Government plans 'working group' to ease gas plant approvals

The government is to establish a working group to examine how flexibilities within the planning system could speed up approvals for new gas-fired power plants, as part of a new gas strategy published alongside today's Autumn Statement.

Gas: increasing role in UK's energy mix
Gas: increasing role in UK's energy mix
In his Autumn Statement speech, chancellor George Osborne said the strategy would "make the best use of lower cost gas power, including new sources of gas under the land".

He said the government was consulting on new tax incentives for shale gas extraction and announced the creation of a single "Office for Unconventional Gas" so that "regulation is safe but simple".

"We don’t want British families and businesses to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic", he said.  

The gas strategy document says the government will set up a working group "aimed at providing more clarity on how planning frameworks allow gas plant developers a degree of flexibility in their applications and subsequent consents under the Planning Act. Such flexibility may be needed, for example, to accommodate technology or environmental considerations".

It says the government would also welcome suggestions "to identify and, where practical, implement actions to help reduce the time it takes to bring forward an application".

It adds that the government is looking at these issues through its on-going review of planning guidance which it says is "giving priority to the pre-application guidance and associated development guidance".

Modelling detailed in the strategy suggests that as much as 26 GW of new gas plant could be required by 2030, in part to replace older coal, gas and nuclear plant as it retires from the system.

Energy secretary Ed Davey said: "Gas will provide a cleaner source of energy than coal, and will ensure we can keep the lights on as increasing amounts of wind and nuclear come online through the 2020s.

"The strategy we set out today follows extensive consultation and is consistent with meeting our legislated carbon budgets and with significant decarbonisation of the power sector".

Gas Generation Strategy can be read here.

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