers and neurological diseases, may also be associated. Apart from EMFs, powerlines emit corona ions causing clouds of charged aerosol particles to drift in the wind, although it is not firmly established that this causes specific harm. Biological evidence suggests there may be cumulative damaging processes, such as stress upon immune systems, pro-oxidant stress, or cumulative damage to DNA which eventually leads to cancerous cells.
REVOLT accepts that it is plausible that EMFs and / or charged aerosols may contribute to cumulative biological effects which can eventually become harmful, and therefore may be factors in multi-causal and multi- effect modern diseases affecting immune, neurological or other systems, particularly in susceptible sub-groups of the general population. On the other hand, we recognise that the number of cases of childhood leukaemia attributed on current knowledge to EMF from powerlines is very small, although it is likely to be understated through reference to inappropriate exposure measures (not focusing on nocturnal exposure and suppression of melatonin) and through inappropriate study populations (diluting effects by considering only whole populations and failing to consider susceptible subgroups, whereas, for example, important genetic subgroups have been identified).
Therefore REVOLT recommends precautionary policy in reducing such exposures as far as reasonably achievable. This should apply immediately to new powerline proposals and to new building near existing powerlines, and, in a phased programme, to reviewing existing exposures from existing powerlines. We note that some other countries have already adopted precautionary measures.
MJOC (as amended 29.10.04)
APPENDIX 2 Chairman's Report 2004.
Finally last year the full 50 mile Lackenby - Picton - Shipton 400 kV project, which included 6 km underground, was completed. Organised local objection in North Yorkshire has therefore practically ended, although some landowners continue to experience difficulties with National Grid and questions have been raised about reinstatement of accesses. The legal battle fought by Rosalind Craven at Huby is not yet over. We may hear more of that soon.
When the new line was proposed in 1991, following the approval of the Teesside Power Station (i.e. the Enron gas-fired plant), a key objection was that it was not needed. Since then the picture has changed. Mooted new gas-fired stations on Teesside never materialised. The Blyth coal fired stations in Northumberland closed. Gas supplies are running down, and new energy policy places wind farms as a top priority. Undersea cables form Norway to Hartlepool are proposed, but far from certain.
Wind power presents many problems as it is very variable and intermittent. The combination of intermittence and remoteness places great strains on the electricity grid, especially as market penetration increases. When he was energy minister, Brian Wilson promoted the idea of an undersea cable to take power from Hebrides wind farms direct to Merseyside, but this seems to have been dropped. Instead a 200 mile 400kV line is planned through Scotland's scenic Highlands from Ullapool via Beauly to Denny in Perthshire.
If wind power were to be taken to the extent envisaged in government policy, then more large powerlines will be needed throughout the UK. The engineering and economic folly of such an extent of wind power will hopefully become clear before it gets that far, as Denmark and Germany are already finding. In the meantime, Revolt keeps in touch with wind farm objectors such as Country Guardian and CPRE, and acts as a contact for objectors to the Ullapool - Beauly - Denny line and other damaging development.
A stakeholder advisory group (SAGE) hosted by the Department of Health is developing UK precautionary policy on health issues from EMFs. Credit where it's due, the group was formed following an initiative of National Grid. I serve on it. Recognition of the need for precaution, and of the grounds for concern about exposures, is a step forward from the long years of denial.
Revolt has become largely an internet organisation. Contacts are received from many other countries and from people in the UK with local problems. The web site has several hundred page downloads every day, with over 1,000 on the busiest days. We continue to monitor government energy policy and to make submissions to government departments and regulators when appropriate. Over the last year 22 issues of Revolt email news were circulated.
Mike O'Carroll, Chairman
-- Mike O'Carroll