Weekly News Review - 3rd November 2023

New laws passed to bolster energy security and deliver net zero

The biggest piece of energy legislation in the UK’s history has now received Royal Assent, laying the foundations for an energy system fit for the future. The Energy Act 2023 will transform the UK’s energy system by strengthening energy security, supporting the delivery of net zero and ensuring household bills are affordable in the long-term. It will also help unlock £100 billion of private investment in energy infrastructure and scale up jobs and growth.

The Act aims to keep energy costs low by delivering a more efficient energy system in the long-term. It will do this by reducing network operation and development costs through a new tender process, which will increase competition in Great Britain’s onshore electricity networks. This new model is expected to save consumers up to £1 billion off their energy bills by 2050.

Other important inclusions are new measures for Energy Smart Appliances which could reduce system costs by up to £10 billion a year by 2050, new consumer protections and frameworks which could generate total bill savings of £5.6 billion, and a specific merger regime for energy networks estimated to save households up to £420 million over the next decade.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “The Energy Act is the largest piece of energy legislation in a generation. It will boost investment in clean energy technologies and support thousands of skilled jobs across the country.”

“It lays the foundations for greater UK energy independence, making us more secure against tyrants like Putin, and helps us to power Britain from Britain. The Act also supports our new approach to make sure that families don’t feel a disproportionate financial burden as we transition to net zero, and forms a central part of our efforts to keep people’s bills affordable in the long-term.”

Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive of trade body Energy UK, said: “As the world shifts its focus towards net zero, the energy sector needs long-term certainty to remain internationally competitive and attract private investment. This critical piece of legislation is a welcome step in delivering that confidence by establishing new business models, improved customer protections, and frameworks for investment across the energy sector.”

Sizewell C nuclear plant project disputed at Court of Appeal

A hearing has begun to determine whether a development consent order for Sizewell C was lawful without any assessment of the environmental impacts of an essential fresh water supply. Planning permission for the EDF led project was ruled lawful by a High Court judge in June. However, Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) successfully won the right to appeal that decision in September, triggering the latest hearing at the Court of Appeal in London.

Together Against Sizewell C has argued that when the project was granted planning permission the government failed to assess the environmental impact. The two-day hearing is being led by Lady Justice Andrews and Lord Justice Lewis and will focus on how a permanent water supply to the site will be provided.

EDF has said that Sizewell C would use energy created at neighbouring nuclear power station Sizewell B to run a desalination plant while construction takes place. However, a permanent water supply has not been arranged yet. Nuclear power plants require large volumes of water during operation to produce steam and provide cooling.

A TASC spokesman said in a statement: “It is clear the business secretary needed to guarantee how a permanent water supply of two million litres per day for Sizewell C would be obtained, before giving consent. However, the environmental impact of such a plant was not included in the planning application for the nuclear power plant, and therefore was neither assessed nor taken into account.”

A Sizewell C spokesperson said: “The High Court has already dismissed two previous attempts by TASC to apply for Judicial Review on this issue. Sizewell C has a clear water supply strategy which will help to increase water availability in the region in the long term. The project will help to pay for a mains pipeline that will bring the necessary water for the wider area, as well as supply Sizewell C.”

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