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Energy (Waste Facilities)

6. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): What criteria apply to the eligibility for renewables obligation certificates of energy-from-waste facilities; and if he will make a statement. [285156]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): Renewables obligation certificates are granted only on the biomass proportion of the input waste in an energy-from-waste plant. To be eligible for ROCs, energy-from-waste plants must be accredited as combined heat and power plants and have agreed a fuel measurement and sampling procedure with Ofgem.

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Miss McIntosh: I am grateful for that answer but, from the proceedings of the Climate Change Bill, the Minister will be aware that if energy-from-waste plants are to be successful, they need to have access to ROCs on the same basis as other projects. Will she consider making the criteria apply in a similar way to the energy sector?

Joan Ruddock: We need to acknowledge that, to date, there has not been the most effective provision. Indeed, in April, we altered the fuel measurement and sampling requirements on energy-from-waste plants to secure ROCs in response to industry feedback that the previous requirements were too arduous. We have seen a positive response to that, and departmental officials are working with industry representatives and Ofgem to establish new measurement techniques. As the hon. Lady knows, the Government support energy-from-waste plants. We have made a significant sum of money—about £2 billion—available to do that. A number of huge projects are on the stocks and we expect them to come to fruition soon. In May, the largest one was finalised in Greater Manchester.

River Severn Estuary (Barrage)

7. Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): What progress has been made on his Department’s appraisal of the proposals for a barrage on the River Severn estuary; and if he will make a statement. [285157]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): The Government response to the public consultation on Severn tidal power is expected to be published shortly. A decision on whether to support a Severn estuary power scheme will be made after further assessment of the costs, benefits and impacts, and following a second public consultation, which is likely next year.

Mr. Robertson: I am grateful to the Minister for that response. When he said that a decision would be made on whether to support the idea, what exactly did he mean? If it goes ahead, I presume that the entire barrage will be funded privately. What support can the Government give that project?

Furthermore, when the Minister assesses the appraisal, will he make sure that there will be no negative impact on my constituency of Tewkesbury, which flooded very badly two years ago? I am not against the barrage in principle, but will the Minister make sure that there would be absolutely no negative impact on my constituency in that respect?

Mr. Kidney: The hon. Gentleman has asked me so many questions; I shall do my best to answer as many as you will allow me to, Mr. Speaker. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we take flooding extremely seriously and it will be considered as part of any environmental assessment for any project that might go ahead.

As to what project might go ahead, the hon. Gentleman knows that a range of possibilities are before us. The consultation that has just taken place is about which are feasible and practicable and should be pursued further. That further stage is due next. There are tremendous gains to be made from renewable energy, but we know that the environment in question is internationally important
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and that people locally are concerned about a number of navigation issues. All those subjects will be considered in that second consultation.

Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd) (Lab): My hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that I have been hearing such statements for at least 30 years. I would very much like to know his opinion of the two technologies that seem to be emerging. One is a 10-mile barrage across the Severn and the other is the building of tidal lagoons. Which does he think will offer the best value for money, which will do the least environmental damage and when are we going to get on with building them?

Mr. Kidney: A lot of progress has been made in just the past 12 months. My right hon. Friend is very unfair in asking me to announce my chosen project today; there are a good number to be assessed before that decision can be made. However, as the Sustainable Development Commission said in its report, there is tremendous potential. We would be irresponsible not to take seriously the prospects of possibly getting quite a large proportion of renewable energy from these sources. The technologies, their respective costs and who would pay for the investment, however, are matters still to be determined.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Will the Minister reassure us that the Government are not drifting relentlessly towards the solution of one giant barrage, with all the environmental consequences that that might have? We should keep open the option of a mix of technologies starting with a much smaller barrage, such as the Shoots barrage. That could start saving carbon much earlier and make more of a contribution to carbon budgets—and without those dire environmental consequences.

Mr. Kidney: It does not even pain me to say that I have seen the Liberal Democrat proposals and that they will be taken into consideration when we assess the different options. I assure the hon. Gentleman that every practicable technology and scheme will be considered. Each will be assessed, and we cannot make a decision at this stage; there is work to be done before we can.

Carbon Capture and Storage

8. Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): What recent representations he has received on the development of carbon capture and storage technology; and if he will make a statement. [285158]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): Since my statement to the House in April and our consultation document last June, we have had a wide range of representations on carbon capture and storage. There has been a warm welcome for the combination of the most environmentally ambitious conditions for new coal-fired power stations in the world, which we announced, and a plan, backed by legislation, for up to four CCS demonstration projects.

Mr. Brown: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Companies such as Scottish Power have a strong interest in CCS technology. Has he estimated how many
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green jobs and what likely investment there will be for the UK economy off the back of the technology, if it moves forward?

Edward Miliband: There is huge jobs potential. It is estimated that, in the round, there could be 30,000 to 60,000 jobs in carbon capture and sequestration by 2030. That is an indication of the scale of the potential, but that requires a certain funding stream for carbon capture and storage. We have managed to find a proposal to make that happen, and it will be in a fifth-Session Bill, subject to consultation. I hope that it will receive all-party support.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Minister in another place said during a debate on the carbon budgets—alas, we have not had that debate in this Chamber—that there was no realistic prospect of commercial carbon capture and storage before 2025 and that, therefore, when the Prime Minister offered the prospect of four such stations as a way of helping us out of the recession, he was either misleading the House or presupposing that the recession is going to go on for another decade and a half?

Edward Miliband: If I may say so, that was, uncharacteristically, a slightly confused question from the right hon. Gentleman. The truth is that we will be demonstrating carbon capture and storage, and we want to do so as soon as possible; that is why we are introducing the funding mechanism. There is a separate question about when it will be commercially deployable on a widespread basis in this country and around the world. The figures that I have seen suggest that that will be possible by 2020; obviously, opinions differ. However, the most important thing is to drive the technology forward as quickly as possible and I hope that he shares that aspiration.

Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend know about a Scottish company called Elimpus, which is at the forefront of technology in identifying leaks in nuclear power plants and from pylon wires? Recognising that it is a worldwide company, will he agree to meet me and its representatives so that its technology can be applied in Scotland?

Mr. Speaker: Order. I fear that the question might be a little wide, but I will leave it to the Secretary of State’s discretion.

Edward Miliband: I am sure that the company to which my hon. Friend refers has equities in a range of areas, including carbon capture and storage. Subject to time being available, I am happy to meet him and its representatives.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that as a result of the Government’s delays and dithering, we are not leading the world in this technology, and that we are now behind the United States, Canada, Norway, Abu Dhabi, China and other countries? Does he understand that one third of our coal plant is closing in the next few years, but because of the Government’s delays investment in new coal plant is on hold, as companies do not know what the CCS
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regime is? For nuclear, the Government set out a road map, with the Office for Nuclear Development and the Nuclear Development Forum. If that is good enough for nuclear, why have they not shown the same commitment to carbon capture, which could be at least as important for our future energy security and in meeting our low carbon commitments?

Edward Miliband: I wonder where the hon. Gentleman has been for the past three months, given that I made a statement to the House in April and set out a consultation document in June with the most environmentally ambitious standards for new coal-fired power stations and the most ambitious plans for the demonstration of carbon capture in coal-fired power stations. That will be taken forward with legislation going through this House. Unlike the Conservative proposals, ours are based not on funny money but on actual costed plans that will be implemented. I hope that the Conservatives will support them.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab): The opponents of carbon capture recently said in an article that I read that if we get this up and running only 25 per cent. of carbon would be taken out of clean coal. Is that a true statement or is it just them playing games?

Edward Miliband: We should never underestimate the ability of such people to play games. On the facts, we have said that as a condition of building any new coal-fired power station, at least 25 per cent. of the plant will have to be based on carbon capture and storage. There is a simple reason for that. Because it will cost significant amounts of money to build CCS plants, we think it right to demonstrate capacity at that scale. When the technology is commercially proven, which we hope will happen by 2020—that is the basis on which we are planning—plants will have to be 100 per cent. CCS-based. That is the most environmentally ambitious set of conditions for new coal-fired power stations of any country in the world.

Renewable Energy

10. Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD): If he will take steps to ensure that energy from renewable sources is given priority access to the national grid. [285160]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): All generators should be given a grid connection consistent with their development plans. We do not believe that the progress on that has been speedy enough, and we are determined to do more to make that happen, building on the recent agreement between Ofgem and the National Grid for an extra 450 MW of grid capacity, which will speed up connection for a range of projects by up to seven years.

Tim Farron: I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. There are 2,500 anaerobic digesters connected to the German national grid and only 35 in this country— 36 if we count Ambridge. I can assure him that farmers in south Cumbria are very keen to help the Government to make up that embarrassing deficit, and want to create Westmorland’s first anaerobic digester. Will he
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agree to meet me and farmers in my constituency to help us to gain priority access to the national grid and to ensure that we transform organic waste, farm waste and off-farm waste into clean energy?

Edward Miliband: I am sorry to correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. I believe the Ambridge project did not go ahead. I may be wrong, but I believe it did not get planning permission, no doubt from a Liberal council.

On the hon. Gentleman’s serious question, this is a priority, and it is important that Ofgem sees it as very much part of its duty to drive this forward. It has a duty to future consumers in its remit.

Tim Farron: A meeting?

Edward Miliband: I will come to the hon. Gentleman’s question about meeting him.

Part of that duty to future consumers has to be to drive forward connection to the grid. I am sure that one of our ministerial team will meet the hon. Gentleman and his friends.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that a number of important wind farm developments are still facing a wait of 15 years or so to secure connections to the grid, even though they are in the process of getting ready to run. Will he talk to the National Grid Company about its 2020 vision document, to ensure that it encompasses the most urgent possible strengthening of the grid so that connections can proceed much quicker?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I took powers in the Energy Act 2008 to take action if companies, the grid and Ofgem could not sort out that problem. If they do not do so quickly, that is exactly what I will do. We have to speed up grid connection, and it has to be seen as a central part of what Ofgem, the regulator, does under its duty to consumers present and future.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Given the Government’s regular warm words of commitment to the renewable sector in general, not least yesterday, and given that there is 25 per cent. growth a year in wind energy worldwide—we are clearly the best European country for wind energy—why is there no industrial or manufacturing strategy to ensure that we produce the jobs to support the industry’s development and give us the green road out of recession that the Prime Minister and Ministers regularly say we need?

Edward Miliband: There absolutely is an industrial strategy on that; my right hon. Friend the Chancellor allocated £405 million in the Budget for precisely that purpose. As for wind generation, last year we saw a 29 per cent. increase in the UK in onshore wind generation and a 67 per cent. increase in offshore wind generation, making us the world leader in the latter. Of course there is more to do, and we are determined to do it.

CO2 Emissions Targets (Skills)

11. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on the skills
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required from the work force in order to meet targets for reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. [285161]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): Ministers and officials in DECC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have worked together to develop the Government’s low-carbon industrial strategy. It will set out how Government will work with employers, unions and training and education providers to address key skills gaps in the transition to a low-carbon economy. This issue affects work forces throughout the UK.

Mr. Cunningham: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but can she say how much the Government are actually investing in the low-carbon industries and what the economic benefits will be?

Joan Ruddock: The Budget 2009 announced £1.4 billion of new spending to support the low-carbon sector. That will contribute to a total of £10.4 billion of low-carbon and energy investment over the next three years. I do not think you would allow me to read the whole list, Mr. Speaker, but that includes £405 million for the development and employment of low-carbon technologies, improved insulation for homes, low-cost loans for small and medium-sized enterprises, energy efficiency loans for public sector organisations and so on. There are currently 880,000 people employed in the sector, and we expect that number to grow.

Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): The Minister will be aware of the recent report by the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change on the UK oil and gas industry, and the point that it made about the transfer of skills from that industry to offshore renewables. In particular, the technology for offshore wind is very different from that for onshore wind. What will the Government do to encourage the use of facilities in the UK to build offshore wind turbines and create an industry here?

Joan Ruddock: The way in which we will undertake that will be more obvious to the hon. Gentleman when the low-carbon industrial strategy and the skills strategy that goes with it are published. We are, of course, working intensely with the industry. The oil industry has a remarkable record of innovation and skills, and if we can have those skills deployed in other sectors for a low-carbon economy, that will give a great boost to the way in which this country can progress into that economy.

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