Government response to SAGE Second Interim Assessment

cover of second government responseSAGE is the UK's Stakeholder Advisory Group on ELF EMFs - see full details.  It issued its First Interim Assessment in 2007 and the Government responded in 2009.  The Second Interim Assessment, principally dealing issues around electricity distribution, was published in June 2010 and the Government Response to it in October 2011.  Download the Response from the DH's website.  See also the HPA's comments to Government on the Second Interim Assessment and the Engineering Recommendation that implements the agreed measures.

The Government Response reaffirms a couple of principles:

  • that the exposure limits in place in the UK remain appropriate
  • that any precautionary measures taken in addition to the exposure limits should be low cost and should not compromise safety.

It then responds to the various specific recommendations made in the SAGE Second Interim Assessment:

Implementing the Government response

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The measures proposed by SAGE and endorsed by Government are implemented through an Engineering Recommendation

Engineering measures

  • where measures are broadly already best practice in the electricity industry, "The Government will however discuss with the electricity industry through the Energy Networks Association (ENA) the possibility of reinforcing such existing best practice through the development and adoption of one or more Engineering Recommendations across industry."  (The resulting Engineering Recommendation was published in March 2013.)
  • for the proposals to ensure gas and water pipes are plastic (i.e. non-conducting), "The Government considers that it would be appropriate to explore existing good practice generally regarding the circumstances where plastic and/or metal pipes are used, and to include EMFs in the discussion, initially with the standardisation committees for the electrical, gas and water distribution services on which Government departments are represented".
  • for the measures about wiring in multi-occupancy buildings, Government is represented on the relevant British Standards committee, and "the Government considers this to be the appropriate route for introducing further guidance on EMFs, which could then be communicated to the relevant professional bodies."
  • SAGE recommended that unusually heavily loaded intermediate line should have optimum phasing, but "The Government does not consider that presently there is a basis for intervention concerning intermediate circuits, other than to encourage existing industry good practice."
  • For substations, "Where appropriate, the Government will explore with the electricity industry through the Energy Networks Association (ENA) the possibility of reinforcing existing good practice through the development and adoption of an industry Engineering Recommendation."



The Response supports communication in general:

"The Government supports the provision of information to the public and will work with the HPA to provide consistent, helpful and proportionate public health messages and raise awareness."

On SAGE's recommendations about training and awareness for electricity industry staff:

"Whilst training and raising awareness of EMF issues for industry is important, it is not the Government’s role to become involved with endorsing industry training or intervening in how DNOs investigate EMF issues. This is a matter, given SAGE’s recommendations, for the industry to consider."

Future of SAGE

Future of SAGE

The Response says that as SAGE has now considered the main areas it was set up to consider, Government cannot justify committing to further funding.  But:

"The Government is committed to future dialogue to explore remaining or emerging EMF issues that concern people. Although funding for a formal dialogue process cannot be guaranteed at present, the Government will continue engaging with appropriate parties, retaining the valuable lessons that have been learned from the SAGE process. The Government is committed to keeping the science on EMFs under review."

See also: