Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 532-539)




  532. Good morning, Mr Tindale. Mr Spencer is unwell?
  (Mr Tindale) Yes, I am afraid so. He is our expert on climate change and renewables, so I will endeavour to answer the Committee's questions, but if there are levels of detail which I cannot answer, then I will write to you afterwards.

  533. Thanks very much, we appreciate that. These things happen and we understand. Having said that, we may have to start off in areas about renewables. You are advocating a target of about 50 per cent of current electricity to be derived from renewables, and the closure of all nuclear stations. We have been advised that this combination of policies would lead to a saving of probably about 22 million tonnes of oil equivalent or ten per cent of our total fossil fuel use by 2020. That is a fairly limited payback for what is quite a substantial cost. Could you try and justify it to us please?
  (Mr Tindale) The important point about energy policy and the reason why we welcome the 50-year timescale for the PIU study is the trajectory that you are on. It is not so much where you are at at a particular year and one of the problems with targets is that too much emphasis tends to be placed on points in time. The important essential objective in energy policy is to be on a trajectory to phase out fossil fuels and nuclear power for two different reasons: fossil fuels because of climate change reasons; and nuclear power for nuclear waste reasons. So we need to get out of those two energy sources and we need, therefore, to move to a situation where we are 100 per cent reliant on different renewable energy sources and it is important, we think, to bear in mind that you can still have a balanced and diverse energy policy within what is currently referred to as `renewables'; you can have wind power, you can have wave power, you can have solar power, you can have biomass and you can have tidal. So we are not so concerned about the point in time of 2020 as we are about the trajectory. Having said that, we think that the costs of the targets that we have proposed would not be unreasonable and I draw the Committee's attention to the PIU scoping note on renewable energy which looks at the economic potential for renewables at a cost of 4p per kilowatt hour or less and we could meet the targets that we are proposing within that level.

  Chairman: We might come back to a couple of these points later, but I think Mrs Lawrence would like to come in here.

Mrs Lawrence

  534. If I could move on to job potential in the future, you claim that investment in renewables would lead to significant job opportunities. Can you give us a comparison as to how that would rate against job losses in the nuclear industry?
  (Mr Tindale) We used the figures that the wind energy uses on potential jobs in that sector and they, the British Wind Energy Association, have talked about the potential for 5,000 direct jobs and 19,000 indirect jobs from a programme of meeting around 10 per cent of the UK electricity need from wind. Border Wind, now part of Airnet, has come out with a higher estimate which is that you could create 36,000 jobs, direct and indirect jobs, from a 10 per cent target.

  535. There are two significantly different estimates there. What are the differing factors in working out those differing numbers?
  (Mr Tindale) I think the answer is simply that there is a great deal of uncertainty in this type of estimate and that there are different definitions of what you count as an indirect job flowing from a particular investment or industrial pattern. I think even if you accept the lower estimate of 19,000, that is a very significant new industrial sector and indirect jobs dependent on it and it compares favourably with current employment in both the nuclear industry and the fossil fuel industry.

  536. Can you give us a bit of a description about the difference, what you would class as direct and indirect and what categories they would fall into?
  (Mr Tindale) A direct job is one that is working for a company that is manufacturing wind turbines or the electronics that are needed or the other parts that are needed. The indirect jobs are as a result of spending in local communities and so on, the increased spending in local communities resulting from that industrial activity.


  537. One of the features of post-war electricity generation in the UK has been that most of the generating capability has been British and it has often been acquired at unreasonable expense and there has been significantly little in the way of exports generated by what was in those days public expenditure. Why should it be any different now with renewable energy equivalent?
  (Mr Tindale) Well, I am not an expert in the reasons for the UK's comparatively poor export performance in the past, so I am not sure I am the best person to answer your question, but I do think that a number of bodies charged with looking at the UK's industrial performance, including the Foresight panels, including Scottish Enterprise, have identified this as an area for major export. Now, if there are particular obstacles in terms of the performance of UK Government or the performance of UK industry that mean that we have not exported as much as we should have in the past, then those clearly need to be addressed, but those are outside the expertise of Greenpeace.

  538. They may or may not be outside your expertise, but the fact that equipment has a Union Jack on it does not necessarily make it intrinsically attractive to foreign purchasers. That is the first point. Secondly, we are in a position, as I understand it, where we are somewhat far behind the game as far as renewables are concerned if we look at our fellow members of the Community, people like the Dutch and the Danes, for example. They are ahead of us in the technology stakes and they have a better industrial capability at the present moment, so why will they not take advantage of the world markets in a way that we probably will not be able to do because we are that far behind?
  (Mr Tindale) First of all, I should say Greenpeace is a global organisation and we have both Dutch and Danish offices, so we are not particularly in the business of promoting UK manufacturers—

  539. But, with respect, if we are going to export, it is at the expense of other people and it is on the basis that we are better or we could be better than them and I am trying to establish why.
  (Mr Tindale) I absolutely agree with your point that the fact that something has a Union Jack on it will not necessarily sell it. I would say two things: first of all, that there are technologies and I would point particularly to wave where it is not too late to be the first mover—

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 3 May 2002