The Infrastructure Planning Commission has started to consider applications for energy projects including energy-from-waste plants that produce more than 50MW.
The IPC was formed in October 2009 as part of a move to strip local authorities of the ability to block or delay projects considered to be of high national priority. It aims to separate national decisions from individual planning concerns.
Planning Minister John Healey said: If we are to be competitive in the global economy and have a good quality of life, it is clear we need a better system for planning and building the infrastructure the country needs. The IPC will be a faster and fairer system that is important for delivering these improvements, and with up to £50 billion worth of investment in the pipeline, is vital to help drive economic growth and recovery. It will also help meet our targets towards becoming a low carbon country, with a new generation of investments essential to the future of the country.
In the next 15 years we will need to replace about a third of our electricity generating capacity to keep pace with making much greater use of renewable energy or we will fail to meet our ambitious low carbon goals.
The IPC are expecting to consider a project application for two EfW plants operated by waste firm Covanta. One EfW plant is planned for Merthyr Tydfil and the other is planned for Bedfordshire. A biomass power plant is also being proposed by renewable energy firm RES New Ventures for Northumberland.
However, critics of the IPC have suggested that the proposals will have little relevance to the industry as too many proposed EfW facilities will miss the 50MW threshold, which is the equivalent of a facility processing more than 300,000 tonnes of waste per year to qualify.
AEA Technology waste management consultant Adam Read said that the IPC planning proposals will not have a significant impact on the waste industry in the short-term but may become more prevalent in a year or two if the IPC change the criteria for approval, for instance, lowering the tonnage or energy requirement.
His comments follow the recent announcement by the Conservative Party that it would abolish the IPC if it came to power while retaining its expertise and fast-track process. The Tories will do this by creating a specific unit for major infrastructure projects (the Major Infrastructure Unit), with its own special character, within a revised departmental structure that includes the Planning Inspectorate.