|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I am grateful for the answer. North-east England and in particular the Tees valley have major opportunities to develop green jobs and approaches to energy generation that could make a significant contribution to the national economy. That would be
further boosted if the Government stood by the Lib-Dem election promise of £400 million-worth of investment in former shipyards to create those green jobs. Can he please tell me what commitment there is to support the development of demonstration activities such as carbon capture and storage, and to the investment promised by the Lib-Dems but omitted from the coalition's programme for government?
Chris Huhne: Let me make it clear that we continue to be committed to carbon capture and storage, and the four demonstration projects are going ahead. It is a key part of our energy strategy for the future, because it is the swing form of electricity generation. If we have intermittent wind and nuclear comes on stream if investors make those decisions, which because of the economics will be running at full tilt, gas and coal carbon capture and storage will be the key elements. That is a clear commitment-I hope-across the House.
We are also looking at the provision through the ports competition scheme of facilities for offshore wind. I was particularly impressed when I recently visited the All Energy conference in Aberdeen and talked, for example, to Burntisland Fabrications about the way in which it has converted from oil and gas to offshore wind.
George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con): One of the projects in my constituency which has a great deal of potential to create green jobs is the wave hub project in Hayle. One of the obstacles to taking that forward is the lack of a strategic environmental assessment. Under the previous Government, the Department was slow to look at this issue. Is the Secretary of State willing to have conversations with officials about how to speed things up?
Chris Huhne: I am happy for my hon. Friend to write with the details. We will certainly do whatever we can to speed up the project. Wave is a key new technology which can provide us not only with our renewable energy needs but give the UK a real comparative advantage.
Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): Given that it has been admitted in a written answer that the coalition has no target for green jobs, would the Secretary of State like to borrow ours? It was 1.2 million by 2015.
Chris Huhne: I welcome the hon. Lady to her new role and I am glad to see that she is getting stuck in. I thought the whole point about new Labour was that it believed in a market economy. The last sort of organisation that set targets for jobs sector by sector was the Soviet Union's Gosplan, and we all know what happened to that.
6. Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): What recent estimate he has made of the likely cost to the public purse of the implementation of the Government's commitment to reduce the level of carbon dioxide emissions by 10% in the next 12 months. 
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): The target will be met at no overall cost to the public purse. Where savings cannot be made through no-cost measures and behavioural change, Departments will be responsible for finding any additional investment in their existing budgets to deliver the Government's commitment, or using innovative shared saving contracts or similar energy service company-ESCO- arrangements. Showing real leadership in this area is an important part of our plan to be the greenest Government ever and will help us to deliver savings from reduced energy bills, but as I have said, it is only the first step in a long-term strategy to reduce Government emissions and increase efficiency across the whole public sector.
Gregg McClymont: In opposition, the coalition parties demanded a 10% reduction year on year in CO2 emissions across the public sector. In government, they now pledge these reductions only across the central Government estate. Why the retreat?
Gregory Barker: The hon. Gentleman is slightly misinformed as to what we promised. We said that there was a clear need for Government to take responsibility for getting their own house in order, which the previous Administration signally failed to do in 13 years. We are committed to 10% in the coming year, but we see it as part of a much more ambitious longer-term strategy across the public sector.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): In the emergency Budget the coalition Government confirmed their intention to establish a green deal for all households and for business. The green deal will enable individuals to invest in home energy-efficiency improvements that can pay for themselves from the savings in energy bills, without any up-front costs and without their incurring any form of personal debt or charge on their property. We have committed in the Queen's speech to legislate in a first Session energy Bill for finance tied to the energy meter, which should allow for the full green deal to be available by 2012. Only yesterday the Government announced that we are extending the carbon emissions reduction target through to the end of 2012.
Andrew Stephenson: I thank my hon. Friend for that very full answer. In my constituency many households are living in fuel poverty. Will my hon. Friend explain exactly how households will be able directly to access the grant to help tackle fuel poverty and reduce fuel bills?
Gregory Barker: The green deal is not a grant; it is designed to be repaid through the savings made on bills over 25 years. The beauty of the green deal is that, unlike any previous proposal, it will be totally unrelated to the household's ability to pay. It will simply be repaid, regardless of the credit scoring or wealth status of the individuals in the household. Of course, other measures will always be needed to make sure that fuel-vulnerable and hard-to-treat properties have direct financial support.
Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): Is the Minister aware that another source of useful efficiency savings in the domestic sector would be ground source heat pumps, as part of the renewables initiative? I see the Secretary of State nodding. Through his Minister, I can tell him that a company in my constituency which is very big in this area has jobs that it can create and orders in hand that it is ready to commit to. It seeks a meeting with the Secretary of State; it is not for the Minister to reply on that, but I would be grateful if the matter could be taken seriously in the Department.
Gregory Barker: We are very supportive of new technology, and I am well aware of the potential of ground source heat pumps. We want to enable a whole universe of new technologies to be part of the renewables solution. If the hon. Gentleman's constituents would like to meet me, I would be very happy to do so.
8. Mr Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): What recent assessment he has made of the potential for former onshore oil fabrication construction sites to be used for construction activity relating to sustainable forms of energy; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne): Many UK sites have potential for development in areas such as offshore wind, as indicated in the "UK Offshore Wind Ports Prospectus", and for wave and tidal energy. Many of them are in Scotland, where the Scottish Government are currently taking a strategic approach to the sector.
Mr Kennedy: In thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply I draw his attention to the great potential offered by the Nigg site, which is built around the largest dry dock in Europe, and, on the west coast of my constituency, the Kishorn site, which successfully contributed to massive North sea oil platform construction in days gone by. Will my right hon. Friend work as closely as possible with the Scottish Government, the Highland council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to promote internationally the interests of those two sites?
Chris Huhne: I am very pleased to reassure my right hon. Friend that my officials have already advised me about the potential for Kishorn and Nigg, and we will be working closely with all the relevant authorities to try to create the maximum number of jobs and make sure that their potential is realised to the full.
Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement. He was scornful about Gosplan a few moments ago, but there is a role for Government, as the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr Kennedy) indicated. The Secretary of State really cannot write Government out of government.
Chris Huhne: The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am not one-nor are any of my ministerial colleagues-to write Government out of government. There is an enormous difference between the Government's facilitating and setting a framework for the development of decisions made principally by market actors and what the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) was suggesting, which was a sectoral jobs target. I have not seen that in any economy in western Europe or any developed market economy; it has been seen only in the former plan economies.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): It is for transmission network companies to put forward proposals for new transmission lines. The regulatory price control and planning processes then determine the appropriate balance between the need, costs and impacts of transmission lines in each location. Each case has to be considered on its merits.
Tessa Munt: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that the people of Wells in particular and Somerset generally-some 26,000 people-are hugely dependent on tourism? That is inextricably linked with the environment, the landscape and people's health, and even though a large area of my constituency has the potential to become the 17th world heritage site, potential is not enough in itself to protect people from the environmental vandalism, attendant health risks and other matters that come with placing 152-ft pylons across the landscape.
Charles Hendry: My hon. Friend made those points very effectively in her eloquent maiden speech yesterday, on which I congratulate her. I know that she and her constituents will make active representations to National Grid during its consultation process. That is absolutely the right way for her to take her concerns forward, and I urge her to take every opportunity to do so.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Have the Tory-Lib Dem Front-Bench team detected that their lofty ideals are being frustrated at every turn by every Government Back Bencher who is frustrating the development of a real green policy by constantly putting forward objections to any proposals for development in their constituency? How will the Minister solve that problem?
It is called local democracy, to which we are absolutely committed. If people have concerns about 150-ft pylons going through their communities, they should be able to express them. If people have
concerns about new development, they should be allowed to express them. We are trying to ensure a realistic balance between bringing on stream renewable energy sources, which are in the national interest, and allowing communities to express their views.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. The Government will continue public sector investment in carbon capture and storage-CCS-technology for four coal-fired power stations. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that we give serious consideration to funding at least one gas CCS project as part of that programme, and we are carefully evaluating whether a demonstration project on gas would prove beneficial and add value to the programme.
Julian Smith: Will the Minister confirm that the Government are committed to providing the long-term infrastructure investments that will make the Yorkshire and Humber CCS cluster a worldwide success?
Charles Hendry: My hon. Friend puts his finger on one of the most important issues that the previous Government failed to address. If we are to make a real success of carbon capture and storage, we have to develop the infrastructure of oversized pipelines and encourage clusters of those facilities in certain areas. We have to take a long-term strategic view, and a good deal of work is being done in Yorkshire and Humberside, on which I congratulate all those involved.
Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Has the Minister had any discussions with the Scottish Government about the development of carbon capture in Scotland, and in particular has he received any representations on the proposed new coal-fired plant at Hunterston?
Charles Hendry: I had an initial discussion with the First Minister last week, and we are determined to work closely through the respect agenda to ensure that the taking forward of devolved issues is fully within the Scottish Government's remit. We want clean coal to play an active part in our energy policy, but it must be genuinely clean coal.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne):
It will be important to ensure that the UK has secure electricity supplies and an adequate capacity margin over the course of this decade and into
the 2020s. Our programme for government is clear: we will reform energy markets to deliver an appropriate security of supply mechanism. The lights will stay on.
Mr Hollobone: Will the Secretary of State be kind enough to tell the House, how close we are likely to come, on current projections, to having major blackouts throughout the country in the second half of the decade?
Chris Huhne: We will come forward with a lot more detail on that in the annual energy statement, which the hon. Gentleman will be able to examine for himself, but I assure him, as I said, that the lights will stay on. Inevitably, as new generating capacity comes on stream we will see the margin increase, and as the economy recovers we can expect that margin to shrink. However, he should also bear in mind what is going on with energy saving and, particularly, the development of smart meters and smart grids, whereby in the long run there will be a possibility of, for example, turning off freezers during power peaks, to reduce the need for electricity generation.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): The Secretary of State's faith in market solutions is touching-like that of all those with great religious fervour. However, can he give an example of anywhere in the world where the market has actually allocated secure energy supplies?
Chris Huhne: The hon. Gentleman should first be aware of what happens with some of the schemes in the United States-we are looking at them very closely-where there is a forward market in supply. That ensures that distributors have to buy forward supplies, while they can also, for example, buy forward commitments to energy saving, and in that way assure security. However, I would not want him to run away with the idea that I am somehow a market fundamentalist. I merely pointed out to the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr MacShane) that there is an enormous difference between setting a good framework as regards this aspect of regulation and legislation and making micro-management decisions of the kind that the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) seems to want us to make.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. The coalition agreement is clear that there will be no public subsidy for new nuclear power stations-a view that I have communicated to a variety of stakeholders with a diverse range of views. In particular, I have received strong representations from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|