SEPA has several direct and indirect roles relating to the energy industry.
Energy, both renewable and non-renewable, is one of Scotland’s largest and most important resources. However, while energy is fundamental to the economy, its production, transmission and use can have significant environmental impacts. SEPA’s role across the energy arena is to advise, influence, regulate and monitor the effects of electricity, heat and fuel generation, transmission and consumption on the environment, human health and the economy.
The Scottish Government has made decarbonisation of the energy system by 2050 a core aspect of its Energy Strategy. To enable Scottish business to continue to operate and grow, consideration and action will need to be undertaken now to ensure today's decisions do not become tomorrow's stranded assets.
The scale of the environmental challenge facing humanity is enormous, with a need for a real urgency to act. As a delivery agency under the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy, SEPA has developed an Energy Framework to clarify our remit. It highlights how we will work with partner agencies, help to deliver One Planet Prosperity and outline how we can work with communities, businesses, academic institutions and other public bodies to play our part in the continued decarbonisation of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity. We can achieve a lot through direct regulation of energy but we can achieve even more where we can influence others through partnership working.
We also support the Government’s energy ambitions through involvement in the Scottish Energy Advisory Board and its subgroups. In particular, we work closely with the Renewable Industry Leadership Group and the Thermal Generation and Carbon Capture and Storage Industry Leadership Group.
SEPA has direct duties arising from specific legislation and general duties or responsibilities under the Environment Act 1995. Specifically, we:
- regulate impacts to the water environment from energy generation under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011:
- permit combustion and power plants and industrial processes under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations (2012) (including medium combustion plants)
- regulate emissions of greenhouse gases through administering the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS), the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme and the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme;
- regulate the disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and other sources, under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (as amended);
- regulate waste management and disposal, including energy recovery from waste through anaerobic digestion or other waste management processes;
- act as a statutory consultee for development plans, many planning applications, and those applications that under Sections 36 and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 require environmental impact assessment;
- act as a designated consultation authority for Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) under the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 and through the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Scotland) Regulations 2004 ; monitor impacts on soil, water quality and biodiversity;
- seek to inform and influence domestic and international policies, for example through our thermal treatment of waste guidelines and planning advice and guidance.
SEPA also has a remit not directly related to regulation, where we seek to influence the decisions, approach and direction of others for the purpose of delivering Our Approach to Regulation and through Sustainable Growth Agreements for example.
Since energy is a reserved matter, strategic decision making roles and regulatory responsibilities relating to energy issues such as security, affordability and market fairness are made at the UK Government level. For more information, see this overview from the Government website.