Utility Week

Utility Week 19th September

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UTILITY WEEK | 19Th - 25Th SEpTEmbEr 2014 | 13 Policy & Regulation This week Permits 'will protect water from fracking' Stringent permitting will be sufficient to safeguard against fracking pollution, MPs are told A rigorous permitting regime for the fracking industry will ensure that water quality remains unaffected, MPs have heard. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) select com- mittee was told by new environ- ment secretary Elizabeth Truss and the Environment Agency that an extensive permitting regime will ensure that water remains protected from any potential fracking pollution. Truss said the current permitting regime for the onshore oil and gas sector "has been working well for a number of years", but additional permits would be needed before fracking could take place. She added: "Provided we've got the right checks and balances in place – through the Environment Agency as well as the Health and Safety Executive, the planning pro- cess and the Department of Energy and Climate Change's own permitting process – there are a wide range of gov- ernment departments making sure this is done properly. "We can be sure this is safe and has a low impact on the environment." Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster added that no drilling operations, including hydraulic fracturing, are allowed to take place close to drinking water aquifers due to the risk of polluting the water: "We don't allow drilling to happen in source protection zone one, which is the area around drinking water aquifers." Water UK told Utility Week that while it has concerns about the impact of fracking, it is comfortable with the regulatory regime the UK government has in place. MB WaTEr Action on flooding has 'deteriorated' The government's action on flooding and coastal protection has shown " deterioration since 2010" according to a report by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). The EAC's environmental scorecard said work to prevent flooding has decreased, or will not hit satisfactory levels by 2020. It has therefore issued a red warning. Amber warnings were issued over water availability, as well as over efforts to curb emissions and tackle climate change, signalling that "satisfactory progress" is not being made. The EAC highlighted that 3 million properties are at risk from surface water flooding, and 2.4 million from coastal or river flooding, and stated that "sustainable drainage systems needed to be developed". It also stated that "building on floodplains should be reduced substantially" to prevent proper- ties being flooded during and aer periods of heavy rainfall. EnErgY Four tariffs plan for white label suppliers White label energy suppliers will be granted their own four- tariff limit under proposals put forward by Ofgem last week. Under a temporary arrange- ment put forward by the energy regulator, white label suppliers – organisations that do not hold a supply licence, but instead work in partnership with a licensed supplier – had their tariffs included as one of the four tariffs offered by their parent supplier. In a consultation, Ofgem proposes to "treat white labels as separate from their partner supplier" and to not set a limit on the number of white labels that a supplier can have. The consultation closes on 6 November 2014, and the pro- posals are expected to be imple- mented in the first half of 2015. EnErgY Call for published retail 'price to beat' UK consumer group Which? has called on regulators to imple- ment a guideline price for retail energy suppliers to help drive competition between suppliers and reduce consumer bills. The group says its proposals stop short of full price regula- tion, but would enable consum- ers to have an idea of what a fair price is for their energy bills by publishing an independent 'price to beat' benchmark. This could also spur energy companies to compete with the benchmark to offer consumers a better deal, the group said, while increasing consumer trust. Truss: "We're making sure this is done properly" Political Agenda Mathew Beech "The Tories need a strong energy showing this year" Remember last year's party conferences and that Miliband moment? In an instant, Red Ed topped the red-tops and bossed the broadsheets. He was every- where and the shadow Decc team loved every minute in the spotlight and leading the energy and cost of living debates. This year, fresh from a purge of the "male, pale and stale" in his ministerial team, David Cam- eron will be hoping his chosen ones will turn the headlines – and voters – back to blue. Matthew Hancock, the new Michael Fallon in the business and energy briefs, has made a slightly more solid start, but dented his achievements having been caught out misusing parlia- mentary stationery supplies. The Tories need a strong energy and environment show- ing at their party conference aer a quiet, and somewhat overshadowed, 2013. And those in Conservative HQ will make sure that Hancock and Truss are well aware of it. But environment secretary Liz Truss, who has stepped into the wellies of her much maligned predecessor Owen Paterson, made a shaky debut in front of the Efra committee. While she had the party line toward fracking nailed – "we can be sure this is safe and has a low impact on the environment" – her knowledge of the subject and its potential impact on aqui- fers (granted, not exactly pub quiz knowledge) was patchy. She instead relied on Paul Leinster, the Environment Agency's chief executive, to inform the committee exactly how fracking will be kept environmentally safe.

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