WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Dr Michael Clark, in the Chair Dr Lynne Jones Dr Ashok Kumar Mr Tony McWalter Dr Desmond Turner _________ JOINT MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY AND THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES MR PETER HAIN, a Member of the House, Minister of State for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe, MR JOHN DODDRELL, Director of Sustainable Energy Policy Unit, Department of Trade and Industry, and MR JEREMY EPPEL, Head of Sustainable Energy Policy Division, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, examined. Chairman 172. Minister, good afternoon. Thank you for finding the time to come along to the Science and Technology Select Committee, with your new ministerial briefing. We welcome you very much indeed. I wonder if, before I put the first question, you would be kind enough either to introduce your two colleagues or, perhaps, invite them to introduce themselves? (Mr Hain) Thank you very much, Chairman. Can I say what a pleasure it is to be in front of you, especially a Committee with a lot of scientific expertise on it, and I look forward to developing the case. John Doddrell heads our Renewable Energy Unit, and Jeremy Eppel is from the DETR, with responsibilities in the same area. 173. Thank you very much indeed. Can I ask you, Minister, if the Government is on course to meet its target of 10 per cent of sustainable electric energy generation and 20 per cent of carbon dioxide emission reduction by 2010? Ten per cent up on generation and 20 per cent down on CO2? (Mr Hain) We are certainly on course in respect of the obligation to reach the 10 per cent objective on renewable sources in terms of our overall electricity supply. The renewables obligation is a powerful driver because it requires, as you are aware, every generator, by the time the instrument comes into force - which is planned for 1 October - to have, over time, 10 per cent of its capacity from renewables. So I think we can achieve that, but there is a long way to go. We are up, now, to 2.8 per cent of energy supplies from renewables ---- 174. And nine years to go. (Mr Hain) And nine years to go. Obviously, on CO2 emissions, again, we are working very hard to achieve that objective and I think we are well advanced compared with many other countries. 175. To help us in this Inquiry, could you indicate to us, as of this moment, if you cannot indicate anything else, which of the renewable energies that are most likely to give you a sizeable part of this 10 per cent from sustainable energy? (Mr Hain) Offshore wind is, perhaps, the leading area at the moment. Biomass is also an important contributor. I am myself, which is why I very much welcome this Inquiry of yours, very much a trail blazer for renewable energy. I think that it has a great potential for contributing in the future beyond the end of the decade well above the 10 per cent limit, provided we give it the necessary impetus and the necessary support, and provided we also recognise that if we are to create Britain as a leading knowledge-based economy in the world then, in an energy sense, the renewable sector is probably the area where we have the most potential in that respect as well. Far too often in the past British inventions, British science and British technological capacity has not had the support either from Government or the wider community, and so we have often trail-blazed in the scientific sense but not carried it through into production and, in this respect, fulfilled a vital strategic need as well. 176. We blaze the trail but we do not make the road. (Mr Hain) Indeed, or the waves. 177. You move us nicely on to the next question I wanted to ask. You did say that you hoped that after 2010 there will be a continuation of this aim to have a higher proportion of energy coming from sustainable sources. Have you any plans to set targets after 2010? If you have not, could I point out to you that setting targets might not only help Government to know where it is going but it would certainly encourage research councils and researchers in their projects if they know that Government has got a secondary target after 2010 - say, 2020. It would give them encouragement and determination to keep going. (Mr Hain) Of course, the renewables obligation does provide an assured market until 2026. So that is why it is a powerful driver beyond the end of the decade. The whole future of renewable energy is something under active consideration. I do not think, if I may say so, Chairman, that we have always given it the priority that it deserves and requires which, in my view, we are obliged to do given the long-term shortage of energy supply, environmental considerations and so forth. Even as a Government, although we have done more than any other government with œ250 million now earmarked over the next three years for various forms of project support, research and development support and so on, I think that we have to step up the impetus. Certainly the next Government must carry that baton forward with renewed vigour. 178. When you answered one of my questions you indicated that offshore wind and biomass were the two most likely areas, but you did not mention a wave contribution. Could I ask what has been learnt from the Government's wave energy programme that ran from 1974 to 1982? You will notice that is a carefully non-political question because it is 1974 to 1982, over two governments, so there is no political bias in the question. (Mr Hain) Chairman, the Committee is always neutral. Perhaps I will ask my officials to assist on this since I was not even in Parliament at the time. I was disappointed - and I make no party point in return - that the support and assistance for wave and tidal stream energy was abandoned in 1994, then it was resurrected. It followed the report of an independent committee which recommended that this should be the case, but we picked it up again in 1999. I think it is very clear from the potential which we have discovered already (which I am happy to go into) that this has got great potential in the future. Perhaps I can ask Mr Doddrell to assist on that. 179. I do not think we have time to go into massive detail, but we would just like to be reassured that we had some exciting projects in the 1980s or thereabouts, including Salter's `duck', and so on. We all thought these things were going to go somewhere and then, for technological reasons, they did not. I just hope some lessons were learned from them, and I would be delighted to hear from Mr Doddrell. (Mr Doddrell) Thank you, Mr Chairman. I think that the deciding feature, really, to discontinue the programme at that time was one of economics, and the prospects of wave energy coming in and being competitive with other energy sources, even other renewable sources, at that time did not look promising. The decision to discontinue was really one taken on economic grounds. With hindsight, it was clearly a mistake. I was not around, either, then, like the Minister, but there were lessons learned from those projects. Some of them have been on hold and the same people are now active again with renewed support from the Government, and we are working closely with them as to how we can now take them forward. Chairman: That is a very frank answer, if I may say so, that you have learnt from what happened in the past, and looking back at it again with a little bit of hindsight you realise that some things that might have been able to continue were not allowed to, and you will pick them up and run with them. Dr Jones 180. Can I ask whether the DTI was pro-nuclear during that time? (Mr Doddrell) I do not think that the nuclear issue, really, had anything to do with this decision; it was an independent committee that looked and evaluated the programme, and looked at the economics of wave energy. To the best of my knowledge, nuclear energy really had nothing to do with that decision. Dr Turner 181. Minister, recent reports have stated that the UK, with its excellent wave resources, very strong tides and offshore engineering skills base from the North Sea oil industry, has the perfect combination and perfect opportunity to become world leader in wave and tidal energy, with all that that implies. Do you agree with those statements? (Mr Hain) I do agree with them. I think the geographical situation, surrounded by stormy waters, as well as the innovative research and development projects which we have seen develop (and I am happy to go into those) place us in a position to lead the world on wave power and, also, on tidal stream energy. That combination of factors of scientific and technological development, coupled with our natural advantages, means that I think we have responsibility, as a Government, to help industry secure that leading role and, therefore, help Britain contribute not just to its own energy needs but to export the expertise right across the world. 182. That leads perfectly to the next question, Minister, which is could you then outline the long-term research and development strategy that you propose to adopt to bring forward wave and tidal energy, bearing in mind the Prime Minister's recent speech promising a green industrial revolution? (Mr Hain) Indeed. Of course, in that speech he announced an additional œ100 million in support for renewable energy - active support - some of which will come in the way of wave and tidal stream. In terms of the detailed research support we are giving, this is of course part of the œ55 million budget specifically earmarked for research and development in renewables. The budget this year is œ14 million, and then œ55.5 million over the next three years. That is general, right across renewables. In terms of wave and tidal stream, we are presently supporting 7 wave energy projects and 1 tidal stream project, a total value of œ1.86 million, with the DTI contribution of œ1.27 million. Then the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has 10 wave and energy tidal stream projects in place with a total value of just over œ1.1 million - part, obviously, public funding. In addition, within the European Commission's Fifth Framework Programme, wave and tidal stream projects co-ordinated by British companies currently amount to 2.6 million euros. We cover a number of areas, including further development of existing design concepts, research to tackle key development issues and monitoring prototype devices. The EPSRC has, of course, an emphasis on fundamental research, and we are involved in peer review and oversight of those projects. We have got closer links with the EPSRC and we are currently in discussion with them on how to take forward our support, especially in this area. 183. Is your support strategy based on any sort of long-term aim of a specific market share for wave and tidal energy, or is it randomly based? What is your view of the potential contribution towards our energy economy that wave and tidal can make? (Mr Hain) It is neither randomly based, nor does it have a target because the technology at the present time is far too limited to make an assessment yet of the potential. As the Committee may be aware, there is an important project based at Islay, which you may know about already. It is a 200 kilowatt limpid 500 project, and if I can find the detail of it I will go into it. Chairman 184. Minister, if I may say, we have had papers on it and we were, in fact, last week due to visit it but, for various reasons, we had to postpone our visit. To save time, we are very familiar with that project. (Mr Hain) There is also the swimming snake device which has completed its laboratory testing, and for Pelamis there are plans for sea trials of a model later this year, which will take place off the vale of Ireland. You are familiar with that as well? Chairman: Yes, we have had a briefing on that. Dr Turner 185. Can I ask, Minister, does your 10 per cent renewables target include waste or other carbon sources? (Mr Hain) It does. 186. If so, do you not think this is a sort of counter-incentive to try to bring on the development of totally clean sources like wave and tide? (Mr Hain) No, I do not. I am as enthusiastic a ministerial advocate as you are likely to find of clean energy and green energy renewables - possibly (without commenting in any adverse way) more enthusiastic than any of my predecessors. However, I do not think we can afford to avoid taking advantage of the capacity for generation from waste. After all, what else do you do with it? Just fill up the ground and produce, in time, a lot of environmentally contaminated problems as a result and a leakage of methane gas completely wasted. Others may say this is beyond the terms of reference of this investigation, but I have had quite a lot of briefing and seen some of the companies that are developing various uses of waste once all the maximum amount of recycling has taken place, which has the potential for producing - and can actually in present conditions produce - very clean gas with either no emissions or limited emissions. So I do not think we can simply ignore that potential, but neither - picking up your point - must we see it as an alternative or a block on really pushing forward wave energy and tidal stream energy, photovoltaics (which I do not think we have done enough of yet but we are now picking up that baton very energetically) or other renewable sources, genuinely renewable, clean and green sources. 187. I am very glad, Minister, to hear that commitment. Having said that, do you think that total spend of œ2.37 million over a number of years from the DTI and EPSRC together on wave and tidal research represents a really serious commitment to the technology and is sufficient to give us the lead in this field, bearing in mind the single-minded way in which the Danish government have supported wind energy and the fruits that has borne for them? Do you think we are really putting our money where our mouths are sufficiently? (Mr Hain) I think we have made a very important start, but I would like to see that contribution as a beginning. The signal I want to give out to the inventors, businesses and researchers involved in this whole area is that you have a friend in court in the DTI and any new bids for research and development assistance for technological support for capital projects will be looked at very sympathetically. This budget is now a very considerable one, as I say, amounting to œ250 million across the board. I just want to encourage people to make progress and they will - obviously, on a properly costed and assessed basis - get our backing. Certainly one of the reasons I am very encouraged by your Inquiry is that I look forward to reading your recommendations and receiving them, and if you feel minded to give an extra impetus to this whole agenda that will be something I will welcome. 188. Coming back to the Prime Minister's œ100 million for renewable energy, how much of that do you think will be directed to wave and tidal energy? Will you be prepared to put forward a strong case for wave and tide? (Mr Hain) Yes, I will. Of course, the Performance and Innovation Unit is looking at this matter at the present time, and when the Prime Minister made his announcement he put it in the context of awaiting its recommendations later in the year - sooner rather than later, I hope. Yes, subject to that, I think that there is enormous potential here for wave and tidal stream. Dr Jones 189. In your memorandum you stated that the UK is one of the leaders in the field of wave energy. On what sort of international comparison do you base this statement? (Mr Hain) There are only a few devices internationally at a demonstration stage. We have got programmes, of which you may be aware, in China, Denmark, India, Japan and Sri Lanka, with commercial devices being built or having been built in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands and the USA. That is in wave energy. In tidal stream we have got only two government- written programmes resulting in small test devices in China and Japan. There are no plans for these to be developed further but there is some company-led research going on in Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand. There is one 130 kilowatt project in Italy. So I think compared with that, the fact that we are supporting 7 wave energy projects and 1 tidal stream project, with our geographical advantage and this new government backed commitment, I think puts us in that position. 190. You have mentioned a number of countries. Who do you see as the major players in the field and how do we compare to them? (Mr Hain) I think it is a bit early to say. What I will do, if that helps, is offer to write to you more fully on this matter. Chairman 191. Thank you. (Mr Hain) The Scandinavians have always got a good track record in this, as was mentioned earlier. I hope that we can really build on what is a world lead at the moment and make sure we extend it. Dr Jones 192. Do you think we will be in a position where we will not get overtaken by countries like Denmark as we did on wind power? (Mr Hain) That rather depends on government policy in future years and who is driving it. No doubt your recommendations will act as a spur, if that is the way we go. Chairman 193. Putting it as a wish rather than a prediction, would you wish us to be leaders in wave and tidal energy? (Mr Hain) Unquestionably. I want to see us as world leaders. We have that potential. We are in pole position at the present time and we want to make sure we win the race. Dr Jones 194. I understand that the DTI is a founder member of the International Energy Agency which is being led by Portugal at the moment. How did that involvement come about and what scope do you see for future collaboration in the development of this source of renewable energy? (Mr Doddrell) We are closely involved with the IEA in a range of activities on renewables, but we do not have any plans for any new, specific initiatives with the IEA in wave and tidal stream at the moment. 195. So there are no collaborative programmes on the horizon? (Mr Doddrell) No new initiatives. It is still a very infant industry. In a sense, one collaborates with other countries when we feel we can benefit from what they have developed. At the moment, we are at the leading edge and we want to build up our own domestic industry and make sure we maintain a competitive advantage as these things come through into the market place. (Mr Hain) Of course, there is, in addition, the prospect of a European Union agenda here and an obligation being considered. That places us, I think, in a position where precisely this sort of initiative would become easier. Dr Kumar 196. Minister, you said you are a trail blazer for renewable sources. How refreshing to hear that. What leads you to believe that you have the right strategy in place for effective, co-ordinated funding to take wave and tidal energy from the basic drawing board to commercial exploitation? You mentioned earlier there are many other organisations - EPSRC, the European Union, DTI and private funding - but what leads you to believe that the blocks you put in place are going to deliver the results? (Mr Hain) They are very much foundation blocks, I do not deny that, but I think they are early signs of a commitment to build above and build as fast as we can. The funding that is now in place is relatively new, so I think it sends a signal out to everybody that we do mean business in this area. We have a lot more to do, I do not really dispute that at all. 197. Minister, some of the companies who have given evidence to this Committee have said to us that they have done the academic research and laboratory testing and now they need real testing of data in real situations to prove that the devices they have are actually going to work and gain commercial backing. Will you make this one of your priorities? (Mr Hain) Yes. Dr Jones 198. Well, what are you going to do about it? (Mr Hain) Make it one of my priorities. Mr McWalter 199. Do you not think that could be very expensive and you could end up with a sort of Millennium Dome in the middle of the sea? (Mr Hain) I think that is an important point. I am not conceding that comparison, it would be a very unfortunate image to attach to it. 200. An upside down Dome. (Mr Hain) An upside down windmill. Dr Jones 201. I think the figures are not in that league, actually, fortunately. (Mr Hain) Before we get totally diverted, Chairman, I think that the potential is quite large but the research and development is still at an early stage. When the priority is to work with the industries - which we are doing - to develop a strategy in consultation to support research and development, and where projects are being taken forward either at the testing level or at a practical level as in Islay, then our money will go in. 202. Many of our witnesses have mentioned that the UK needs an offshore wave energy test site facility similar to that which has been set up by the Danish government. When you were talking about priorities earlier, would this be, perhaps, a priority that could be brought forward as part of your priorities for this sector? (Mr Hain) We will certainly have a look at that. 203. We have Wavegen and Ocean Power Delivery, two of the country's leading wave power companies, and they told us that they are actively considering moving part of their research to Portugal because of the lack of such a facility. Are you aware of this? Might that, perhaps, give an added impetus to you looking at this issue? (Mr Hain) I actually was not aware of that, and certainly we will follow that up right away. 204. Can you look at what needs to be done to attract companies like that into the UK? (Mr Hain) Well, of course, they are in the UK. 205. There are other companies as well. If we have the few that are in the UK moving abroad, then we are not likely to attract more are we? (Mr Hain) I have not heard that they are about to move abroad ---- 206. It is part of their ---- (Mr Hain) Although it could be part of extending their arm. I will encourage British companies to find investment opportunities abroad and work abroad, but as part of spreading our expertise. We do want to preserve and develop a solid British platform. Certainly I will look at that and get to the bottom of it. Dr Turner 207. Could I just enlarge on that point slightly, Minister? One of the problems which keeps being brought to our attention with respect to either installing or testing devices is access to the grid. The provision of a grid point of access is virtually the most important aspect of a test site, so long as it is in suitable natural conditions. Is there anything the DTI could do to facilitate that? (Mr Hain) Obviously, yes, we can help. That is not something that I was aware was an enormous hurdle to the overall momentum of the project. I think we are, really, in a demonstration stage of the technology at the present time, but, of course, the renewables obligation will provide plenty of opportunity if the technology starts to take off. I think I am right in saying that Islay is connected to the grid. Dr Turner: Islay is. Dr Jones 208. If I can come in there, it is only able to transmit a proportion of the power it generates. In fact, Wavegen has been quoted œ0.5 million to be connected fully to the grid and Ocean Power's device, which is due to be installed, is facing a bill of œ1 million to be connected. We are not talking about anything like Millennium Dome sums of money but it is a step for those companies. So what are you going to do about these specific problems? (Mr Hain) Are you saying that that is an obstacle to their development? 209. Yes, because they cannot transmit all the power that they generate into the grid. This was a problem, for example, in Dounreay with the nuclear fast reactor. Do you know who paid the substantial costs to get that generation into the grid? (Mr Hain) No, but nuclear has enormous liabilities. Dr Jones: This was before they started generating liabilities. As I understand it, there was a lot of public money being put in to connect such remote facilities. Obviously, with wave and tidal power a lot of the facilities will be at the edge of the grid and this is a very important issue. Chairman 210. Minister, before you answer, if I may add a little bit. At the time of Dounreay, for example, Dounreay would have been nationally owned and the grid would have been nationally owned, and I am sure the nationally owned managers would come together and do it. We are now talking about a situation where the grid is privately owned, and where, with projects such as Islay, although the research is government-sponsored the projects will be privately owned. So it is a very different situation when you have got two privately-owned organisations from when we had two state-owned organisations. One is not necessarily suggesting the Government has to spend the money but the Government might have to bang a few heads together and act as a catalyst. So I make those comments before you answer Dr Jones. (Mr Hain) Yes, I am quite happy to look at either a role of banging heads together or a role of providing public assistance, if it is justified and if it can be defended. One of the reasons that we are providing finance on a very large scale compared with what it has been in the past, which is next to nothing, is precisely to assist with capital costs of projects, including, doubtless, connections to the grid. I would not want to see any successful renewable project, least of all wave power or tidal stream power, founder because of the cost of a cable. Our Embedded Generation Group (?) and the Performance and Innovation Unit and the work we are doing will consider all this and, again, I look forward to reading your recommendations on that. Mr McWalter 211. I think, perhaps, you have addressed this already, Minister but it is worth dwelling on it. There was a joint DTI and DETR memorandum which said that the long-term commercial viability of wave and tidal power remains uncertain. That was written in March 1999 and you were not in post then, and I get the impression there is going to be a fresh breeze blowing through that judgment. One of the issues, in part, is that the assessment of commercial viability has looked very much at the prototypes, or whatever, whereas we know that with the Danish wind business once they actually had the thing up and running and then they redesigned the turbines, and so on, the costs fell very dramatically; once you have got the thing up and running you can see where you can make economies. Do you now, basically, disavow that remark, and wish to replace it by one saying "Well, we expect to make the commitment needed to wave and tidal energy to ensure its long-term commercial viability is assured?" (Mr Hain) I do not want to disavow that statement made two years ago, but a lot has happened since, both on the development front and in terms of the Government putting its money where its mouth is in that respect. There is naturally - and I guess the Committee is more familiar with this than most ministers - a balance to be struck between backing a technology and pouring lots of money into it, which then proves commercially uncompetitive compared with other renewable sources, and depriving it of the investment and support which could stop it developing in the way that I think it has the capacity to develop in this instance. So we have got to get that balance right. I hope that we can resource potentially commercially successful wave power and tidal stream power with the backing that it needs. Mr McWalter: In the case of Islay, electricity apparently is produced at a cost of about five pence three farthings, as it were. Chairman: Is that a metric farthing? Mr McWalter 212. I thought I would put that word "farthing" back into the Parliamentary vocabulary. Do you think that we can seriously expect wave and tide energy to be able to compete with fossil fuels without the massive subsidies that certainly nuclear power receives and certainly the massive subsidies per kilowatt hour it received when it first came on stream? (Mr Hain) I do not think that renewable energy will get off the ground in the way it needs to be without massive support. That is why the renewables obligation is such a powerful driver because it requires generators to have 10 per cent of their market share from renewables. So that will inject resource as well. In fact, we estimate - I will be corrected if I am wrong - about œ600 million through the renewables obligation, which means that if you add together the various components of support - our œ250 million, plus other support - you are talking about round about œ1 billion worth of support for renewables, including this area, over the coming years. That is a lot of support. However, I would readily concede that nuclear energy never would have got off the ground without the massive public subsidy it had - rightly or wrongly, from different points of view. 213. The sort of devices currently on stream have got potential capacities of up to 130 kilowatts (?). If you are talking about the investment needed to get power delivery of 2 megawatts or something, you are talking about a very, very different level of investment. Given that the DTI analysis itself says that the potential export market for wave energy, even excluding tidal power, is estimated to be in excess of œ1 trillion, at some stage or other has there not got to be a brave, major investment in devices of the right sort of order to get all of those teething problems at initial stages and so on sorted? That is something that is very clear that the EPSRC is utterly unable to do. The scope of it and the investment needed is way beyond their current ability. (Mr Hain) Again, I think we are in the infancy of a strategy and the development of the technology and capacity for it to provide increasing shares of energy. 214. This infant needs to be reared very quickly, does it not? (Mr Hain) I think you are right. Dr Jones 215. Can I just turn to the question of planning permissions? Last month you announced a consultation on proposals for a one-stop shop for gaining planning consent for offshore wind farms. We have been told by one tidal energy company that they are going to place their prototype device off the coast of Iceland because of the prohibitively high cost of obtaining planning consent from, apparently, seven different planning authorities, with the prospect of about two years to get planning consent. What are you doing to alleviate the situation? (Mr Hain) As you indicated, that consultation document is an attempt to strip down the levels of application people need to go through. I think there is a serious problem here, both in the sheer bureaucracy and in the associated costs that have to be waded through - if that is the right term - coupled with (and I think I referred to this in the House last week, Chairman) what, frankly, I think is the schizophrenia on the part of the public and the authorities; that, on the one hand, everybody wants clean energy but nobody particularly invites a nuclear power station in their back yard or a coal- fired power station or even a gas-fired power station, but when it comes to renewable energy, particularly wind farms offshore or onshore, or doubtless in the future we will have wave and tidal stream (and I am aware of this problem in respect of the company locating in Iceland, but if you have got any more details I will look at that), when confronted with a decision you get a less enthusiastic commitment from the local community and from the relevant planning authority. We have to engage in a public debate that confronts people with some pretty stark choices here. What really do they want? 216. It is important to take account of the possible offshore environmental degradation that could occur. (Mr Hain) Oh of course. 217. Why did you not, though, when you announced this consultation over planning permission for wind, consider this might be an issue for other forms of renewables? (Mr Hain) It is offshore. 218. It is for all, it is not just for ---- (Mr Hain) For offshore wind, yes. 219. I am talking about tidal and wave. (Mr Hain) That is tidal and wave as well. 220. So that is included in the current consultation? (Mr Hain) Yes. Chairman 221. I think that brings us just about to the end. I did want to conclude with a question which you have made very much easier, Minister, by your personal commitment, made very clear to us this afternoon, to alternative energy generation. What I was going to say was that many of the people who have been to give evidence to us and the submissions we have had have said they have had difficulty in getting investors' capital into their projects because there seems to be a less than adequate degree of enthusiasm or commitment from government for these types of projects. This afternoon you have given a very strong personal pledge. Do you think it would be possible sometime in the not-too-distant future for the Government to come out with, perhaps, a more publicly announced pledge to support the need for renewable energy which might encourage investors to believe they have got a long-term opportunity of having a return on their capital? (Mr Hain) I will certainly look at that, Chairman, with a very sympathetic mind. Clearly, the Prime Minister's commitment a few weeks ago was an important and ground-breaking event, and created quite an impact. In fact, in this very room, I think it was last week (the weeks go by quite quickly in this job) there was the all-party renewables group meeting. I expected it to be a fairly small meeting but it was absolutely packed, with standing room only. I think that is an indication of the interest. As to capital financing, Britain has not been very good at venture capital in these sorts of areas, and I think we, as a Government, need to look at this very closely. Again, I will study any recommendations and evidence that you have with a great deal of interest because it is something that I really do think we have a responsibility to take forward. 222. Minister, thank you very much indeed and thank you, too, to Mr Doddrell and Mr Eppel. Minister, you have given us a lot of information this afternoon. We are most grateful to you. You have also been kind enough to say that you are looking forward to our report. That gives us an added incentive to make sure that our report is as helpful to you as it can be, in the hope that when we do present it to the House you and your department will take an interest in it and it will, perhaps, then be mutually beneficial to us to have the report that reflects our views on this subject and for you to have the report that is from, almost, an independent point of view on the benefits of alternative energy. We thank you for helping us and we hope we, in due course, can help you. (Mr Hain) Thank you very much. I look forward to it.