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MPs call for IPC to assess the sustainability of energy from waste fuel sources

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) should have a greater role in assessing the sustainability of energy from waste (EfW) fuel sources, according to a new report by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee.

The report entitled The proposals for national policy statements on energy focuses on the Governments proposals on national policy statements (NPSs), which will form the primary basis for decisions on planning applications for nationally significant infrastructure. The IPC was formed in October 2009 as part of a move to strip local authorities with the right of veto over key energy projects (see MRW story). NPSs set out the criteria against which the IPC will judge applications for development consent. EfW falls under the umbrella of NPSs on renewable energy.

A statement from the report recommends that the Department for Energy and Climate Change re-assess whether its current guidance on EfW ensures that only waste that cannot otherwise be economically recycled or reused is sourced as feedstock for EfW production.

The report highlights concerns from the Friends of the Earth which provided evidence for the report. The organisation expressed concern about EfW technology for NPSs on renewable energy because it felt that a large proportion of its fuel source was non-renewable. The FoE also claimed that greater development of EfW would result in direct competition with recycling and reuse as alternative waste options.  In support of this argument, the organisation noted that waste arisings were beginning to fall and recycling rates increase. It also argued that this could create a problem over time, as EFW plant operators would wish to have long-term contracts with local authorities for their fuel source and there would be a lack of fuel feedstock for the EfW plants.

The FoE welcomes the Energy and Climate Change Committees report. FoE economics campaigner Simon Bullock said: MPs have rightly identified significant flaws in the Governments draft planning policies on major energy infrastructure projects and are urging important changes. These policy statements will determine whether we get locked into a high-carbon future over the next few decades, or invest in safe, clean and green technologies.

FoE has written to Ed Miliband warning him that these proposals are probably unlawful and could lead to a challenge in the courts.

Launching the report, Energy and Climate Change Committee member Labour MP for Sherwood Paddy Tipping commented: The NPSs on energy will be crucial for delivering our energy and climate change objectives. As ministers will no longer determine planning consent for nationally important infrastructure in the future, it is vital that the NPSs are underpinned by a full democratic mandate.

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