The scheme comprised two gas-fired electricity generating stations with associated infrastructure, on-site energy storage capacity and scope to secure carbon capture. The examiners recommended that the proposal should be rejected because the need for gas generation capacity had not been demonstrated. They advised that it would lead to a 90 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the existing plant, conflicting with the need to decarbonise industry. They also found that it would make no net additional contribution towards ensuring security of supply and delivering affordable electricity.
The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy took the view that national policy statements on energy outlined a presumption in favour of the scheme, taking into account the need to maintain safe, secure and affordable low-carbon supplies of energy. In her view, the panel had been incorrect in seeking to establish whether the scheme met a national or local need for energy generation. The fact that the project would lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions did not displace the presumption in favour of granting permission, she held.
A carbon capture readiness statement submitted by the applicants indicated an ability to provide enough space within the site for carbon capture, although as yet the necessary infrastructure was untested and the cost of provision had not been modelled. They pointed out that the government does not intend to roll out carbon capture and storage until the 2030s, once appropriate testing has been undertaken.
While in no doubt that the scheme would have negative visual and landscape impacts, the secretary of state found that these were the only significant drawbacks. She concluded that the government’s policy of delivering a net zero economy by 2050 did not preclude consent being granted for the project and that strong economic and energy security arguments weighed in its favour.
Examiners: Richard Allen and Menaka Sahai