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Wave and Tidal Energy

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what further research she plans to assess the environmental impact of wave and tidal energy devices; and if she will make a statement. [8255]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has carried out general studies on the potential impact of offshore energy devices, as well as Environmental Impact Assessments for specific schemes, including one for a proposed tidal stream development. These studies indicate that, providing the schemes are deployed with some care, they should not have any significant adverse effect on the environment and simple steps can be taken to ensure that such schemes are not a navigation or environmental hazard.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what estimate she has made of the numbers of new jobs which will be generated by (a) 2010 and (b) 2020 in wave and tidal power companies in the UK; [8252]

Mr. Wilson: The recent report of the Science and Technology Committee Inquiry into wave and tidal energy estimated that energy from wave and tidal currents around the UK have the theoretical potential to generate about 25 per cent. of the nation's electricity.

The same report estimated that if 0.1 per cent. of the energy resource in the ocean could be converted to electricity it would satisfy the present world demand for energy five times over.

This represents a significant new source of energy and the Department is vigorously encouraging and assisting industry to develop promising technologies. Success in this would lead to the development of new sustainable industries but it is too early in the technology development to provide reliable estimates of the size of the market and jobs.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what further research funding is planned to increase the efficiency of wave and tidal power devices; [8256]

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Mr. Wilson: In the case of wave energy, my Department has already supported the development of the world's first commercial wave power device at Islay, and we recently announced that we will provide further support to the company involved, Wavegen, by increasing the level of R&D funding for their most recent project to almost £1.67 million. This funding will assist with the further development of their new offshore wave energy concept and the construction and testing at sea of a prototype. This substantial funding confirms the Government's commitment to its new wave energy programme.

The Department commissioned a study into the prospects for tidal stream technology in the UK and this has now been completed. It was positive about the prospects for tidal stream, and is being taken forward in association with the industry. There are a useful amount of tidal currents around the shores of the UK and these are already well charted. There a number of sites where tidal stream generators could be deployed, but as yet no prototype device. Tidal stream is now covered as a technology in my Department's Sustainable Energy Programme.

The Department recently initiated a call for proposals under the Sustainable Energy Programme, which invites bids for funds to support the development of both wave and tidal power. The level of funding will be dependent on the number of good quality R&D proposals which are received from the industry.

Both technologies will also continue to be eligible for funding for R&D into Electricity Generation from renewable and clean sources from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). This programme provides £3.5 million of support per year for research into the full range of renewables technologies. To date, wave and tidal projects have received over £769,000 of support from this source.

We anticipate that the introduction of the Renewables Obligation will also provide a further stimulus to these and the wider range of eligible renewables, including wave and tidal power. Both technologies may also benefit from a proportion of the £100 million announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier this year.

Renewable Energy (Planning Applications)

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what timescale her Department has set for the implementation of a one-stop-shop for offshore renewable planning applications; and when she expects the first planning application under this system to be granted. [8254]

Mr. Wilson: Draft guidance describing the streamlined consenting process for offshore windfarms has recently been circulated by my Department to the industry and all the main statutory consultees for comment. A copy is being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. I intend that the guidance will be finalised shortly. The first application under this system has been received and the consenting authorities are now progressing the application in consultation with the developer as necessary but I am not able to say when the process will be complete.

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Offshore Energy Technologies

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will encourage development and long term investment in the energy potential of a range of offshore technologies. [8249]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has put in place a range of measures to encourage and assist development and long term investment in offshore technologies.

The Government have allocated at least £49 million to capital grants for offshore wind. £39 million will come from DTI, the remainder from the New Opportunities Fund. The capital grants programme was officially launched this week, and application forms/guidance notes are now available from DTI at eoi.htm. These grants will support early deployment of a number of demonstration projects and enable the industry to develop a bank of knowledge and expertise to maximise the contribution of this technology to the UK's 10 per cent. target. We have also consulted recently on the offshore consents process and plan to bring forward a new 'one-stop-shop' approach which should make it easier for project developers to get their projects up and running.

Already this year, 18 wind farm developments have achieved pre-qualification status for a lease of sea bed from the Crown Estate. We hope to see these projects coming to fruition as quickly as possible. In the light of the interest expressed in the first round of leases we would also hope that the Crown Estate can provide further opportunities.

In connection with support provided to wave and tidal power, I would refer my hon. Friend to the questions answered early today PQ's ref No. 8256 and 8253.

All three technologies will also benefit from the forthcoming introduction of the Renewables Obligation. The Obligation marks a significant commitment by Government to the renewables industry as a whole, with the potential to create a market worth over £1 billion per annum by the year 2010. We have backed up our commitment to the Obligation with funding worth over £260 million for this and the next two financial years, including the capital grants funding and R&D programmes already mentioned. A proportion of the £100 million for renewables announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year may also be allocated to the early deployment of offshore technologies.

Electricity Transmission Lines

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action the Government are taking to provide incentives for the strengthening of electricity transmission lines to enable the expansion of grid connections. [8250]

Mr. Wilson: This is a matter for the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). I have asked the Director of Regulation and Financial Affairs to reply and will place a copy of his letter in the Library of the House.

Departmental Spending

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total amount of spending by her Department was in each nation and region of the UK, in

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the last year for which figures are available; what proportion of her Department's total spending this constitutes; and if she will make a statement. [6839]

Ms Hewitt: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 15 October 2001, Official Report, columns 854–56W, to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond).

Ministerial Visits

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) on how many occasions in each year since 1992 non-commercial flights were used by Ministers in her Department for official overseas visits; what the (a) destination, (b) Ministers involved, (c) cost and (d) reason for use of non-commercial flights were on each occasion; and if she will make a statement. [6884]

Ms Hewitt: I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's answer on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 823W.

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