National Planning Policy Framework Forensics#44 Renewable and Low Carbon Energy

This section compares the NPPF policy on these matters with PPS22 (2004) and relevant section of the annex to PPS1 (2007) – paras 19 – 29.

PPS22 itself is rather out of date so the key comparison is with these sections of the PPS1 Supplement.

The following still relevent sections from PPS22 are not carried over, a development that may alarm some.

local development documents should contain policies designed to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the development of renewable energy resources (para 1(ii))

local planning authorities should not make assumptions about the technical and commercial feasibility of renewable energy projects (e.g. identifying generalised locations for development based on mean wind speeds). Technological change can mean that sites currently excluded as locations for particular types of renewable energy development may in future be suitable. (1 v)

Development proposals should demonstrate any environmental, economic and social benefits as well as how any environmental and social impacts have been minimised

through careful consideration of location, scale, design and other measures. (1 ix)

Planning policies that rule out or place constraints on the development of all, or specific types of, renewable energy technologies should not be included in regional spatial strategies or local development documents without sufficient reasoned justification (para 1(iii))

The wider environmental and economic benefits of all proposals for renewable energy projects, whatever their scale, are material considerations that should be given

significant weight in determining whether proposals should be granted planning permission. Para 1(iv))

Critically the PPS removes all reference to Megawatt targets, even at a local level. It is difficult then to see how the national policy for increasing renewable energy would translate into delivery on the ground. Unlike housing there is no local incentives structure.

The draft also omits key sections as follows:

local planning authorities should not create “buffer zones” around international or nationally designated areas and apply policies to these zones that prevent the development of renewable energy projects. (para 14)

Local landscape and local nature conservation designations should not be used in themselves to refuse planning permission for renewable energy developments. (para 15)

As most renewable energy resources can only be developed where the resource exists and where economically feasible, local planning authorities should not use a sequential approach in the consideration of renewable energy projects (for example, by giving priority to the re-use of previously developed land for renewable technology developments). (para 16)

As most renewable energy resources can only be developed where the resource exists and where economically feasible, local planning authorities should not use a sequential approach in the consideration of renewable energy projects (for example, by giving priority to the re-use of previously developed land for renewable technology developments). (para 21)

The 1997 report by ETSU for the Department of Trade and Industry should be used to assess and rate noise from wind energy development (although this urgently needs updating) (para 22)

It is the responsibility of developers to address any potential impacts, taking account of Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Defence and Department for Transport guidance in relation to radar and aviation, and the legislative requirements on separation distances, before planning applications are submitted. (para 25)

Comparing the key policy tests of the NPPF to the Supplement

NPPF PPS1 Supplement
To help increase the use and supply of renewable and low-carbon energy, local planning authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources In developing their core strategy and supporting local development documents, planningauthorities should provide a framework that promotes and encourages renewable and low carbon energy generation. Policies should be designed to promote and not restrict renewable and low-carbon energy and supporting infrastructure.
not presume against energy development outside mapped areas nor require applicants for energy development to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low-carbon energy or question the energy justification for why a proposal for renewable and low-carbon energy must be sited in a particular location. planning authorities should:not require applicants for energy development to demonstrate either the overall need for renewable energy and its distribution, nor question the energy justification for why a proposal for such development must be sited in a particular location
No equivalent section ensure any local approach to protecting landscape and townscape … does not preclude the supply of any type of renewable energy other than in the most exceptional circumstances
identify and map opportunities for renewable and low carbon energy, based on ecological sensitivity and generation potential;have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable sources and design their policies to maximise renewable and low-carbon energy development; and identify opportunities where development can draw its energy supply from decentralised, renewable or low carbon energy supply systems. alongside any criteria-based …consider identifying  suitable areas for renewable and low-carbon energy sources, and supportinginfrastructure, where this would help secure the development of such sources, but in doing so take care to avoid stifling innovation including by rejecting proposals solely because they are outside areas identified for energy generation
No equivalent section expect a proportion of the energy supply of new development to be secured from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy sources

The two key changes are:

  • Only reference to ecological sensitivity and generation potential, no reference at all to landscape sensitivity and landscape issues
  • No support for ‘Merton Rule’ type policies.  It is unclear if these are now ruled out pending a new national building standards framework.  However currently this is something that can only be secured by planning policy and again it ommission seems contrary to will of Parlimament in the the Planning and Energy Act 2008.  The rule could be inflexible however, and some trade off between on and off site generation is needed, especially in high density schemes, and allowing CHP schemes special consideration.

Russia’s Toxic Property Loans Mountain fed by Moscow Planning and Banking Corruption

Yelena Baturina, wife of the deposed Mayor of Moscow 'Richer than Opera Winfrey'

Since 2008 there has been concerns about the true extent of toxic debt in Russias Banking system, following a collapsed property bubble in 2007, when Russia went from 40%/annum house price rises (nearly 80% in Moscow, 589% over 7 years) to a 20% fall in one year.

The conventional wisdom has been that this has been contained.

In May Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank stated that bad loans would not exceed 13%.

However one bank alone, the Bank of Moscow has had to be bailed out by the State Owned VTB bank, after a highly political takeover if finds that 60% of its loan book was toxic.

Bank of Moscow received the largest bailout in Russian banking history on Friday after a hostile takeover bid by VTB revealed a gaping hole in the books of Russia’s fifth-largest bank.

The $14 billion rescue package was bigger than expected and followed a central bank review Bank of Moscow’s books that found bad loans totalling $9 billion, or nearly a third of its assets.

VTB accused former Bank of Moscow management, led by Andrei Borodin, of “fraudulent lending”, and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin demanded a criminal probe.

“We hope that law-enforcement agencies will launch an investigation, and expect foreign investigators also to do so,” he told reporters in Ulan Ude, near Mongolia.

Borodin, a protege of former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, has fled Russia and is wanted on an international arrest warrant. He issued a statement saying he was shocked by the size of the bailout and called VTB’s takeover of Bank of Moscow political.

“This latest announcement by the central bank that it will provide financial aid to VTB to help deal with alleged and non-disclosed problem loans at Bank of Moscow only further supports this conclusion,” read the statement, issued in London.

Under the bailout, the central bank will fund a 10-year loan of 295 billion roubles ($10.6 billion) to Bank of Moscow from the Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) at a rate of 0.51 percent.

State-controlled VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, will contribute 100 billion roubles to recapitalise Bank of Moscow.

Analysts said the scale of Bank of Moscow’s problem loans — 60 percent of which the head of the DIA said were “completely bad” — was of great concern.

The takeover follows the sacking of Yuri Luzhkovast year as Mayor of Moscow who had run the Bank of Moscow as a personal piggy bank for his property developer friends, including his wife Russias richest woman with her real estate firm, Inteko, overseeing a highly controversial development boom, which saw Moscow City funds being used to build roads to development sites, including those of the Mayors wife.

From Rianovsti

During the recent financial crisis Inteko received support from the Bank of Moscow, the partially city-owned bank that has close ties to Luzhkov.
In the summer of 2009 the company sold 58 hectares of land in the southwest of Moscow for nearly 13 billion rubles ($440 million) to Premier Estate, a little-known company with a charter capital of just 10,000 rubles.
The Financial Times said Premier Estate was established especially for buying the land at twice the plot’s market value to pay off a debt to the Bank of Moscow. Later the firm was sold and the land is now owned by a British private equity group.
Before he was fired in September last year, Luzhkov had long faced accusations he had used his position to help his wife amass her $2.9 billion wealth through construction contracts in the Russian capital.

Baturina is reportedly hiding in London.

Chinas Eco-Farming Boom Driven by Food Safety Scares

Ill post some interesting links and videos about some innovations in ecological farming in China.

From China Daily

a group of 20 parents, … in 2010 founded the Safeguard Homeland Green Consumers Association.

“It’s an association of mothers who joined to find safer food for their children,” said Yao, who noted that the membership has grown to 80 this spring.

The association made a deal with an eco-farm that uses earthworms to help fertilize the crops. The farm leased out small pieces of land, usually 20 square meters as a share, to every member of the association at the monthly rent of 100 yuan (about $15).

Members could either plant vegetables themselves or hire farmers to do the work for 280 yuan for each month.

“Now I can finally put my mind at ease, as the vegetables are grown right before my eyes on ecologically fertilized land,” said Zhang Lushuang, one of the association’s members.

Like the members of “Safeguard Homeland,” urban consumers, eager to secure a safer diet, are rushing to manage the production of their own food, by directly engaging in the farm work or commissioning production to eco-farms.

It helps consumers bypass the sophisticated food chain, a chief supplier of chemicals in Chinese food, Yao said.

The surge in the number of customers has also encouraged rural eco-farmers, as it suggested a boost in the sluggish market of organic products

the village changed its strategy and invited consumers to participate in the production, so they could take an up-close look at the way the farm operated.

One of the village’s ecological pig farms even created real-time online video feeds for customers to take a look at the pigs whenever they wish.

“The results were great,” Zhang said. “The prices of our cereal-fed pigs were two times higher than that of ordinary pigs, but they still sold well and made a great profit.”

Furthermore, the direct link between buyers and producers helps both sides get rid of intermediary surcharges, which have pushed up food prices while gobbling up the bulk of farmers’ profits.

“Wanna be rich? Grow apples; Wanna be super rich? Raise pigs. Wanna be super, super rich? Grow apples and raise pigs.” The slogan is worded by Ye Weiqiang, a college graduated “village head,” to sell his get-rich “bible” to farmers.

Ye’s bible is called “apple-pig circular economy,” a simple idea to raise pigs (or cattle) with corn, and grow apples on an organic fertilizer that consists of pig (or cattle) excrement mixed with corn straw so to produce organic fruit.

Capitalism’s Last Frontier#16 Crusoe’s Family

So far we have been looking at the proto-economy. Those features of economic relations that are not reliant on exchange.

Classical economics postulated such an economy, often though examples with the figure of Robinson Crusoe, an isolated individual allocating their time between different production possibilities. In this economy without money trade or prices, the introduction of Man Friday is used to illustrate the possibilities of trade.

This was always a useful logical exercise to determine just what aspects of economics are foundational, and do not depend on interpersonal exchange or even a way of producing, Austrian economics uses it today. But it is a dangerous approach because humans would have soon died out were they all isolated individuals on desert islands. It is the evolutionary social dynamics which matter not the mythical methodological individual.

The fundamental aspect of the proto economy and all economies that follows are:

  1. The need to secure reproduction of humankind;
  2. The need to secure the water and energy resources (from food) to secure survival;
  3. The need to secure and sustain the local environment providing food resources.

If any social group can secure these they will have secured their social reproduction.  Their society will have survived until the next generation.

Note this survival can only be assessed ex-post, and this ‘need’ does not depend on volition to survive, only that survival occurs.  These rules apply equally to all animals, they are systemic requirements.  It is an underlying rule of social evolution.  Humankind through culture and language can assess what are those factors essential to survival in any ecological context and transmit them.  Reflexive assessment of environment and not only how to adapt to it but how to adapt that environment.  Not only to accept and transmit the culture and society of parents, but the ability to add to it and alter it where needed.

These rules are part of the underlying rules of evolution of which Darwinian Evolution is just one special case, that where the transmission mechanism of traits is genetic, in society the transmission mechanism is culture, learning, and language.

This approach roots population ecology as the foundation of social science.  This is to be counter-posed to the enlightenment and modernist view of stadial evolution and ‘progress’ of society through a single monolinear fixed series of stages, through to ‘civilisation’ that all societies have gone through.  This concept of course has deep roots and was shared equally by Adam Smith, Hegal and Karl Marx; what today we would called the traditional concept of sociocultural evolution.

By contrast the notion of social evolution we are considering has been termed  Neoevolutionism, or cultural ecology, in particular in the work of Leslie White and in particular Julian Steward (Steward, Julian H. Theory of Culture Change. University of Illinois Press).

This tradition rejects the stadial 18th/19th century notion of progress, the focus is instead on the Darwinian notion of “adaptation”. All societies have to adapt to their environment to secure survival. Steward for example argues that different adaptations could be studied through the examination of the specific resources a society exploited, and how a society exploits these resources through technology and the organization of labour.

Different environments will require differing adaptations. As a resource base or technology changed, so too would a culture. In other words, the driving force is not the inner logic of culture, but rather in terms of a changing relationship with a changing environment.  Change is seen as multilinear not monolinear, and with no fixed predetermined outcome.  Decline can occur as well as rise of societies.

Note the centrality of resources.  Resources prior to property, a resource must exist and provide a productive service to humans before any conception of ownership or sharing can arise.  The concept of property is not a necessary conception for economic relationships, but is contingent on certain social structures.  Similarly we must be very careful of the common conceptions of economic being the study of the use of ‘scarce’ resources and ‘unlimited needs’.  Scarcity only has meaning when resources and population are pressured, it is not a natural fact but a symptom of lack of adaptation of a society to its environment. Needs arise from this relationship not prior to it.

Failure to fully grasp these relationships has led to the poor treatment of pre-capitalist societies by political economy in general and modern economics in particular. We read backwards from modern economic man to the past, we make Crusoe think and act like a capitalist.  Crusoe rather was a member of a family and a tribe, lived in a village and rarely on a desert island, there was no Friday (though there were villages and tribes of Fridays elsewhere), Crusoe had children, half of Crusoes were women.

Through this approach we can consider the real behaviour of societies before the institution of property, money, the state, trade or exchange, we can also trace the development of these social structures using the tools of ecology and of political economy stripped to its ecological and social foundations.