Steven Byers, UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, has, as expected, announced the lifting of the stricter gas power station consents policy that has been in place to protect the coal industry from transitional market distortions. The move paves the way for consents for the building of five power stations that had been on hold since 1998. At the same time he announced an EU approved scheme worth up to £110 million to help the coal industry through a period of transition.

Byers stated that he was “satisfied that the programme of reforms of the electricity market set out in the Government’s October 1998 White Paper is now substantially complete”.

On the same day the Secretary of State announced approvals for six schemes with the potential for investment of £2 billion in new projects and 8000 man years of employment. All these power stations are in areas in need of industrial regeneration. The approved schemes are Intergen UK’s 800 MW combined cycle gas turbine power station at Spalding in Lincolnshire, Fleetwood Power Ltd’s 1000 MW CCGT plant at Fleetwood in Lancashire, the Kent Power Ltd (part of Enron) 1200 MW CCGT plant on the Isle of Grain in Kent, AES Partington’s 380 MW CCGT power station at Partington in Lancashire, and ABB’s 450 MW CCGT at Raventhorpe, Lincolnshire. In addition the go ahead was given to Wainstones Power Ltd for their 1010 MW CCGT power station at Langage, Devon.

The UK government has made it clear that developers of future proposals will be expected to show that they have thoroughly explored combined heat and power options, including community heating, in line with guidance to be issued by the DTI in the near future. Despite appearances this is actually a weakening of the former position – when putting up a CHP proposal was one way to sidestep what amounted to a gas moratorium.