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8 Apr 2010 : Column 1167

Ministerial Meetings

5. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When he next expects to meet local authorities in East Anglia to discuss renewable energy initiatives in that area. [325608]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): The hon. Gentleman will understand that I have no plans to meet local authorities in East Anglia at this time, but meetings continue at official level as appropriate.

Mr. Bellingham: Have the Government set renewable energy generation targets for counties? Is the Minister aware that Norfolk has many offshore wind turbines both in place and planned for the future? Will that offshore energy be part of the renewable target for coastal shire counties?

Joan Ruddock: What I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that the Department has developed and published a methodology to help regional authorities to assess potential renewable and low-carbon energy in their areas. He is on record as having many objections to onshore wind energy, and arguing that offshore wind is preferable. The Government believe that we need both onshore and offshore wind energy. There is no question but that onshore wind is the most proven and most reliable of our renewable technologies, and we cannot set it aside, although we are developing offshore wind energy for which, as he knows, we are the leading country in the world. Offshore wind energy is two or three times more expensive than onshore wind, depending on location, which is why there is no question about it-we must have a mix.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): Over a year ago, we called for the setting up of marine renewable energy parks to help make Britain the world leader in development of wave and tidal power. As the tide finally goes out on the Government and we wave them goodbye, does the Minister accept that she could and should have done more to bring together local authorities in East Anglia and other coastal areas to highlight the UK's huge potential in those crucial technologies, and to ensure that the investment in green jobs that they can bring comes to Britain instead of, again, going to other countries?

Joan Ruddock: The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Government have made great strides in developing marine technology. In the south-west, we already have a wave hub, to which we have made £60 million available. We have made it clear that, although it is not an immediate technology, which can be deployed at this moment, as wind can-the hon. Gentleman needs to get his party's position on wind straight- [Interruption.] Yes, objection? There is a 60 per cent. refusal rate. We are working on marine technology, we are giving money, and we are developing the strategy, which will follow on naturally from all the other investment in renewables that the Government are making.

Electricity Demand/Capacity

6. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): What estimate he has made of the change in demand for electricity by 2025. [325609]

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The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): Peak demand for electricity is expected to be broadly the same in 2025 as now, but we need to replace high-carbon sources of energy generation with low-carbon sources, including renewables and nuclear. To make this happen, we have reformed the planning system and are proposing reform of the electricity market, as set out in the energy market assessment published at the Budget.

Richard Ottaway: Those may be the Secretary of State's figures, but will he accept that just about every independent expert predicts a growth in demand of approximately 2 per cent. per annum? If one takes the growth in green energy in the past 13 years and projects it forward, it will not even keep up with the growth in demand. Coupled with that, I strongly suspect that his figures do not take into account the increased use of electric cars. Will he not, even at this late hour, admit that he has not planned for enough generating capacity in this country for the years to come?

Edward Miliband: No, I will not admit that. I do not know whether I am maligning the hon. Gentleman unfairly by saying that he is one of the wind power refuseniks on the Opposition Benches-

Richard Ottaway: I am not.

Edward Miliband: If the hon. Gentleman is not, that is very good. He should persuade the other people in his party because we need onshore and offshore wind and all those things to move forward. He is right that we need to up the pace-that is why we are reforming planning, for example. The worst thing that could happen for low-carbon transition in this country is a Government who came in and reversed all those planning reforms and slowed things down again. We need to speed up, and we will under this Government.

Renewable Heat Incentive

7. Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): What progress he has made on the introduction of the renewable heat incentive. [325611]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): The renewable heat incentive is the first of its kind in the world and is on track to be introduced on 1 April 2011.

The Government launched their consultation on the proposed renewable heat incentive on 1 February. In the consultation document, we set out our proposals for the scheme and we are now seeking views from stakeholders. The consultation on the draft proposals closes on 26 April. We will continue to develop our proposals following the feedback and comments that we receive.

Dr. Whitehead: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and look forward to the introduction of the renewable heat incentive from these Benches and to his announcing the day of implementation.

The consultation document states that an announcement on the funding of the renewable heat incentive will be made in the Budget. The announcement in the Budget was of a further review. Does my hon. Friend anticipate the results of that review arriving fairly shortly, and will
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he give me an assurance that that will not impact in any way on the date of introducing the renewable heat incentive?

Mr. Kidney: My hon. Friend speaks with great authority on the subject, and I am grateful for his support for the policy. It is true that the Treasury statement at the time of the Budget was modest, but it confirmed that the scheme is still on track to begin on 1 April-I think that is the reassurance that my hon. Friend seeks.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): Do the Government have any plans to assist the installation of renewable heat facilities in existing commercial buildings?

Mr. Kidney: The intention is that we will support and encourage the deployment of renewable heat technologies of every scale and in every sector, so, yes, that includes businesses.

Carbon Capture and Storage

8. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): What progress has been made in the establishment of a carbon capture and storage demonstration plant in South Yorkshire. [325612]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): The European Commission and Powerfuels Power Ltd have signed a contract awarding a grant of €180 million from the European energy programme for recovery for the first phase of the Hatfield integrated gasification combined cycle-IGCC-and carbon capture and storage project.

The Government have announced that the Yorkshire and Humber region will be the first low-carbon economic area for CCS with the aim of facilitating investment in CCS and promoting business opportunities in the region.

Jeff Ennis: I thank the Minister for that very positive reply. The development of coal power stations with equipment to provide CCS is essential to the future of this country. Does my hon. Friend agree that, with its rich heritage in heavy engineering and innovation, South Yorkshire is well placed to lead the world in the development of CCS?

Joan Ruddock: As I understand that my hon. Friend is standing down, may I first pay tribute to all the work he has done in the House, particularly on behalf of his communities and in the interests of miners? He is, of course, absolutely right that his area has historically been very dependent on mining industries, and it has a great future as there are so many skills and technology capabilities that can make it a world-leading centre for the very impressive carbon capture and storage technology, which is being pioneered in this country with Government support, and for which, if we pass the Energy Bill this afternoon, there will be a financial support system that will be the very best in the world.

Climate Change Conference (Cancun)

9. Mr. William Bain (Glasgow, North-East) (Lab): What discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on objectives for the UN climate change conference in Cancun. [325613]

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The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): I have frequent discussions with my EU counterparts, including with the Spanish presidency this week, and we recently published our post-Copenhagen prospectus, which sets out our strategy for Cancun and beyond. The most important thing the world needs to do is to forge the comprehensive legal framework that eluded us at Copenhagen.

Mr. Bain: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I encourage him in his continuing efforts to secure the binding agreements that will implement the Copenhagen accord. Does he agree that it would be an important show of good faith from the developed world if it was to indicate that it would be willing to extend its commitments under the Kyoto treaty beyond the initial 2012 deadline?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point. That was a big point of contention at the Copenhagen talks, and we said in our post-Copenhagen document that we would enter into a second commitment period under Kyoto, provided that there was an acceptable legal framework alongside the Kyoto proposals. That is an important signal to developing countries who are reluctant to enter into a legal treaty and who are worried about the developed world's commitment to Kyoto.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I presume that the Secretary of State or one of his Ministers will go to the meeting on climate issues in Bonn in the first week of May. If they do go, will they take the message that it is vital that we now have a 30 per cent. European emissions target and not a 20 per cent. target, and that we have a new structure at the United Nations-a climate security council or some such body that can ensure that there is momentum? Further, does he agree that in the election between now and then the British public would be very foolish to vote for any candidates who do not accept the overwhelming nature of the science showing that we have the worst climate crisis that anybody has ever known?

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We do want to move to the 30 per cent. target for Europe as part of an ambitious global deal. I also agree with his remarks about the UN, and there is an opportunity to upgrade the UN post in charge of the UN framework convention on climate change. As for the hon. Gentleman's other point, I was shocked to read in the Financial Times that only a handful of the 206 Conservative candidates who were contacted accepted the unequivocal reality of man-made climate change. That shows the stakes in respect of climate change at this election.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): In congratulating my right hon. Friend and the Government on having led the world in combating climate change, may I ask what action he will be seeking in Bonn and Cancun and what action he will be taking in this country to ensure that at least 15 per cent. of all energy comes from renewable sources by 2020?

Edward Miliband: My right hon. Friend is completely right about these issues, and about the importance of showing that we here at home are moving forward as
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part of getting the ambitious global deal that we need. That commitment to the 15 per cent. renewable energy target is very important. It is also important that we transmit the learning here to other countries so that they can move forward. This is therefore about UK and European commitment as part of an ambitious global deal.

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): If we want to lead the world, we need policy, not just targets. Had it not been for Conservative leadership on the environment during this Parliament, Britain would have no feed-in tariffs, no renewable heat incentive, no ban on new unabated coal, no roll-out of smart meters and no Climate Change Act 2008. On every measure, Labour first opposed us and then adopted our policy. So will the Secretary of State say, "Thank you" to the Conservative party for achieving more in Opposition in five years than Labour's 19 Ministers did in 13 years of dithering in office?

Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): Say it!

Edward Miliband: I will not say, "Thank you." The reality of the Conservative party's record in this Parliament on climate change is that it began with the stunt with the huskies, initiated by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), and it ends with the Leader of the Opposition saying, "Here are 10 reasons to vote Conservative," and not one of them is about climate change. We find out that Conservative candidates have not changed; they do not believe in man-made climate change. So the truth is that we have a whole range of stunts but an unchanged Conservative party, on this issue and every other issue at this general election.

Greg Clark rose-

Mr. Speaker: Order. I fear that the shadow Secretary of State was seeking to divert the Secretary of State from the path of virtue, which involves focusing on the Government's policies, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

Greg Clark: The trouble is that the Secretary of State is auditioning for the role of Leader of the Opposition, and we wish him very well in that effort.

The right hon. Gentleman's most significant achievement is a mastery of the cut-and-paste function on Conservative policy, so will his manifesto match ours in establishing a floor price for carbon, a green deal for every home in the country, an offshore electricity grid, a network of marine energy parks, a security guarantee in the electricity market, a smart meter in homes by 2016 and no third runway at Heathrow? The Energy Networks Association has called that package

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman has clearly learned nothing during his time as shadow Secretary of State. A list of policies does not make a strategy, and image does not make substance. That is the truth about the Conservative party. Why would the Conservatives put the green transition in this country at risk? For example, they oppose renewables the length and breadth of this country. They oppose the progress that is being
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made. The difference between the Labour party, and the Labour Government, and the Conservative party is that we have conviction about tackling climate change while it is all about image and detoxifying the brand.

Feeder Tariffs

10. Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): What assessment he has made of the costs and benefits of proposed feeder tariff arrangements. [325615]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): We are introducing feed-in tariffs to encourage small-scale, low-carbon electricity generation by individuals, communities, businesses and organisations that have not traditionally engaged in the electricity market. The costs and benefits of the feed-in tariff scheme are explained in detail in the impact assessment that was published alongside the Government response to the feed-in tariffs consultation and is available from the Department of Energy and Climate Change website.

Mr. Lilley: It is obviously desirable in principle to encourage people who generate their own electricity to feed the excess into the grid, as long as the costs do not exceed the benefits. Small wonder, then, that the Minister failed to answer the question and tell us that the costs of his new feeder tariffs are put by his experts at £8.6 billion, which is 20 times their assessment of the likely benefits. Given that even George Monbiot thinks that that is barking mad, will the Minister consider a more sensible and economically justifiable system of tariffs?

Mr. Kidney: The cumulative cost to consumers is estimated at £3.1 billion to 2020, and the impact is an average increase of £8.50 annually to domestic bills over the period 2011 to 2030. If the right hon. Gentleman were followed by more people in this country, it would be difficult for the country, its Government and its citizens to tackle climate change effectively, but perhaps some people are following his views, most particularly Conservative candidates.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): The introduction of the feed-in tariff will be very welcome to people such as the operators of the Torrs hydropower system in New Mills in my constituency-a community-owned hydropower station, of which I happen to be a shareholder. Is my hon. Friend aware that the big barrier is still the start-up costs of community hydro schemes? The Methodist church in Glossop is considering the possibility of having one on its ground, but what hope can he give those who are looking for help with those start-up costs before they can benefit from the feed-in tariff?

Mr. Kidney: I have seen some of the community enthusiasm for small-scale hydro. For example, I visited a scheme at Tutbury in Staffordshire earlier this year. The feed-in tariff is intended to galvanise such communities by showing that they can make a commercial return on such schemes. I am afraid that I shall have to offer to meet my hon. Friend outside the Chamber to talk to him about possible sources of capital funding for such schemes, but there is interest, for example, from some commercial banks today.

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