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Biz bosses 'to save £400m' as UK.gov axes green red-tape

Rules for power lines, pipelines and more shown the door

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More than 100 energy and climate change regulations are to be scrapped or improved in a bid to cut "red tape" for businesses, the government has announced.

Energy Minister Charles Hendry said that, following a review, 86 regulations would be dropped completely while a further 48 regimes would be "improved". The full package of reforms, including other initiatives by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), is expected to save businesses around £400m over the next 20 years, he said.

The review was part of the government's 'Red Tape Challenge', which is allowing the public to scrutinise over 21,000 active regulations in stages. Once each area of the law has been considered, ministers will be given three months to work out which regulations should be kept and why with the "default presumption" being that "burdensome regulations will go", according to the Red Tape Challenge website.

In March, the government announced that 185 environmental regulations would be scrapped, simplified or merged with others in a move it said would save businesses £200m.

"Energy is vital to the economy and essential to driving growth," Hendry said. "It is also the biggest infrastructure sector in the UK. It is therefore vital that we have a regulatory regime which promotes fairness and consumer and environmental protection, but does not impose unnecessary costs or barriers to generating the necessary investment, innovation and skills we need to build the low carbon economy."

Rules that will be simplified include the Offshore Chemicals Regulations, which establish a regime for controlling the use and discharge of chemicals from offshore installations, and the Electricity (Compulsory Wayleaves) (Hearings Procedure) Rules, which are used to resolve disputes between license holders and landowners when overhead electric lines are installed on private land. The Government said that the latter would be updated to ensure the rights and interests of both sides were "appropriately balanced" while reducing costs and other burdens. The former would be streamlined to "improve functionality and reduce costs" while maintaining existing environmental protections.

DECC will also put forward improvements to regulations relating to environment impact assessments (EIA's) for public gas pipelines. The changes that are outlined are to scrap duplicate requirements for companies in England to seek determination from the Secretary of State as to whether a proposed pipeline will require an environmental statement.

Among the regulations to be scrapped include 37 relating to the coal industry and 15 involving gas and electricity supply. Other cuts include 10 regulations relating to energy efficiency, 10 on nuclear energy and security and 14 on onshore and offshore energy infrastructure.

Additional projects that DECC is pursuing to improve the regulatory climate include simplifications to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which will reduce the regulatory burden on smaller companies and hospitals, and its review of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC). A consultation on simplifications to the CRC, a mandatory scheme aimed at improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions in large public and private sector organisations not caught by the EU ETS, closed in June and the Government intends to publish its response in the autumn.

Electricity market regulator Ofgem has also set out how it intends to reduce regulatory burdens in its Simplification plan, published at the end of June.

David Porter, chief executive of industry body Energy UK, welcomed the changes to "a number of overly complex regulations", but stressed that the review should form part of an ongoing process.

"We are facing a huge challenge in reforming our electricity market, and this is a step in the right direction in creating a market structure that will help to deliver the jobs and investment we need," he said. "We would urge DECC to continue to remove unnecessary red tape and to continue to improve legislation, as getting future energy policy right is more critical than ever."

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