Updates to the Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (EN-1)

United Kingdom

The Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (EN-1) sets out national policy for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) in the energy sector. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has now published revised EN-1 for consultation, which ends on 25 May 2023. This can be viewed in full here. There have been various amendments to this from the previous version in September 2021. We outline a number of key amendments below.

The updated draft EN-1 gives greater focus on the importance of delivering affordable decarbonisation. This is in light of the Net Zero Strategy, which is available here. The September 2021 version of the EN-1 recognised that if demand for electricity doubles by 2050 as anticipated, there would need to be a fourfold increase in low carbon generation. However, the updated EN-1 also recognises that this would require “significant expansion of the networks that transport power to where it is needed”. In light of a commitment that by 2035, all electricity will come from low carbon sources, this update of the EN-1 re-emphasises the existing notion that the majority of new generating capacity needs to be low carbon.

When discussing the role of interconnectors, the updated draft EN-1 has added further emphasis to their importance. Draft EN-1 now recognises the ability of interconnectors to provide access to a more diverse pool of generation which allows for importing/exporting electricity at a lower cost. These changes also note that interconnectors can “help to reduce the curtailment of renewable energy”. This is an important recognition which was not acknowledged in the previous version. This could have a positive impact on consenting of interconnectors as they become a more prominent feature of the renewable energy industry.

Draft EN-1 provides that the “Government has concluded that there is a critical national priority (CNP) for the provision of nationally significant new offshore wind infrastructure (and supporting onshore and offshore network infrastructure)”. This will undoubtedly have a positive impact for offshore wind consenting. This is followed by a point taken from EN-3, that the urgent need for this CNP will generally outweigh other residual impacts which aren’t capable of being mitigated. The conclusion here is that CNP infrastructure is strongly supported by government and that it should be “progressed as quickly as possible”. It is also emphasised that a strategic approach to network planning should be taken, recognising the proposed move to ‘Centralised Strategic Network’ planning, in order to expedite the consenting process for offshore wind. We will comment on this further in a LawNow on offshore wind specifically.

The updated draft EN-1 provides more detail regarding the Government’s exploration of blending hydrogen into the current natural gas distribution networks. The updated EN-1 notes potential for up to 20% hydrogen by volume to be blended and a policy decision is being targeted on this in 2023. If the decision to proceed with blending is positive, the Government will then look to start the legislative and regulatory process for enabling blending, as well as the process to make any physical changes to the distribution networks that are required. Given the timelines for this work, government does not anticipate blending at a commercial scale to commence before 2025, at the earliest. We will comment on this further in a LawNow on hydrogen specifically.

On the whole, a key take-away from the updated EN-1 is that the government has recognised more strongly the “urgent” need for implementation of new energy developments which is a positive step for the industry. Our Easter series (announced here) will continue with a focus on specific technologies.