Scottish Government has made decarbonisation of the energy system by 2050 a core aspect of the Scottish Energy Strategy and commits us to ensuring that by 2030, the equivalent of 50% of the total energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption would be supplied from renewable sources and Scotland’s Climate Change Plan sets out an ambitious trajectory for decarbonising heat, where, by 2032, low carbon heat would supply 35% of domestic buildings’ heat and 70% of non-domestic buildings’ heat. It is SEPA’s vision, as set out in our Energy Framework , that Scotland is sourcing, transmitting and using energy in a sustainable way, increasing environmental protection and creating prosperity and we have a direct remit to regulate, control and monitor aspects of many low carbon and renewable electricity and heat generation technologies.
Details of how we regulate each technology can be found in the following sections:
- Wind (onshore)
- Marine (offshore wind, wave and tidal)
- Hydrogen (green source)
SEPA is 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; as well 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.
Our remit in relation to onshore windfarms is to regulate the excavation and management of construction spoil and waste (particularly peat), to protect the water environment, and to minimise potential disturbances to the soil carbon balance. We also have a remit for other aspects of windfarms through acting as a consultation body for planningand environmental impact assessments (EIAs).
In order to mitigate these environmental concerns, we have a number of regulatory tools:
- Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (CAR 2011);
- waste management controls under Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (PPC 2012);
- Waste Management Licensing Regulations 2011 (WML 2011).
In addition to the requirements of these regulatory regimes, all windfarm developments require planning permission from the planning authority. Schemes over 50 MW require additional consent from the Energy Consents and Deployment Unit under Section 36 of the Electricity Actand are usually subject to EIA Regulations. Through these regulatory processes, windfarm developers will have to consider carbon savingsor development on peatlands.
For guidance and further information, please see:
- SEPA Guidance regarding life extension and decommissioning of onshore windfarms
This guidance provides a SEPA position on the life extension and repowering of on-shore wind farms as they relate to areas within our remit such as sustainable resource use, carbon and the water environment. This will facilitate a more efficient and effective response to planning consultations and licence determinations and provide a framework for engagement with other stakeholders to drive innovative approaches to delivering a sustainable and low carbon economy.
- SEPA’s planning guidance on windfarm developments
- SEPA’s guidance on assessing the impacts of windfarm development proposals on groundwater abstractions and groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems
- Research and guidance on restoration and decommissioning of onshore windfarms
- Good practice during windfarm construction
- Scottish Natural Heritage renewables guidance
- SEPA’s waste position statement for developments on peat
- SEPA’s development on peatland guidance – waste
- Developments on peatland: Site surveys and best practice
- Peat survey guidance
- Floating roads on peat
- Guidance on the assessment of peat volumes, reuse of excavated peat and minimisation of waste
Development on forested land
- SEPA’s guidance on management of forestry waste
- SEPA’s guidance on the use of trees cleared to facilitate development on afforested land
- Forest residues – key principles
- Video: Use of trees cleared to facilitate development on afforested land
All hydropower schemes, from run-of-river to pumped storage, require regulation because of their potential impact on river ecology and the wider water environment. Authorisation from SEPA is mandatory under Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, as is permission from the local planning authority, to which SEPA is a statutory consultee. For hydropower schemes over 50 MW, permission is required from the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the Electricity Act.
Detailed information of our regulatory role and guidance on how regulations apply to developers can be found on our hydropower regulations webpage.
Although our remit in the marine environment extends to three miles offshore, we have no direct regulatory role in marine renewable generation. However, we act as a designated consultation authority for Marine Scotland,a Directorate of Scottish Government, and work closely with partners in marine licensing and monitoring.
For more information, please see our standing advice for Marine Scotland on marine licence consultations and our marine development and marine aquaculture planning guidance.
We regulate abstractions from and discharges of pollutants to the water environment, including those associated with geothermal energy, through the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (CAR 2011). We also sit on the Geothermal Expert Group of the Scottish Government. For more information, see our regulatory guidance document for deep geothermal development and the independent study into the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland, commissioned by the Scottish Government.
The impact of biomass combustion on air quality and human health will depend on the location of the plant, the fuel type, how the plant is operated and the rate of emission of pollutants.
Subject to thresholds, the combustion of ‘fuels’ (which includes specifically grown energy crops, some industrial by-products and some clean recycled wood) and the incineration and co-incineration of ‘wastes’ (which includes mixed construction and demolition and municipal wood collections) are regulated by SEPA.
- SEPA regulate some combustion plants through the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (as amended) (‘PPC’). PPC Part A applies where the aggregated combustion capacity has a rated thermal input of equal to, or greater, than 50 megawatts (MW) and controls emissions to all media. PPC Part B applies where a single appliance has a rated thermal input of between 20MW and 50MW and only controls emissions to air. We have Permitting Guidance for Biomass Combustion.
- The Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD) has been transposed into domestic legislation by the Scottish Government (The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2017). It requires that new combustion plant with a net rated thermal input of between 1 and 50MW coming into operation after 20 December 2018 be registered/permitted by SEPA and may require them to meet specified emission limits, depending on the operating hours, size, type of fuel, etc. Plant that is put into operation before December 2018 will also have to register and meet emission limits but at a later date (2024 or 2029 depending upon the size of the unit(s)).
In addition the planning system has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that combustion plants are appropriately located, screened for air quality impacts and avoid the declaration of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs).
- Under the Environment Act 1995, Local Authorities are responsible for reviewing and assessing air quality in their areas to determine whether National Air Quality Objectives are being met. SEPA are named the Appropriate Authority for Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) and a statutory consultee.
- In May 2018, Scottish Government re-issued LAQM Policy Guidance, naming SEPA as a planning consultee for all combustion plants. Local Authorities must have regard to this guidance and SEPA must also conduct its duties in relation to LAQM within the framework provided by the legislation and this guidance
SEPA’s interest in energy generation from hydrogen covers the manufacture of the hydrogen as well as its use as a fuel in fuel cells and in some cases traditional combustion devices. The hydrogen manufacturing process is critical to the overall environmental impact, determining its status as either ‘green’ or ‘brown’ hydrogen:
- If renewable energy sources are used to produce hydrogen, then the resulting ‘green hydrogen’ will have a very low carbon footprint, and can deliver real system-wide decarbonisation benefits as well as local benefits.
- If the hydrogen is produced using fossil fuel based energy sources, this is often termed as ‘brown hydrogen’ and although it does not deliver the same scale of overall decarbonisation, the local benefits in terms of air quality improvements can still be very significant.
SEPA is working with the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA)to examine the potential environmental impacts from the different production routes for hydrogen. This work will help to provide clear evidence of the likely environmental benefits and impacts, with a view to setting suitable regulatory thresholds above which an environmental licence would be required. This work is still in its early stages but will be informed by evidence from projects based in Scotland such as the Hydrogen Officeand the Aberdeen Bus project.
Our remit with respect to solar power is small. Our interest is likely to be limited to the locations in which solar is deployed and the circumstances in which it has potential to impact the water environment.