HC Deb 11 November 1991 vol 198 cc763-4
1. Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the progress in establishing wind power as a commercial source of energy.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Colin Moynihan)

Wind energy is being given an unprecedented opportunity to become established as a commercial source of energy. The 1990 and 1991 Renewables Orders under the non-fossil fuel obligation have required the regional electricity companies to contract for 58 wind energy projects with a total of 94.63 MW declared net capacity. We have invested more than £38 million in the Government's wind energy research, development and demonstration programme. That is now beginning to bear fruit, as evidenced by the encouraging response to the opportunity being created by the non-fossil fuel obligation.

In addition, we are preparing a planning policy guidance note on renewable energy and hope to go to consultation on the draft later this month. The document will comprise general guidance on planning for renewable energy, with more specific guidance on the environmental impact of wind farms which we recognise to be an important and pressing issue.

Mr. Shaw

Will my hon. Friend confirm that electricity privatisation has enabled wind energy to develop in a way that it could not have without privatisation and is not that good news for all of us who are concerned about the environment?

Mr. Moynihan

My hon. Friend is correct on both counts. It is good news for the environment because the development of renewable energy, which is environmentally sensitive, is essential to security and diversity of supply in this country. Without privatisation, we would not have the non-fossil fuel obligation, which has enabled us to bring two substantial orders before the House.

Mr. McAllion

As Scotland has more than half the United Kingdom's land-based wind energy potential and as even Government agencies such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise are calling for the immediate full extension of the non-fossil fuel obligation to Scotland, will the Minister explain why the Secretary of State for Scotland has failed to respond to that call—or will it require a Labour Secretary of State for Scotland fully to develop the potential for wind energy in Scotland?

Mr. Moynihan

The hon. Gentleman should be well aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland responded recently to the importance of renewables by announcing a scheme under which Scottish Power and Scottish Hydro-Electric will contract for renewables projects in Scotland. The Government are considering the longer-term arrangements for Scotland in the current review of the renewables energy advisory group.

Mr. Conway

Does my hon. Friend think it a little curious that the people who argue most fervently for this method of energy production often seem to complain most bitterly at public inquiries about planning applications for this alternative energy source?

Mr. Moynihan

As ever on energy issues, my hon. Friend makes a pertinent and important point. He is right and for that reason we have issued a planning policy guidance note, on which we hope to have further consultation before the end of the month. I hope that we shall manage to reconcile the problems that my hon. Friend has highlighted.

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