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14 Sept 2004 : Column 1535W—continued

Overhead Power Lines

Mr. Charles Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government has taken to evaluate the impact of new overhead power lines on the economy of communities reliant on tourism. [187491]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: This is one of a number of issues for Government to take into account when considering an individual application for consent to a particular proposal for a new overhead line. In Scotland it is for Scottish Ministers to take that decision.

Renewable Energy

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many householders have taken advantage of the Clear Skies renewable energy grants scheme since the scheme started operating; and how much has been awarded in grants. [188171]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Since the start of Clear Skies 4,204 household applications have been made with a total value of £2,489,050. Of these 3,939 have been accepted and 2,347 have been paid, with a total value of £1,297,050.

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on future plans for the Clear Skies renewable energy grants scheme. [188172]

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Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Department is currently considering how best to allocate the recent Spending Review Settlement for sustainable energy. While the settlement was a good one in the context of a tight spending review, it unfortunately will not allow us to do everything.

We are currently considering the case made by the industry to make a further extension to Clear Skies in the context of the overall funding made available for renewables and low carbon generation in SR2004.

An announcement about continued funding will be made shortly.

Renewables Obligation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the timescale for the consultation on the renewables obligation. [188419]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There are two separate consultations on the Renewables Operation under way at present.

First, the Government launched a consultation on the terms of reference for the Review of the Renewables Obligation which will take place in 2005/06. The review will address the effectiveness of the Obligation to date, the future profile of the Obligation, its working arrangements and the transition to market over time for renewables technologies including taking account of support under the Obligation and the Emissions Trading Scheme. The consultation period on the terms of reference ends on 30 September. A preliminary consultation is planned for early next year followed by a statutory consultation of all stakeholders later in 2005 with a view to any necessary changes that can be made by secondary legislation taking effect from 1 April 2006.

In addition, on 8 September the Government published a separate consultation paper on a number of limited changes to the Renewables Obligation to strengthen the development of electricity generation capacity using renewable energy sources in the UK. This is a more limited consultation concerning measures to:

The period for this consultation ends on 1 December, and the Government plans to make any necessary changes to take effect from 1 April 2005.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the calculation of the effectiveness of renewable obligations will include the operation of renewable obligation certificates. [188420]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Yes. The operation of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are an important element of the Renewables Obligation. The forthcoming review of the Renewables Obligation in 2005/06 will include, among other things, an assessment of the effectiveness of the operation of the ROCs market.
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State Aid

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate her Department has made of the levels of state aid to industry in other EU member states relative to the UK and of whether this results in unfair competition. [186419]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The European Commission publishes regular reports on levels of state aid spending in member states, based on information which member states are required to provide, and the results are available on the Commission's website at: http:// aid/scoreboard/

EU rules on state aid provide a safeguard against any member state funding businesses in a way that will distort competition and trade within the single market. The Government sees this regime as essential in ensuring a level playing field for businesses across the EU, and we are committed to the objectives agreed at Lisbon and other European Councils of less and better targeted state aid.

Telephone Billing

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will require British Telecom to allow its competitors to offer a single telephone bill for its customers. [186331]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The matter raised is the responsibility of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) as independent regulator. Accordingly, my officials have asked the Chief Executive of Ofcom to respond directly to the hon. Member. Copies of the Chief Executive's letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Tidal Energy

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to promote tidal energy; and what plans she has to increase investment in its further development. [187041]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The main form of support for all renewable technologies is the Renewables Obligation (RO) which provides a stable and long term market for renewable electricity. Electricity generation from both wave and tidal stream technologies is eligible for the RO.

However, these technologies are still at the developmental stage. Therefore the principal form of support to date has been through the DTI's Technology Programme that since 1997 has committed around £15 million towards the development of these technologies.

On 2 August the Government announced a further £50 million funding primarily focused on supporting the UK's marine renewables industry through the next phase of development of these technologies, which includes small scale demonstration and pre-commercial stages.

The Department is now working closely with the Carbon Trust, Scottish Executive and other stakeholders looking at mechanisms for applying the funding, subject to State Aid approval.
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Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the potential contribution to the UK's energy needs of tidal power. [187042]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: A study has been commissioned to provide a spatial quantification of renewable sources of energy—wave, tidal and offshore wind across the waters of the UK continental shelf. In addition to the spatial variation of these resources, temporal variations will also be assessed. This study (ATLAS) will assist in deciding which areas of the sea will next be subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment.

The first stage of the study which has just been completed provides information on the energy levels with a resolution of about 12 km. The second stage will involve the conversion of the raw energy potential into the amount of energy presently available. It will also allow higher resolution in specific areas such as through main channels. The study is expected in the autumn and we intend to publish it.

Additionally, there have been two previous studies1,2 which examined the potential tidal stream power resource in the UK. The later of those studies completed in 1996 under the EC JOULE-II energy research programme identified a total of 42 potential sites in UK waters with a combined annual output totalling some 31 TWh/yr which represents 8 per cent. of UK annual electricity demand in 2003.

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