Utility Week

UTILITY Week 30th January 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 30Th JanUarY - 5Th FEbrUarY 2015 | 13 Policy & Regulation This week Fracking projects face environmental veto Water companies to be consulted on shale gas projects under amendments to Infrastructure bill Labour this week succeeded in banning fracking in groundwater protection zones and adding 12 other environmental regulations to the Infrastructure Bill. Under the amendments, water companies will also become statutory consultees for shale gas planning applications. In a heated debate, Labour MPs cheered when their proposals were adopted by the government and added to the Bill. The measures state that fracking cannot take place unless: an environmental impact assessment has been carried out; independent well inspections are carried out; a 12-month monitoring period at any potential fracking site is completed; and measurement and monitoring of fugitive methane emissions are published. The new clause 19 also states that fracking is banned in groundwater protection zones, within or under protected areas; at depths of less than 1,000m; unless planning authorities consider the cumulative effect of fracking activities; and unless community benefit schemes are provided by the fracking companies. Fracking will also be prevented unless: residents in the affected area are notified individually; the substances used are subject to approval by the Environment Agency; land is le in a condition required by the planning authority; and water companies are consulted. Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said: "This is a huge U-turn by the government and a big victory for the protection of Britain's environment." MB EnErgY UK to hand energy powers to Scotland The UK government has set out its devolution plans for Scotland, including a greater say on energy policy for the Scottish parliament. A bill to devolve powers, based on the Smith Commission report, has been set out aer the 'no' vote in September's inde- pendence referendum. It plans to give the Scottish government powers for onshore oil and gas licensing, and a for- mal consultative role in design- ing renewable energy incentives. Ofgem will also lay its annual report and accounts before the Scottish parliament, and submit its reports to appear before com- mittees in Holyrood. The parliament will also be able to design and implement energy efficiency and fuel poverty strategies, although the respon- sibility for the way the money is raised will remain reserved. WaTEr Water companies to advise on buildovers The water companies are to start work on a national code of practice on how they will deal with applications to build close to or over sewers. Last week, MPs called for a framework to provide a "degree of certainty" about how applica- tions to extend properties over or within 3m of a sewer are dealt with. Currently, each regional water company follows its own practices and processes. Conservative environment minister George Eustice said a code of practice would "prevent water companies from charging excessively for agreements". Water minister Dan Rogerson will write to Water UK get some "momentum behind the idea". EnErgY Network connection probe targets SSE SSE will face an Ofgem investi- gation into its network business aer a recent review of the sector uncovered potentially anti- competitive behaviour in the electricity connections market. The regulator said it will investigate whether SSE used its position as a dominant distribu- tion network operator to put smaller rivals at a disadvantage. New customers, such as housing developers, do not have to opt for the local distribu- tion company to connect to the grid, but Ofgem said incumbent providers such as SSE continue to dominate the market. Ofgem said it has reported the "possible breach of competi- tion law" to the Competition and Markets Authority, which is already investigating competi- tion in energy more broadly. See analysis, p15. Impact assessment must be done before fracking Political Agenda Mathew Beech "Government is still keen to go all out for shale gas" With the election only weeks away, the cry from the govern- ment's energy benches is "Free- dom (from foreign energy)!" Ed Davey has been cajoled into the role of William Wallace and is singing the praises of fracking. "It will be fracking amazing to have secure and domestically produced energy", may be what he is saying to gov- ernment colleagues. Certainly chancellor George Osborne is. But, in a hastily published report, Joan Walley and the regulation protecting the water source. Plus, the problem that the UK still largely relies on gas for heating and cooking. That gas has to come from somewhere. So, the EAC wants a fracking ban, Labour has called for, and got, strict regulations and the government is still keen to go "all out for shale gas". The winner of the ideological fracking debate in parliament will come down to one thing: whether the industry will be able to pay its own way. Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have called for fracking to be banned. It will take too long and blow the (carbon) budget, they decree. They also call for it to be banned near groundwater aquifers to prevent pollution of drinking water supplies. But the government remains convinced it can go frack into the future and ignite a fossil- fuelled bridge without reneging on the UK's legal obligations under the Climate Change Act. Decc has said shale gas can be used in a carbon-constrained world. Indeed, it says it will sup- port development of intermittent renewables. Then there is the robust

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