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Electricity Act 1989 applications - proposed fee changes: consultation analysis

Our analysis of the consultation responses received on the proposals to increase the fees paid for applications under the Electricity Act 1989.


1. Introduction

This report presents an overview of findings from an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on proposals to revise existing fees set out in The Electricity (Applications for Consent and Variation of Consent) (Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 ("Fees Regulations 2019") for applications made under sections 36, 36C and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989. The consultation opened on 30 March 2022 and closed on 23 June 2022.

The consultation process

The Scottish Government is proposing to increase the existing application fee tariffs to more accurately reflect the costs of processing applications. The Scottish Government consulted on proposals to revise existing fees set out in the Fees Regulations 2019 for applications made under sections 36, 36C and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989.

The consultation document set out proposals for:

  • an increase to existing fee categories of approximately 20%;
  • new bandings for larger scale applications for developments that exceed capacities of 500MW, 750MW and 1 GW; and
  • changes to the fees and bandings for variation applications to reflect the increased resource needed where these applications require an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The consultation posed four questions, with a closed agree / disagree element or yes/no element and also inviting further comment as follows:

1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed application fees as set out at Table A? Please say why you have arrived at this view.

2. Do you agree or disagree with the new bandings for developments with a capacity greater than 500MW as set out at Table A? Please say why you have arrived at this view.

3. Do the proposed application fees set out in this consultation have any financial, regulatory or resource implications for you and/or your business (if applicable)? If so please explain these.

4. Do you have any other comments?

The references to "Table A" in the questions mean Table A of the consultation paper which sets out the proposed fees.

Overview of written submissions

The final number of submissions received was 25, including 22 from group respondents and 3 from individuals who appeared to be members of the public. 20 submissions were made via the consultation website and five submissions were made in writing, some of which did not adhere to the template of questions and answers used by the website – for example, not providing a clear response to the closed agree / disagree or yes/no elements but providing written comments neither wholly in clear agreement or disagreement, or raising other issues.

A profile of respondent types is provided in Table 3 below.

Table 3. Overview of consultation respondents

Group Type

Number

Percentage

Businesses and developers, including:

Electricity generation developers

10

40%

Electricity networks companies

2

8%

Developer membership organisations

1

5%

Planning authorities/other public sector bodies

8

32%

Other membership bodies

1

5%

Group respondents (total)

22

88%

Individuals

3

12%

Total

25

100%

Respondents were grouped into seven broad respondent types based on their role – five types for group respondents, and one for individuals. The main points to note about the composition of the groups are:

  • Electricity generation developers – 10 respondents representing a range of organisation sizes and types.
  • Electricity networks companies – two respondents comprised of the owners of the licensed electricity transmission and distribution network owners in Scotland.
  • Developer membership organisations – one respondent which was Scottish Renewables.
  • Planning authorities / other public sector bodies – eight respondents representing a number of local planning authorities in Scotland and Heads of Planning Scotland, the representative organisation for senior planning officers from Scotland's local authorities, and Historic Environment Scotland.
  • Other membership bodies – one respondent which was the Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland.

A full list of the respondents is included in Appendix 1.

Table 4A. Summary of responses to questions 1, 2 and 3

Question

Agree

Disagree

Unsure / No answer

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

1

8

32

8

32

9

36

2

11

44

7

28

7

28

3

18

72

4

16

3

12

Table 4B. Summary of views expressed in responses to questions 1, 2 and 3 which agree.

Question

Respondent types with most widespread agreement

Key comments from respondents who agree

1

Other membership body, networks company, individuals, and support in principle from planning authorities.

Increasing fees to achieve cost recovery is supported to reflect the level of work required in dealing with applications.

The proposed 20% increase appears to be proportionate.

Increases in fees are acceptable if they result in improvements and efficiencies in the consenting process.

There should be greater clarity and certainty on the proportion of fees to be paid to planning authorities.

Adequate resource/funding should be given to planning authorities to deal with applications as statutory consultees.

2

Planning authorities, other membership body, and individuals

New bandings reflect the level of work involved for the increasing scale of developments.

Planning authorities should receive an adequate proportion of the application fees for offshore projects.

New fee bandings introduced to deal with offshore projects may have unintended consequences for certain types of onshore development such as pumped hydro storage.

3

Electricity generation developers, the

developer organisation, planning authorities/ other public sector bodies, and the other membership body

The proposed increases have financial implications for developers as they would increase the budget required for projects.

Financial implications for planning authorities in responding to applications are significant. There is a lack of resource to respond to the applications which puts pressure on budgets.

The proposed revised fees will not cover planning authority costs, especially where a public inquiry is triggered.

Table 4C. Summary of views expressed in responses to questions 1, 2 and 3 which disagree.

Question

Respondent types with most widespread disagreement

Key comments from respondents who disagree

1

Electricity generation developers

Increasing fees is supported in principle if there are improvements to the consenting service/process.

The proposed 20% increase appears to be proportionate and reflects the level of work required.

The proposed fees are too high and not properly justified.

A 20% increase is not sufficient to cover the costs incurred by planning authorities where an application is referred for public inquiry.

The Scottish Government should provide greater detail on improvements to be made to the service as a result of any increase in fees.

The proposed fees for variation applications, particularly those that do not increase capacity, are too high and not justified by evidence.

The resources/funds for statutory consultees should be increased.

2

Electricity generation developers

Disagreement with the proposed bandings and fees without improvements to efficiencies and the consenting process.

The outcome of the previous fees consultation was to not include higher bandings above 300MW.

Larger capacity projects don't necessarily result in more complex applications and environmental issues that require more resources.

The proposed changes do not reflect a fair cost level when crossing bands.

50% of the fee to be given to the LPA would not cover the costs in all circumstances, especially where a development straddles multiple local authority areas and the voluntary payment is split between them.

3

None of the categories of respondents had widespread 'no' responses. Two planning authorities, a network operator and an individual said 'no'.

No financial, regulatory or resource implications.

There could be indirect impacts if generating stations are not pursued as a result of these increases by the loss of additional renewable energy being fed into the national grid.

Table 4D. Summary of views expressed in responses to questions 1, 2 and 3 which are unsure or response was unclear.

Question

Respondent types with most widespread response of "unsure", or response was unclear

Key comments from respondents who were unsure

1

Planning authorities/ other public sector bodies

and the

developer organisation

Increasing fees by 20% and introducing new bands for larger projects is supported.

There should be greater clarity and certainty on the proportion of fees to be paid to planning authorities.

The fees and the proportion of them provided to planning authorities should be higher than what is proposed to reflect the costs to planning authorities of processing applications as statutory consultees.

Legislation should be amended to increase the capacity threshold for projects requiring section 36 consents so that more projects are processed as planning applications and dealt with by planning authorities.

The fees for overhead line applications not requiring EIA should be the same as overhead line applications requiring EIA.

The proposed fees are supported provided they would help accelerate consenting processes – there should be greater detail on improvements and efficiencies to be made.

The proposed increases appear arbitrary and are not supported by an adequate justification or robust evidence base. It is therefore not possible to accurately comment on the acceptability and proportionality of the proposed increases.

2

Planning authorities/ other public sector bodies, a networks company, and the developer organisation

The additional fees for the higher bandings might add a significant costs to project design and development, but it is assumed that developers working at such a scale would be able to cover the increase.

Networks companies did not consider themselves best placed to respond on this question.

The proposed increases appear arbitrary and are not supported by a robust evidence base. It is therefore not possible to accurately comment on the acceptability and proportionality of the proposed increases.

3

None of the categories of respondents had widespread 'don't know' responses.

There is uncertainty over how fees are to be shared with planning authorities and if fees will cover the cost of the resources local authorities require to input to applications.

Table 4E. Summary of responses to question 4.

Various points were made and are summarised at section 3 below. Points included: increases in fees should be tied to improvements in consenting services; further information is required to justify the level of the proposed fee increases; there is a need for greater funding for planning authorities; there is a need for improving performance of planning authorities; other proposals for approaching fees scales and categorising applications; proposals for separate funding for public local inquiries; and changes to capacity thresholds for projects requiring section 36 consent.

Analysis approach

The Scottish Government carried out an internal analysis of the responses to the consultation.

The remainder of this report presents an analysis of all submissions. This includes the balance of views on the "closed" agree/disagree and yes/no questions by respondent group, and a summary of key issues raised by written responses. Our analysis has sought to identify key motivations for agree/disagree and yes/no responses, views on specific elements of proposals for increases in application fees, and any modification or alternatives suggested by respondents. The report also highlights where views or suggestions are specific to one or more respondent types.

Where respondents responded via the website, their response to the consultation closed question elements (whether affirmative, negative or not answered) is used in tables 5 to 8 below. Where respondents submitted written responses in formats of their choosing without clear separation of the closed question and written comments, the analysis has interpreted the written comments to establish whether the closed question element was met with agreement, disagreement, not answered or unclear.

It should be noted that the purpose of the report is to reflect the balance and range of views expressed through the consultation. It does not seek to provide any policy recommendations.

Contact

Email: feesreview2022@gov.scot

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