HC Deb 24 November 1986 vol 106 cc10-2
12. Mr. Wood

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how much his Department has spent on research, development and demonstration of renewable energy sources since 1979; and if he will make a statement.

21. Mr. Watts

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how much his Department has spent on renewable energy sources since 1979; and what was the comparable figure in the period 1974 to 1979.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

Expenditure by my Department on research, development and demonstration into the renewable sources of energy in the financial year 1979–80 to 1985–86 amounted to £91.3 million. That compares with £7.6 million in the years 1975–76 to 1978–79.

Mr. Wood

I thank my right hon. Friend for that most helpful reply. Is the Department also looking into and monitoring the work carried out in Denmark and the Scandinavian countries into renewable resource activities, because it appears that good work is being carried out there as well as in this country?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, we keep in touch with all the developments in Common Market countries. The question of useful alternatives and research is discussed from time to time in the Council of Energy Ministers. I note my hon. Friends remarks.

Mr. Watts

Has my right hon. Friend had time to read a recent report to his Department about the hot dry rock technology developed by KE International in my constituency, which is producing electricity at a lower cost than fossil fuel? In view of the export potential of this new British technology, will he favourably consider funding a demonstration plant in Cornwall to act as an export shop window and ensure that this British technology is exploited in Britain and does not need to go abroad?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the importance and economic relevance of this area of alternative energy. I hope that a decision will be taken on this matter next year. Of course, my hon. Friend is already aware that, so far, we have spent about £20 million on geothermal hot dry rocks. That demonstrates the importance that we attach to it.

Mr. Bruce

Does the Minister not think it unfortunate that some hon. Members have been invited to Norway in the next couple of weeks to see the installation of its prototype wave power generators, when British wave power research has been cancelled? Does he not acknowledge that, although we successfully pioneered wind power generation in Scotland, Denmark and the United States are way ahead of us in its application? Can we not take action to speed up the application of technology rather than just deal with research and development?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman ought to examine the facts before he makes statements like that. So far, we have spent about £17 million on wave power. It has been studied very carefully. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should study what happens in this country before he tries to sing the praises of other countries.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he has encouraged the development of renewable energy resources from day one. After all, it is something for nothing. Does he agree that more emphasis given to combined heat and power will reduce the cost of energy throughout the country and will ensure that all commercial undertakings and, indeed, private individuals, will benefit from a resource that has so far been untapped and unexpended?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am very much aware—of course, I am sure that I am not as aware as is my hon. Friend—of the good work being done in Leicester. I hope that he will convey to his friends in Leicester the fact that we await the report with considerable interest and expectation. I have no doubt that as this involves Leicester my hon. Friend will give it his wholehearted support.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has the Minister examined the work done by the Severn barrage consortium on its Severn estuary project? Does he accept the figures that the consortium produced on the cost per unit of producing electricity?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As the hon. Gentleman knows, further work is going on. The Government are helping in the funding of that work. One of the purposes is to try to clarify precisely the issue that he mentioned.