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Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I support the amendment because it will keep nuclear power before the Government and the public as an important alternative to other renewables. I hope that Ministers have on their desk a Scottish newspaper because they will begin to see a mounting tide of objection to the many new wind farms now developing in Scotland.
More importantly, the public have begun to realise that the wind farms require transmission lines. Already the new national park in the Grampian area has said, "No, on no account are we going to have 300-foot pylons through the national park and down the spine of Scotland". Indeed, people in Ross and Cromarty near Beauly are complaining bitterly about the establishment of 300-foot transmission lines without any consultation at all.
Throughout Scotland, the mounting view is that enough is enough. We cannot ruin our picturesque countryside with such a large number of wind farms. After all, if one tried to erect a factory in the countryside, one would be told, "No, not at any price". But if one wanted to erect a commercial development, such as wind farms, the Government would say, "Yes, at all costs. Bring it here". They do not seem to understand the difference between the commercial development of wind farms and the commercial development in industry.
It is interesting to note that even this week, the Scottish Executive turned down the first appeal for a hydro-electric scheme at Sheildaig. Every other appeal on wind farms or renewable energy sources have been approved willy-nilly by the Executive. The public are beginning to say, "Stop, we've had enough". If we had one or perhaps two nuclear power stations in Scotland, we would be able to do away with all the wind farms and other unsightly renewables.
It is such a paradox because the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is developing new CAP policies in order to improve the environment in the countryside while here he is doing exactly the reverse by encouraging the development of wind farms which will make it so unattractive.
I would like him to comment on the attitude of the Ministry of Defence to wind farms. It has said that there can be no wind farms within a 50-mile radius of the Eskdalemuir magnetic observatory without upsetting the scientific instruments that are operated there. That would have an enormous impact on planning wind farms in the south of Scotland.
I want to see more nuclear power. It is an exceptionally good way of providing electricity at reasonable cost without upsetting the environment. I hope that the proposed new clause will keep before the Government year in and year out the fact that there is an alternative. They are constantly running away from nuclear power, which is wrong in the present climate.
The amendment spells out the importance of diversity of supply, which goes a long way to ensure the integrity of supply. If we have substantial annual reports on all the available technologies, together with the pros and cons of each, and the costs and benefits, those of us who believe that renewables will have an increasing part to play and that fuel cell technology is an exciting part of the future, will be able to see the progress that is being made in each area. That is extremely important.
Like my noble friend Lord Ezra, I believe that we need much more information on subsection (4) of the amendment, which ensures that demand is reduced. A great deal more needs to be done and we need to see much more. Every year, we need to see exactly what is happening on that front. I strongly support the amendment.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it. I cannot see why they do not. It does not require them to do anything that they are not already doing, apart from the fact that it requires them to report to Parliament on what they are doing. They may be a little frightened, because they may have to reveal that they are not doing what they ought to be doing, which might be slightly embarrassing. However, I do not believe that that would be the situation.
I, too, have an interest in the matter and I want to refer to the interesting report from the Royal Academy of Engineering. It is a fascinating paper but part of the problem is that it is a recent one. It was published only about a week ago, so perhaps all Members of the House have not had time to study it. It makes some interesting cost comparisons and the first point to make is that the Royal Academy was looking over a 20-year time-scale. That brings me back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, that new technology sometimes surprised us. In this field there are not likely to be many surprises in new technology, of which we are not already aware, that will greatly affect matters in the 20-year time-scale that the academy was studying. If we are already aware of such a technology, it should be reported upon regularly, together with any developments. Of course, if something new came along, that would be good.
There are two other matters that need attention. Behind the whole issue lies the question of cost to the consumer. We have already had enough discussion on that, but we need to bear in mind that we have international obligations in the energy field as well as obligations to our communities. One of those relates to carbon dioxide, where we have obligations nationally to reduce our CO2 emissions below the 1990 figure. I shall not explore that in any further detail, except to say that the question of long-term carbon dioxide emissions will become a major policy driver in everything that we do. There is not much point in having a wonderfully sophisticated and prosperous
Then, the problem is that if that obligation is brought back into the fuel equation, the cost of carbon dioxide sequestration will begin to make coal a very expensive source of energy and oil will be fairly expensive. Those costs will not quite be as high as wind power, which, unfortunately, has the problem of the need for back-up. The Royal Academy's report used a back-up figure of 65 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord Christopher, who is the Minister's noble friend, said at Second Reading that the Danish experience was that the figure probably ought to be greater than 65 per cent. That would add to the costs of wind power.
When one compares the relative costs of wind power onshore, wind power at sea, oil, and coal using CO2 sequestration, there is no question but that we must consider the nuclear option. But that is a coincidence. For the sake of absolute clarity and for the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, if she does not already understand, the cost of decommissioning was included in the study. I shall hand her the relevant pages afterwards.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thought that we were to have a straightforward debate about what should be in an annual report and how much of that should be prescribed on the face of the Bill. Noble Lords have recognised that there is already an obligation under the Sustainable Energy Act for the Government to report annually on energy. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that our statement made clear that we would publish the first report shortly after Easter and there would be a number of other more detailed documents associated with that relating to different aspects of energy policyincluding energy efficiency, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra.
Other parts that might be covered by the amendment are already in the public domainfor example, the recent conclusions of the renewables innovation review, which the DTI and the Carbon Trust recently conducted. Ongoing information is provided by the DTI on its website. So, as part of a process, the Government will report on a range of topics not dissimilar to those set out in the amendment. However, the degree to which annual report requirements are prescribed in detail on the face of the Bill variesbut they are rarely as detailed as this. One has to ask why they should be set out in such a detailed manner. I am afraid that a third at least, and possibly more, of this debate has revealed the true motivation behind the amendment; that is, rather
I rarely accuse the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, of appearing naive but, in this case, I believe that she happily said, "Well, this must prove that it is a balanced requirement because I can support the amendment as well". However, the true motivation behind proposed new subsection (3) in the amendment is now revealed: it is not about information; it is about trying to change the policy. I warn the noble Baroness not to be fooled into going down that route.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, I considered very hard whether I was being naive and whether the amendment was, indeed, a Trojan horse. He may be right that that was the motivation for some people, but I believe that through the amendment we are asking for all the facts to be laid in the open. If, as he and I believe, nuclear power is not to have a future for a number of very good reasons, that will become apparent in the reporting.
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