The Scottish Government consulted on proposals to revise fees required by the Electricity (Applications for Consent) Regulations 1990 on applications made under sections 36, 36C and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989.
The consultation document set out proposals for increases to the existing fees, the introduction of new fees for applications under section 36C of the Electricity Act 1989 and the phasing of payments of the application fee at the EIA Scoping stage. The consultation posed 8 questions, with a closed agree / disagree element and also inviting further comment.
The final number of submissions received was 38, including 34 from group respondents and 4 from individual members of the public.
The key findings from the analysis are that respondents views are as follows:
- Current fees are considered to be too low though the fee increase proposed is excessive and disproportionate.
- There is a risk to making onshore renewable generation uneconomic – negative impact on renewable energy deployment and progress to targets.
- More clarity is required over the service improvements to be delivered, such as more certainty around decision timeframe and timely decisions.
- Planning Authorities should receive greater remuneration.
- There is an opportunity to reconsider the categories of fees.
- The variation fee should be substantially lower than a new application fee.
- There should be a second round of consultation as justification for the increase is weak. A revised Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) should be undertaken.
- Implementation of a fee increase should be delayed and should have a grace period.
- Costs would be passed on to consumers – the proposed S37 application fee increase for small scale grid would be a significant increase. The proposed section 36 application fee increase would add 25% to development costs for some large scale projects comprised of both new applications and variations to existing consents.
Table 1. Questions asked by consultation
1 Do you agree or disagree the application fees should be revised to maintain and improve our service levels?
2 Do you agree or disagree that we should continue to have a fixed fee structure as proposed?
3 Do you agree or disagree with the proposal that application fees should be phased in the manner proposed, to spread the risk associated with potentially abortive or unsuccessful application costs?
4 Do you agree or disagree the existing arrangement should continue where the same fee is required for overhead lines exceeding 15km in length whether or not there is EIA development?
5 Do you agree or disagree with the introduction of a fee for processing applications for variations of consent, whether for EIA or non-EIA development?
6 On balance, do you agree or disagree with the fee levels proposed?
7 Do the proposals in this consultation have any financial, regulatory or resource implications for you and/or your business (if applicable)?
8 Do you have any other comments?
Table 2. Summary of views of respondents
|Q||Agree||Disagree||Unclear / no answer||Respondent types with most widespread agreement||Key comments from respondents who agree||Respondent types with most widespread disagreement||Key comments from respondents who disagree|
|1||22||58||11||29||5||13||Planning authorities / other public bodies, professional firms, political organisations, and individuals||The principle of cost recovery and maintaining and improving the service is supported in principle. Fees levels should be adjusted up or down. The Scottish Government should provide greater detail on improvements to be made to the service. Greater remuneration should be given to planning authorities.||Electricity networks companies||Fee levels too high. Lack of detail on Scottish Government resource costs to understand how the proposed fee levels were arrived at. The Scottish Government should provide greater detail on improvements to be made to the service. Greater remuneration should be given to planning authorities.|
|2||23||61||10||26||5||13||Planning authorities / other public bodies, professional firms, political organisations, and electricity generation companies||A fixed scale on basis of generating capacity or length of line is easier to understand, provides certainty to developers and avoids red line boundaries being manipulated to reduce fees.||Individuals||There should be a sliding scale rather than discrete bands. Fees for variations should be tiered significantly lower. Scoping and screening payments are not justified at the levels proposed. There should be different fee levels to encourage larger, more efficient turbines with a lesser environmental footprint.|
|3||22||58||11||29||5||13||Electricity networks companies, business/developer membership organisations, planning authorities / other public sector bodies, political organisations, and individuals||Recognise benefits in phasing of the application fee. Question whether the proportion to be paid at screening or scoping stage is appropriate.||Professional firms and consultants||Developers would face more upfront financial exposure. Early engagement with stakeholders would be discouraged. Fee rebate arrangements should be introduced where applications are withdrawn and resubmitted.|
|4||11||29||9||24||18||47||Planning authorities / other public bodies, political organisations, and individuals||For EIA proposals over 15km, the resource required to provide a response would be unlikely to be less if it were not EIA development. A commensurate share of the fee should go to the local planning authority.||Electricity networks companies, business/developer membership organisations, and professional firms and consultants||The scale, nature and length of the overhead line together would provide a more appropriate basis for fee charging than whether or not a given line requires EIA.|
|5||22||58||7||18||9||24||Planning authorities / other public bodies, political organisations, professional firms and consultants, and individuals||Variation applications require resourcing from the consenting authority. The proposed fee levels are disproportionately high.||Electricity networks companies||The proposed fee levels are disproportionately high. Consideration should be given to two tiers of fees for simple (or non-material) variations and more complex variations.|
|6||27||71||5||13||6||16||Political organisations||The proposed fees are comparable with fees in England and Wales. The Scottish Government should aim for parity with fees charged elsewhere in the UK.||Electricity generation developers, electricity networks companies, business/developer membership organisations, and planning authorities / other public bodies||The proposed fees are disproportionately high. Justification of the proposed increases is weak or insufficient. There would be a negative impact on the renewables development industry and progress to targets. There would be added pressure on consumers' bills. The local planning authority should receive greater remuneration. The fees would not be high enough to cover the costs, particularly if planning authorities were to receive a proportion consistent with the equivalent planning fee.|
|7||32 responded (84%)||Businesses and developers (including electricity generation companies, electricity networks companies, professional firms and consultants) and their membership organisations advised there would be a negative impact on business, jobs and the wider economy, reducing the pipeline of projects under development or deployment, restricting progress to the Scottish Government's energy and climate change targets; limiting scope for community benefit and community ownership; and adding pressure on consumers' bills. Planning authorities and other public sector bodies commented the business and regulatory impact assessment should consider impacts on planning authorities, suggesting that payment of greater remuneration to Local Planning Authorities would allow investment in staff and resources and the building of capacity to deal more effectively and efficiently with such applications. The political organisation added that the proposals discriminate against the local authorities that do much of the work, which would amount to a tax on local authorities by central government.|
|8||23 responded (61%)||Points were made regarding potential service improvements developers would like to see; issues on which clarification was requested; the alignment of the proposals under consideration in this consultation with other planning related work by Scottish Government such as the Planning (Scotland) Bill; reviews of the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy; and, index-linking of fees.|
Email: Energy Consents Unit