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Wind Turbines

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to encourage the generation of electricity using wind power. [7326]

Mr. Wilson: The wind energy industry will benefit substantially from the introduction of the Renewables Obligation which will provide a long-term market for renewable energy for the next 25 years. This market will be worth over £1 billion per year by 2010 and suppliers

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are expected to meet a significant proportion of their obligations from wind energy. Existing contracts made under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) arrangements will be honoured, and we propose to table an Order before the end of 2001 to allow locational flexibility for these projects.

Wind energy also benefits from exemption from the Climate Change Levy.

By promoting the development of regional plans for renewable energy, and through the proposed update of National Planning Policy Guidance Note on Renewable Energy (PPG22), the Government are seeking to ensure that local planning decisions on proposed wind energy projects are taken in the context of wider policy objectives.

At least £49 million has already been announced for a DTI and New Opportunities Fund capital grants scheme for offshore wind energy projects. The offshore wind industry could also potentially benefit from forthcoming decisions on the extra £100 million for renewable energy pledged by the Prime Minister earlier in the year.

We have consulted extensively with the wind industry on the design of the capital grants scheme and intend to launch the scheme shortly. We have also consulted on our proposals for a "one-stop shop" to help developers seeking to obtain the necessary consents for offshore projects.

Wind energy projects are also eligible to apply for support under the Department's Sustainable Energy programme, which will provide funding for renewables research and development of £55 million in total over this and the next two financial years.

Electricity Generation

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much money the Government plan to spend on promoting the generation of electricity in the year 2002–03. [7328]

Mr. Wilson: Government action to promote the generation of electricity is directed to the sustainable energy sector. Subject to market circumstances, support from the Renewables Obligation and Scottish Obligation could be worth up to £282 million in 2002–03, and continuing support for the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) and its Scottish equivalent up to £167 million.

The Government's proposed budget for 2002–03 for our sustainable energy research and development programme is £18.5 million.

A proportion of direct Government spending on capital grants and other support schemes for renewable energy will also occur in 2002–03. The cost of these schemes over a three-year period is expected to exceed £200 million.

Exempting renewable energy from the Climate Change Levy will save the renewable energy industry an estimated £24 million in 2002–03.

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Electricity Trading

Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures the Government will take to ensure that the new electricity trading arrangements do not penalise Combined heat and power and renewable generators. [7056]

Mr. Wilson: In advance of going live, a number of smaller generators as well as the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) and the Association of Electricity Producers (AEP) expressed concern that the new electricity trading arrangements (NETA) would severely disadvantage them. In view of this, on 21 February, the then Minister for Energy, asked Ofgem to undertake a review of the impact of NETA on smaller generators based on its first two months of live operation.

On 31 August, Ofgem published their report to the DTI on the "Review of the Initial Impact of NETA on Smaller Generators", as well as a report "The New Electricity Trading Arrangements—Review of the First Three Months".

The Government believe that the key findings in Ofgem's report on the first three months of NETA are encouraging and indicate that, overall, NETA has created a more competitive market.

The Government have reviewed and considered Ofgem's reports, as well as views put forward by industry, both in the course of Ofgem's review, and to DTI. In the light of these, I will be issuing a consultation document.

Post Office Closures

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many sub-post offices closed in the Huntingdon constituency in each financial year since 1995–96. [6168]

Mr. Alexander: I understand from Post Office Ltd. that data on the post office network are not held on a parliamentary constituency basis.

Sub-post Offices (Compensation)

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans are (a) in place and (b) under consideration to compensate proprietors of sub-post offices whose businesses become unprofitable after withdrawal of benefit payments by cash. [6497]

Mr. Alexander: Benefit and pension recipients who wish to collect their benefits in cash at post offices will continue to be able to do so after the change in payment arrangements, beginning in April 2003, by means of Universal Banking Services.

The Government have committed £270 million of support over the next three years to start the implementation of the Performance and Innovation Unit's recommendations, all of which the Government accepted, for modernisation of the post office network. The Government remain committed to maintenance of a nationwide network of post offices.

Broadband Telecommunications

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets she has set for the

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percentage of the UK population able to gain access to broadband telecommunications by the end of this decade. [6495]

Mr. Alexander: The Government are committed to working to extend broadband networks across the UK. This commitment was backed up by the publication of an action plan 'UK online: the broadband future' which set out how the Government aim to facilitate the roll-out of broadband services across the country.

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the Government's plans to extend broadband telecommunications to rural areas throughout the UK. [6496]

Mr. Alexander: The Government are working to ensure that broadband services are available in all parts of the country. To this end we are developing a strategy together with all interested parties. The £30 million fund for Regional Development Agencies and the devolved Administrations is focused on extending broadband networks to those who are not offered access by the market, including in rural areas. The Countryside Agency also included broadband access and demand in its "healthchecks" on 100 market towns, while the devolved Administrations are carrying forward their own work on broadband in rural areas with our support and assistance.

In addition, we are examining the scope for aggregating public sector demand in order to speed up the roll-out of broadband services to individuals and businesses in rural and other areas that service providers currently see as uncommercial.

Private Finance Initiative

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the likely impact of the European Commission's latest proposals on future PFI projects. [6616]

Ms Hewitt: The Commission's proposals for simplifying, clarifying and bringing up to date the EC procurement directives were tabled in July 2000. They are the subject of on-going discussions in the Council and the European Parliament. Real progress is being made and the Government consider it unlikely that the amended rules will have any adverse effects on the award of PFI contracts.

Gas Imports

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many billion cubic metres of gas she expects to be imported by 2010; and if she will make a statement; [7360]

Mr. Wilson: The Department makes and publishes projections of UK gas supply and demand, for example in 'Energy Projections for the UK' published in November 2000 and in the annual "Brown Book". In DTI's submission to the current Performance and Innovation Unit Energy Review, projections of supply and demand consistent with these publications were presented which suggest that the UK could become a net importer of gas on an annual basis by 2005 or soon thereafter. There is,

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though, uncertainty on both the supply and demand projections, not least since both can be affected by changes in energy prices. Most outside commentators are also currently forecasting net imports from around 2005–06. At times of high demand in the winter, the UK is already a net importer of gas, as it was before 1997.

Looking further ahead, to 2010, there is greater uncertainty, so it is possible only to speculate on a likely range of estimates for net imports in that year. Allowing for an effect on gas demand from the full Climate Change Programme announced in November 2000, and assuming production by then of at least some of the discovered gas reserves which are currently classified as possible and of some as-yet-undiscovered gas reserves, an import range of between 15 and 55 billion cubic metres is indicated.

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