The revised National Policy Statement issued by the Department for Energy and Climate Change in October 2010 did not take a strong stand on over-ground energy pylons. Consequently, countryside areas all over the UK are now faced with the prospect of over 300 new miles of high-voltage power lines and the 150ft metal frames that accompany them.
Proposed routes could cross the hills and valleys of mid-Wales, the rolling fields of Suffolk, and the plains of the Somerset Mendips. Even Cumbria, Kent Weald and the mountains of Snowdonia could be at risk and campaign groups across the UK, including thousands of protestors in mid-Wales and organisations like the ‘Campaign to Protect Rural England’, are calling for alternatives to be considered.
Despite being an eyesore, however, National Grid representatives have made it abundantly clear that it would cost ten times as much to bury the cables, this in an economic period when such costs would be impractical and potentially damaging to the Government’s plans for developing clean, green energy. The 23rd of May saw the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, release what he hopes is a suitable solution to the problem.
A competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) calls for designs for a new generation of pylon. Architects, designers, engineers and students are being challenged to rethink one of the most crucial, but controversial, features of modern Britain, in the hope that new designs might lessen the impact of these unpopular blots on Britain’s landscape.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said:
“The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age. The equivalent of twenty new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they’ll all need connecting to the grid.”
Unfortunately, publicity for this was somewhat squashed by new driving allegations levelled at Mr. Huhne, regarding penalty points for speeding. Perhaps more significant, however, has been the world’s reaction to the Japanese tsunami, causing countries around the world to wake up to the dangers of nuclear power. Germany, for example, has on May 30th released a policy that will see the closure of all 17 of its current nuclear stations. Switzerland has approved a plan to decommission its nuclear plants, Italy recently elongated a moratorium on nuclear power and several other nations, including China, are holding reviews before moving forward with new reactors.
It is even possible, although we suspect unlikely, that our political masters in the British government will be looking at nuclear power with a less rosy tint. Potentially, concerns could mean changes to the planned locations of power stations and therefore the routes of the pylons, meaning that there is still a level of uncertainty surrounding the proposals. One thing is for sure though, wherever they are and upon whichever route they are imposed, we will be seeing many more pylons materialising all over the country in the very near future.
3rd June 2011