National Planning Framework 3: monitoring report

Progress of the 30 key actions and 14 national developments listed in the third National Planning Framework.

3. A Low Carbon Place 

“Our ambition is to achieve at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” 

Map - A Low Carbon Place

The second theme of the National Planning Framework 3 focuses on a low carbon Scotland, in support of ambitious emissions reduction targets set under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Scotland is making sustained progress towards its climate targets and is on track to meet the current interim 2020 target of a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions[48].

Whilst this theme extends across the strategy as a whole, this part of the National Planning Framework 3 focuses on reducing emissions and economic opportunities arising from the energy sector. 

The spatial strategy seeks to ensure that cities and their regions would be exemplars of low carbon living and a focus for essential energy investment. The National Planning Framework 3 recognises that rural communities could benefit from well planned renewable energy development. It also highlights the significant opportunities for coastal and island areas to attract innovation and investment.

National developments

Three national developments aim to help deliver this part of the strategy – a carbon capture and storage network with thermal generation, a high voltage energy transmission network and pumped storage at Cruachan. 

Baseload electricity generation in Scotland has changed significantly since 2014. Scotland no longer generates electricity from coal. Nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness continue to operate, with some power generation from gas at Peterhead. Cockenzie coal fired power station is now fully demolished and the site is now owned by East Lothian Council. Decommissioning is underway at Longannet coal fired power station, with the transition this brings having been supported by a Ministerial Task Force and steering group. The closure of Hunterston, currently expected to take place by 2023, poses questions for the operability and resilience of Scotland’s electricity network – potentially heightening the need for new thermal capacity, supported by Carbon Capture and Storage.

Carbon Capture and Storage remains a policy objective in Scotland’s Energy Strategy[49]. Grangemouth and Peterhead were part of a competition for funding to demonstrate carbon capture and storage technology at a commercial scale, but this was cancelled in 2015. There is interest in the application of carbon capture and utilisation technologies at Grangemouth, and a small demonstrator plant is currently at feasibility stage at St Fergus near Peterhead, as highlighted in the Energy Strategy, with an operational facility expected to be available before 2030 with full market access around 2040. 

Further to Grangemouth clean coal power station, after extensive technical and commercial review, and issuance of the findings in a Feasibility Study Report[50] to Scottish and UK Government, it was determined that a much more feasible technology is a natural gas, post combustion capture, combined cycle plant. The Study concluded that compared to clean coal, public acceptance and interest from equity and debt providers deemed the gas plant as much more viable than clean coal.

Investment in Scotland’s electricity and gas networks continues (Further details on transmission upgrades yet to start have been set out by the National Grid[51]), including the following key developments including from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN): 

  • The Western Link, uses DC technology to reinforce the existing UK transmission system through a subsea cable and move electricity across the country in very large volumes. In December 2017 power started flowing through the link which when fully commissioned will deliver up to 2250MW power transfer capability from Scotland to England and Wales as well as an increased ability to import power into Scotland. 
  • The 220km Beauly-Denny transmission link was developed and delivered by SSEN and SPEN. The new line is an essential element in the development of the UK transmission system to facilitate renewable generation and to help Scotland realise its renewable energy potential, carbon reduction targets and security of supply. The line was successfully energised in November 2015 enabling almost 1500MW of additional renewable generation capacity to connect to the grid and contributing £100m to the Scottish economy through its development and construction. Work continues on the project, including the undergrounding of some 132KV circuits in the Stirling area, allowing 50 transmission towers to be removed. Other visual mitigation measures continue to minimise the impact of the new overhead line on local communities and residents. 
  • The Caithness-Moray transmission link, from Spittal to Blackhillock, was commissioned and energised in January 2019, contributing £330m to the Scottish economy during its development and construction. The £1bn transmission investment will allow for the transfer of 1200MW of new renewable generation in the north of Scotland in addition to strengthening security of supply for existing customers.
  • Under the current price control, RIIO T1, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has connected over 2,700MW of renewable generation to the network area in the North of Scotland since 2013; supporting the development of a significant proportion of renewable generation and further facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy. The majority of projects that have enabled this significant volume of connection fall within the scope of the National Planning Framework.
  • SSEN has submitted final needs cases for remote island transmission reinforcements from Orkney (220MW), Shetland (600MW) and the Western Isles (600MW) to the mainland GB grid, subject to regulatory approval and developer commitment. Ofgem has approved the Orkney link, subject to a series of conditions being met by Orkney renewable developers. A final decision on the Shetland and Western Isles needs cases is expected to be made by Ofgem in 2019.
  • SSEN is proposing a 400kV reinforcement of the existing Overhead Line network between Peterhead, Blackhillock and Kintore to assist with transferring the increased volume of renewable electricity being generated in the North East of Scotland and to accommodate interconnection from Norway. These works are expected to be completed in 2023.
  • Working with SPEN, SSEN is currently preparing an Initial Needs Case for the 275kV East Coast Reinforcement project on the existing circuit from Kintore, Aberdeenshire to Kincardine, Fife and Tealing, Angus to Longannet, Fife, followed by an uprating to 400kV operation of a number of  the existing circuits between Kintore and Kincardine. The Initial Needs Case is expected to be submitted to Ofgem in 2019 for delivery between 2023 and 2026.
  • The East Coast HVDC Project, being developed by SPEN, SSEN and National Grid, will see two HVDC Links with capacities of approximately 2GW established between Scotland and England. One of these will be between Peterhead Drax in Yorkshire expected to complete in 2029, and one between Torness and Hawthorn Pit substation in County Durham expected to complete in 2027. 
  • The SPEN South West Scotland project has reinforced the Electricity Transmission system in the South West of Scotland including a new overhead line and substation at Blackhill. Further network reinforcement options, including more extensive overhead lines have been replaced by the development of the Dumfries and Galloway Integrated Network Management scheme which uses smart grid technology to connect more renewable generation in the region to the existing transmission network[52]. Developed in stages as consisting of a number of new sub stations, overhead lines and underground cable the project has been energised in sections since 2016. Work will continue to energise the remaining sections of the project through to 2020. 
  • The Kendoon to Tongland reinforcement project will replace around 44km of 132kv overhead line, not changed for 80 years. This will secure local electricity supplies and provide some increase in transmission capacity to connect more renewable generation. This is due for completion after 2023. 
  • Feasibility work continues on the expansion of the 400kv network through the central belt. SPEN are undertaking early pre-delivery works on the proposed upgrade and reinforcement of circuits between Denny and the South of Scotland. 
  • The current regulated price control period for Electricity Transmission and Gas Transmission and Gas Distribution will end in 2021, and will be followed by new price controls SP Energy Networks SSEN networks are currently developing their business plans and will submit their final plan to Ofgem at the end of 2019. The current Electricity Distribution price control will end in 2023.

Feasibility work continues for the expansion of Cruachan pumped storage hydro, and an application has been submitted to expand the output of the consented Coire Glas pumped storage project, both projects having been designated as a European Project of Common Interest (PCI). 

National Planning Framework 3 Actions

9. “We will continue to take action to help generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020, with an interim target of 50% by 2015.”

Renewable energy provides a key means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as significant economic opportunities. Scotland met its interim target for 50% of gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2014 and this increased to 70.1% in 2017 – a record year. The Energy Strategy, published in December 2017, set a new target of the equivalent of 50% of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to come from renewable sources by 2030. 

Planning continues to provide a regulatory framework for decision making, and new targets will be a significant challenge for the planning system in the coming years. Whilst heat emerged as a new priority in the National Planning Framework 3, in the future a more ambitious approach will be needed to support the targets for renewable heat to grow so that 35% of heat for homes will be from low carbon technologies and 70% of heat and cooling for non-domestic buildings will be from low carbon heat technologies by 2032. These figures are from the Climate Change Plan, which will be updated after the Climate Change Bill receives royal assent and, which includes tighter greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets than previously.

These targets mean that renewable generation capacity will continue to grow over the coming decade, bringing renewed opportunities and challenges for future national spatial planning. The Energy Strategy set out two illustrative scenarios, showing how low carbon electricity and/or hydrogen could be used to meet future energy demand, in a manner that is consistent with Scotland’s ambitious long term climate change targets.

10. “We will apply building standards to improve the energy efficiency of existing and new buildings.”

Work to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s buildings continues. A review of Scottish Building Standards is underway and will examine the case for further efficiencies in new buildings and in existing buildings where new construction work is proposed. The planning system has a role to play alongside this, for example by managing the impact these requirements could have on the form and character of the built environment.

The Scottish Government has designated energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure priority and Energy Efficient Scotland, a 20 year programme, will make Scotland’s existing buildings warmer, green and more efficient. The National Planning Framework 4 will be an opportunity to guide the planning system to support delivery of this goal, noting that energy efficiency measures should only be applied to historic buildings where appropriate.

11. “We will work with local authorities to build national and local authority heat maps into development plans.”

Scottish Planning Policy[53] states that local development plans should use heat mapping to show where developments with a high heat demand can be located close to sources of heat supply. Plans should also identify where heat networks, heat storage and energy centres currently exist or would be appropriate. This has led to a wide range of approaches to district heating across local areas. Some are at the early stage of identifying opportunities and supporting development of district heating. Others have mapped areas of opportunity and developed supportive policies. Some have gone further by developing district heating strategies, identifying priority projects, and defining a delivery programme.

All areas now have access to a national heat map, allowing the preparation of local heat maps to inform the local development plan for the area. In February 2018, we consulted on the introduction of a statutory duty on local authorities to develop Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES). The proposal, which is still under consideration, is that LHEES would designate zones for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation to phase area-based delivery programmes for energy efficiency and identify the most appropriate heat decarbonisation options for specific areas. Zoning would be indicative and would not prevent other forms of heating from being used, but would help local authorities to communicate their strategic approach to energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation. The identified zones could be a relevant consideration for development planning and decisions and we will consider scope for further alignment in a future review of policy.

12. “We will build on progress to date to deliver our target of 500MW of community and locally-owned renewable energy and promote greater benefits from renewable energy generation.”

Scotland met its 500MW target for community and locally owned energy generation from renewable sources in 2015, five years early. Our Energy Strategy maintains our commitment to community energy and included new targets of 1GW of community and locally owned energy by 2020 and 2GW by 2030. In addition, it states that by 2020, at least half of newly consented renewable energy projects will have an element of shared ownership. Progress towards our target as at end June 2018 is 697MW.

We encourage commercial developers to implement the Scottish Government ‘Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Energy Developments’[54] and ‘Good Practice Principles for Shared Ownership of Onshore Renewable Energy Developments’[55]. These were updated in 2018 and consulted on before being published in their final form in May 2019. 

Our current Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) contract, has shared ownership as a priority. 

13. “Working with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, we will implement the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan with planning enabling development across the locations it identifies.”

The scale of activity around the sites identified in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan at the time the National Planning Framework 3 was published has yet to materialise and depends in large part on the rate of roll-out of marine renewable technologies. However, ports and harbours will play a vital role in building the projects that help to maximise our offshore renewable resource. The Scottish Energy Ports Capability Directory[56] provides up-to-date information on those ports active in the marine energy industry. 

Work has been undertaken to ensure terrestrial and marine planning processes are aligned, to enable the necessary development to take place. For example, The National Marine Plan[57], published in 2015, highlights the importance of this alignment and the requirement for marine planning to be consistent with Scottish Planning Policy and the National Planning Framework 3. Regional marine plans are now being developed in manner consistent with the priorities set out in National Planning Framework 3 and the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan. Further, a new sectoral marine plan is being developed for offshore wind energy, to ensure that the spatial strategy is in place to enable the successful development of the offshore wind sector.

Since 2014, improvements have been made to many of the harbours and ports identified within the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan, to ensure that these facilities are able to take advantages of the opportunities afforded by the growth of the renewable energy sector. 

For example, substantial improvements have been made at Kishorn port in Wester Ross, with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) investing nearly £160,000 of the total £450,000 refurbishment costs. Works have been undertaken to provide onshore support facilities for the offshore energy sector, with the dry dock facility being reinstated in early 2017, after 25 years of being dormant. The dry dock facility is one of the largest such facilities in western Europe and, as a direct result of this investment, Kishorn port has been successful in securing contracts for the supply of concrete substructures for offshore windfarms, as well as other oil and gas contracts. 

Work has also been undertaken at Nigg Energy Park within the Cromarty Firth, with planning permission and marine licenses being granted to allow the provision of deep water access and other necessary supporting facilities. As a result of these works, Nigg Energy Park has been successful in securing a contract, with support from HIE, for the assembly of turbines during the construction of the £2.6 billion Beatrice Offshore Windfarm. Wick has now been selected as the operations and maintenance port for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm, resulting in further major investment in port facilities in the Cromarty Firth region. 

Scottish Enterprise and HIE published the Decommissioning Action Plan[58] in 2016 and in 2017 the Scottish Government announced the launch of the £5 million Decommissioning Challenge Fund, to support Scottish businesses to take advantage of opportunities associated with decommissioning activity, both nationally and globally. Funding has been awarded to numerous National Renewables Infrastructure Plan ports, including Ardersier, Kishorn, Dundee, Methil and Hunterston. The funding awarded for Ardersier will be used to conduct feasibility studies for quayside extension and upgrade works, which would enable the port to take advantage of these emerging opportunities. 

14. “We will take forward a study to explore the potential role, technology options, and impacts on the energy system of an increase in energy storage capacity.”

Energy storage continues to have significant potential to support a flexible energy system and maintain security of supply in Scotland. Research published since 2014[59] shows that greatest benefit could be achieved from a whole-system network approach which supports intermittent renewable energy generation with energy storage to balance daily and seasonal energy supply and demand for both electricity and heat. As highlighted in our Energy Strategy, the importance of energy storage is anticipated to increase with the projected electrification of heat and transport. The National Planning Framework 4 is expected to explore this and other emerging technologies to provide a longer term spatial strategy that facilitates innovation and investment.

15. “The Highland Council, and Dumfries and Galloway Council will continue to work with partners and communities to develop planning frameworks associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power stations at Dounreay and Chapelcross.”

Planning frameworks for Chapelcross and Dounreay nuclear power sites are now in place with decommissioning continuing at both sites. 

16. “We will finalise the National Marine Plan, including our plans for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy, in 2014 and commence development of a strategy for the marine grid.”

Scotland’s National Marine Plan was published in 2015. It set out, for the first time, a policy framework for planning and decision making in the marine environment. 

Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal energy in Scottish Waters were published in 2013. They contained areas for potential commercial scale offshore wind and marine renewable energy in Scotland. These areas were included in the National Marine Plan. 

The continued development of technology, such as floating wind, offers scope to develop in deeper water and contribute to offshore wind energy supply. Accordingly, a new Sectoral Plan for Offshore Wind is being prepared, with the final plan expected to be published in 2020. We will work on a grid cost and capacity study that will help inform the new Sectoral Plan for Offshore Wind. 

The first review of the National Marine Plan was published in 2018[60], in accordance with statutory requirements. The review considered implementation of the marine plan across public authorities, its effectiveness and its relevance to emerging marine activity and to a changing political and legal environment.

Scottish Ministers have considered the review report and decided not to replace the National Marine Plan at this early stage of implementation and period of change.

There is a focus on addressing issues raised in the review, specifically implementation of the Plan and consideration of suggestions made to improve its future effectiveness. 

The links between marine and terrestrial planning have continued to develop since the National Planning Framework 3 was published, and it is expected that the policy framework provided by the National Marine Plan and its review, will be used to guide the development of the National Planning Framework 4. 

17. “We will support a co-ordinated approach to planning for energy-related and other key development in the five areas of co-ordinated action: Peterhead, Cockenzie, Grangemouth, Hunterston, and the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters. We believe that these locations have a nationally-significant role to play in delivering our spatial strategy.”

In terms of these key areas, progress has been made as follows: 

  • The pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan received ministerial approval in 2016. This award winning plan now provides the planning policy framework to support sustainable decision making in the region. The plan will also inform the development of the statutory Regional Marine Plans in this area. 
  • Peterhead is located at the northern end of the Energetica corridor, a lifestyle and leisure project promoting the north-east coast as a quality location for the energy industry. 
  • In relation to Grangemouth, a working group chaired by Falkirk Council is well established, bringing together business and industry in the Grangemouth area with local and national government officials to identify progress and overcome challenges. Since the National Planning Framework 3 was published, work has progressed on a flood defence scheme to address flood risk around Grangemouth and work is also progressing on the Grangemouth Investment Zone bid.
  • A masterplan for the re-development of the Cockenzie power station site has been published. Scottish Ministers approved Planning Permission in Principle for an onshore substation and connection to the Inch Cape wind farm in February 2019.
  • Hunterston remains a strategically important site, with its potential currently being explored as part of local development planning in North Ayrshire and a recent consultation by Peel Ports Group on a masterplan for the site.

Further changes since 2014

Ongoing Low Carbon Transition

In May 2018, the Scottish Government introduced a new Climate Change Bill[61]with increased target ambition in response to the UN Paris Agreement. Following receipt of independent advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change in May 2019, the Scottish Government acted immediately to amend the Bill and set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The Bill, which was agreed by the Scottish Parliament in September 2019, also updates the 2020 target to at least 56% reduction and sets new interim targets of 75% reduction by 2030 and 90% reduction by 2040. The planning system will need to continue to provide the framework in which decisions can support transformative change needed to deliver statutory emissions reduction targets under climate change legislation.

The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan[62] and Energy Strategy set out a strategic framework for the transition to a low carbon Scotland. They identify the key areas where planning will need to take an active approach to tackling climate change in a manner which delivers sustainable and inclusive economic growth. 

In addition, the Scottish Government’s Onshore Wind Policy Statement[63], published alongside the Energy Strategy, shows continued support to the Onshore Wind sector, which makes a valuable contribution to the Renewable targets set out by the Scottish Government, underlining the continued importance of this established, low cost resource. 

In March 2019, the Scottish Government published a Vision for Scotland’s Electricity and Gas Networks to 2030[64]. This highlights the need for new electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure in order to deliver principles, priorities and targets of the energy strategy and ensure wider Scottish Government policies, such as those around decarbonisation of transport, can be met. The Vision highlights the need for new network infrastructure to be developed in a way that is consistent with the National Planning Framework.

We will seek to define the role of community energy as we transition to a more decentralised approach to energy, one where local energy systems are at the centre. Our Energy Strategy made a commitment to produce a local energy system policy statement and work on this is underway, and will include a formal consultation. 

Alongside the energy sector, work continues to develop Scotland’s circular economy. Levels of waste vary significantly from year to year as a result of changes in construction and demolition wastes. Latest (2016) information shows[65] an overall decrease in waste generation from 2015 of 4.7% to 10.79 million tonnes. Household, paper and cardboard waste is decreasing but figures show an increase in animal and mixed food waste (due to the increasing success of separate food waste collections). Waste sent for energy recovery in 2015 decreased from 2014 by 2.9%. Household waste that was landfilled decreased from 45.6% in 2016 to 45.0% in 2017. 19 local authorities improved their recycling rates from 2016 to 2017 and 11 local authorities recycled more than 55% of their household waste in 2017. The percentage of household waste that was recycled has increased from 45% in 2016 to 45.6% in 2017, so that for the first time we recycled more than we sent to landfill.

If we are to achieve our ambition for a world-leading, resource efficient economy, then our understanding of how materials move through our economy and where the opportunities are to keep materials in use for as long as possible need to continue to improve. In 2017, we published a new Waste Data Strategy for Scotland[66], setting out the actions we will take to improve the collection and reporting of data, using digital solutions and innovation. This will form a basis for new systems and indicators to measure and understand Scotland’s progress towards a more circular economy.



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