HC Deb 08 March 1982 vol 19 cc590-1
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Tony Speller.

Mr. Speller

Question No. 11, Sir.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is question No. 10.

10. Mr. Speller

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what progress he expects to make on research into and development of alternative energy sources.

Mr. Mellor

The answer is the same, Mr. Speaker, whatever the number. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Perhaps I have said more than I intended. I shall stick to my brief in future.

The purpose of the Government's renewable energy source research and development programme is to establish the scale of each source and to develop the various technologies sufficiently to establish to what extent they could be exploited economically under United Kingdom conditions.

Progress has been good and I expect this to continue.

Mr. Speller

I apologise for my lack of numeracy and my misreading, Mr. Speaker. Will my hon. Friend assure us that the Government genuinely believe in and support alternative forms of energy such as wind, wave and geothermal heat, which I believe can be advanced for the benefit of our community. Has he any information about progress in that direction?

Mr. Mellor

The Government have a wide-ranging programme of research and development into a number of renewable sources—solar, wind, biomass, small scale hydro, tidal wave and geothermal projects. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the amount of money being spent this year—more than £13 million—is materially greater than in previous years.

Mr. Eadie

Will the Minister be a little more specific in order to help his hon. Friend and the House? What specific requests has he received for more funding of alternative energy sources?

Mr. Mellor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a number of requests are received and evaluated by the Department, with assistance from our energy technology support unit at Harwell, and with advice from our advisory committee on research and development, which will report next month on the present state of the "renewables" programme. I should tell him, however, that the Government are able to meet more of the demands placed on the renewables programme because, compared with the £2.8 million spent on research and development in the hon. Gentleman's last year at the Department, we are spending some £13.1 million this year, which is an increase materially greater than the rate of inflation.

Mr. Forman

May I urge my hon. Friend not to overlook the fact that the cheapest, safest and most readily available alternative energy source is energy conservation? What response does his Department propose to make to the recent good report of the advisory council on energy conservation, which said that with a few more incentives much more could be achieved on that front?

Mr. Mellor

We take seriously the advisory council's views. The House knows that the council is being reconstituted to bring in some new blood to continue its good work. We are studying the report, which made some useful suggestions as well as a number of supportive observations about the Government's policies, particularly on the importance of economic pricing in relation to energy conservation.

Mr. Park

Having examined the wave energy project at the Lanchester polytechnic in Coventry, can the Minister say whether his Department is prepared to support a larger project to take the scheme a step forward?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Lanchester and was much impressed by what I was shown and by the obvious signs of a highly effective partnership between the polytechnic and private industry. As the hon. Gentleman knows, and as I told those at Lanchester, the whole wave programme, which has been going on for six years and has cost about £12 million in public money, is being looked at by the advisory council on research and development. It would be premature for me to say more until I receive its report. However, I was impressed by what I saw and I shall consider the ACORD report with considerable sympathy towards what is being done on wave energy.

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