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Mr. Stunell: The hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood what I said. I certainly was not implying that the way ahead is to bow to international agreements to which we have not given assent. We signed up to the Kyoto agreement, and we are—I hope—willing participants in ensuring that it reaches a satisfactory conclusion. My point was that Kyoto and beyond will require international action by many nations, not just the United Kingdom. I am sorry if my explanation was not sufficiently clear.

I should tell those hon. Members who are keen to see the nuclear industry redeveloped that not even its best friend would claim that it is the cheapest way to generate electricity. An element of subsidy and support would be required, and my investigations have led me to believe that the Government would get better value by putting the equivalent subsidy into renewables.

Dr. Ladyman: I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Objective calculations by independent engineers on a like-for-like basis show that all the so-called renewable energy sources that he is espousing are more expensive than the nuclear option. Nuclear is the only energy source that, by law, must meet the cost of its own waste and decommissioning. He advocates the future use of wave and marine energy sources, but in both cases the production unit cost is twice that of nuclear power.

Mr. Stunell: I was about to say that, between now and 2050, there will be at least two generations of technology: land-based and offshore wind farms, to which reference has been made, and biomass and other technologies that are ready to be marketed; and other forms that are not yet ready to be marketed, of which—as the hon. Gentleman rightly says—wave and tidal energy are two examples. Such forms have huge potential, particularly in the context of the UK's geography, but at the moment they are a long

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way from being marketable. I agree that the use of such sources is some way off, as is the use of fusion nuclear power. However, I do not oppose work continuing on that, or on clean coal. Indeed, I was encouraged by the Minister's comments, and I take his point about the development of proper clean-coal technology and the efficient burning of coal. At the moment, perhaps the best way to reduce global carbon emissions is to fit clean-coal technology to existing plant in China. China's coal- burning technology is running at about 19 per cent. efficiency, and it is one of the planet's major pollutants.

The Minister—and perhaps the Prime Minister, too—has some challenges, and I hope that he can respond to them. One is developing targets beyond Kyoto, expanding the renewables obligation, considering carbon tax as a possible replacement for the climate change levy, and setting targets in general beyond 2010 and 2012. Progress needs to be made on two-way meters and domestic appliance efficiency.

Mr. Wilson: The hon. Gentleman said earlier that we should extend the renewables obligation beyond 2010, but perhaps that was a slip of the tongue. In fact, the renewables obligation extends to 2027.

Mr. Stunell: I am aware that the obligation will continue at its 10 per cent. level, but as the Minister knows, my plea is that we do not simply go up the escalator and remain on a plateau. We need instead to increase that figure in subsequent years.

Mr. Drew: I apologise for missing the first few minutes of the hon. Gentleman's speech. Does he agree that one way to advance the obligation to which he refers is to increase customer involvement? Each generating company could enable its customers to buy renewables through the device of ticking a box. Although they would pay more at the moment, there would be genuine customer involvement. One of the saddest things is that customers are not given the option to buy, and generators need to do much more to ensure that that can, and should, happen.

Mr. Stunell: I accept the hon. Gentleman's general point, and I am certainly in favour of much more positive marketing of renewables. Such things can be done—indeed, I myself have signed up to a renewables supplier.

Will the Minister explain what is to be done about interdepartmental co-ordination in this vital policy area? Conservation and efficiency appear to be within the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the generation and supply side is the Minister's own business within the Department of Trade and Industry; taxation is dealt with by the Treasury; the built environment and building regulations are the responsibility of the newly created Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; and transport issues are of course dealt with by the newly created Department for Transport. Five Government Departments are dealing with what should be integrated policy areas. Will the Minister give some assurance that the Government recognise the importance of this topic, and are co-ordinating it properly?

The United Kingdom can benefit from a sound, sustainable renewable energy policy. Such a policy can improve our quality of life, reduce pollution and flooding, and provide greater home comforts for us all. It can lead

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to growth in our economy domestically and in our exports nationally. It can certainly give us a far more sustainable environment, and produce far fewer harmful residues.

I suggest to the Minister that there is a route map for the future, a road on which to travel and a vehicle to put on that road. I want to hear from the Government that they will stop dithering—that they will stop just talking, and get on with it.

4.20 pm

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test): By coincidence, a while ago I was considering what might be the position of my city, Southampton, in 2050 if business continued as usual in terms of energy use in this country and throughout the world, and nothing was done to curb the growth of energy use and the carbon dioxide emissions that go with that. I consulted the Southampton geodata institute's study, which projected sea-level rises of between 0.8 and 1.2 m, and noted the institute's concern about more cyclones and anti-cyclones, greater tidal surges, and specific conditions in the south of England that would prevail by 2050. It predicted that the defensible shoreline resulting from those developments might be up to 5 m above the present level.

I looked at a map of my city, and imagined how it would look. Freemantle and St. Denys, two of its suburbs, would be completely under water, or defensible only with high sea walls. The River Itchen would not be crossable by bridge. All Southampton's main industrial areas and estates would be under water, and the port that is being built largely on reclaimed land would itself be wholly under water.

That is not an academic fantasy any more; it could happen almost in my lifetime. The forecast may be slightly out in terms of sea-level rise, but something along those lines is distinctly likely unless something is done, in the light of climate change, radically to reduce the energy consumption of all our industries and, indeed, all our countries. The report of the performance and innovation unit rightly identified a target of a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

I am proud that Britain has taken the lead in terms of the Kyoto targets, and is taking the lead in embarking on what is only the first stage of a process that must go much further. We must accept, however, that whether or not we want to take the lead in the future, other countries are likely to reach the same conclusions. They will therefore probably be subject to international long-term targets that will cause us to take the lead in any event.

The PIU report also considered the cost of reaching the target. It suggests that only six months' growth in gross domestic product would be lost over 50 years. Surely, on any reckoning, the benefits of attempting to reach the target easily outweigh the cost, and would do so even if it were much higher.

The report places much emphasis on renewables. We should double our target by 2020, as it suggests, and I think we need to start picking winners. We cannot afford to stand back and hope that the market alone will make some vital technologies marketable. Such action will entail investment, not in permanent subsidy but in making the renewables market ready to play its part.

I consider two aspects particularly important. One was mentioned by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell). Photovoltaics are the only urban renewable

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that we can seriously consider, given the overwhelmingly urban nature of our environment. When we talk of planning constraints, we are usually talking about constraints on what we want to put in our rural environment. We have millions of roofs, however, and the sun shines on all of them. The fact that they do not play their part in generating energy to heat the houses below them strikes me as a significant omission in terms of our long-term energy strategy.

The main problem with photovoltaics is the lack of demand for the cells that could be placed on the roofs. The problem is not that the technology does not work, or that it needs extensive research; the problem is that mass production and long-term stability of demand are needed if costs are to fall significantly. We can do much at an early stage to enhance market readiness.

There is already one example of the success of building regulations in making the country ready for the challenge of climate change. Building regulation L changes boiler and double-glazing standards. Once the changes are fully in place, some 1.4 MT of carbon dioxide could be saved over 10 years. That approaches the level of savings envisaged by the Government's 10-year transport plan.

We need a change in building regulations to alter the way in which we clad our buildings. That could make a tremendous contribution. I suggest a regulation embedding photovoltaics in the cladding of roofs of new buildings. Even given its present cost, PV is a competitive alternative to cladding. We need a regime in which buying a PV roof is not the result of individual commitment, whim or fancy. We need PV roofs to be there, part of the low-carbon economy and something that people switch on and off every day.

We should also make progress on the use of biomass as fuel. Astonishingly, we have 800,000 hectares of set-aside land that could be used—and, indeed, was used for agricultural purposes—while we have a crisis in employment in rural communities and their sustainability. Using it for biofuel crop production—for biodiesel, short-rotation coppicing or elephant grass to fuel combined heat and power plants—would have multiple benefits. The advantage of combined heat and power is that it can function on a larger or smaller scale, which makes it an ideal partner for such a change in policy. Again, all we need is investment in creation of the necessary climate and the maturing of the arrangements. No costly investment in research and development is necessary.

Those are just two technologies in which we should invest to expand radically the role of renewables in our energy supply. I congratulate the Government on introducing a renewables obligation that will lever confidence and some investment into renewable development, but the PIU report has done us an equal and longer term service. It has set out calmly and unemotionally the scale of the task involved in transforming the landscape of our energy economy, and has drawn our attention to how quickly action needs to be taken even if we want to address ourselves to much longer-term changes. Moreover, it has told us that action on biomass, PV and a range of other new and existing fuel technologies can be taken and can work. Our task now is to ensure that that happens.

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