Thu, 05 Jul 2012
Thea Osmund-Smith will present a paper on hot cases in environmental law at the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association's annual conference on 7/8 July.
"The imperative for new and renewable sources of energy and the fact of often substantial environmental impacts is a friction which causes significant heat locally and is a source of national debate. UKELA is bringing together some of the key interests and observers in this contentious area to shed light on what has to be achieved and the consenting process which seeks to accommodate those competing interests."
Policy approaches to the finding, generation and conservation of energy are enormous in scope. The issues which touch upon the policy approaches are global in nature and are significant drivers of international political events. Energy security is a primary consideration of all western governments and is a significant factor in political stability in developing countries and of course, in the oil producing countries. Likewise, questions of food security are closely related to fossil fuel availability and price. Political and social unrest in respect of both environmental and economic consequences of energy and food security issues has been evident in recent years.
Moreover, the policy drivers in respect of energy generation and conservation are intimately and closely linked to policy measures to address climate change. If there were one word which was most appropriate to start a discussion on how to ‘put the world to rights’, then “energy” might be that word.
The scale of the challenge which the EU member states face, including the UK, is very substantial. It has yielded targets which require significant change in the manner in which energy is to be generated whether that be electricity, heat or for transport.
The range of energy sources will be much wider than hitherto. There will be more, smaller, installations for commercial energy production. In short, there will be more development proposals. Such proposals are a form of development which is inherently viable because of the support provided by the Renewables Obligation Certificates. Such development has both policy support and, in effect, public funding - a rare combination at present.
The impacts of those proposals are highly variable. The landscape, heritage, noise and amenity issues associated with onshore wind will continue to produce conflict. As more and other sources of renewable energy are consented, the weight to attach renewables policies (cf landscape and heritage) will reduce, but that point is not imminent.