HC Deb 17 January 1977 vol 924 cc15-6
9. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his estimate of the percentages of electricity generation in the year 2000 attributable to: (a) coal, (b) nuclear, (c) oil, (d) gas and (e) solar, wave-power and wind-power.

Mr. Eadie

As the House was told last month, total demand for primary energy at the turn of the century could lie in the range 500 million-600 million tons of coal equivalent. Within that total a very wide range of requirements for electricity generation is possible, and could be met by many combinations of the energy sources mentioned. I cannot usefully predict at this stage the combination we shall want.

Mr. Hannam

Does not the Minister agree that by the turn of the century, or even before, we shall be largely dependent on coal and nuclear power for our electricity generation? In view of the likely costs of coal related to the lower costs of nuclear power and the fact that we shall need to compete with countries such as France and Germany in electricity production, will the Minister put pressure on the Government and the Cabinet to go ahead with the fast breeder reactor as soon as possible?

Mr. Eadie

My ministerial colleague has already answered a question about the time scale of the fast breeder reactor. In reply to the hon. Gentleman's second point, the question of fuel prediction and costs has probably been one of the greatest growth industries, yet such predictions are still a hazardous occupation. The hon. Gentleman suggests that by all indications nuclear power will be cheaper. Even that prediction has been challenged. What is certain is that, with new techniques in mining, coal production and so on, there will be a move to cheaper coal, and it must be remembered that we have 300 years of coal beneath us.

Mr. Albert Roberts

Will there be an early announcement about construction of the coal-fired power station at Drax B?

Mr. Eadie

I know that the matter is being considered. However, I am not in a position to give an undertaking to my hon. Friend today.