HC Deb 22 March 2001 vol 365 cc463-5
1. Mrs. Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire)

What action he is taking to promote renewable energy. [153626]

12. Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

What steps he is taking to increase energy production from renewable resources. [153642]

The Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe (Mr. Peter Hain)

The Government have set an ambitious target of securing 10 per cent. of our electricity from renewables by 2010, driven mainly by the proposed renewables obligation on all electricity suppliers. In addition, we have allocated more than £250 million over the next three years to promote new renewable energy technologies, including offshore wind, energy crops and solar voltaics. I am pleased to be able to announce that the Government have also decided to introduce an order in the House that will allow non-fossil fuel obligation 3, 4 and 5 contracts to change location, so freeing up projects that have been unable to win, planning consent to transfer elsewhere and help meet our renewables target.

Mrs. Lawrence

The Minister will be aware that the tariff payments to generators of wind power change on 1 April and that sites with wind velocity as low 7.5 m a second will be viable, instead of the previous 9 m a second. Will be do everything possible to encourage wind generators to switch their attention to new sites and remove pressure from environmentally and aesthetically sensitive sites, such as those in my constituency near the Pembrokeshire coast national park?

Mr. Hain

I am well aware of the beautiful countryside in my hon. Friend's constituency—indeed, I may even visit it with her in the next few weeks. We are anxious to ensure that renewables projects, in particular offshore and onshore wind projects, are sensitively located. I assure her that NFFO portability will encourage transfer of projects to less sensitive sites. In addition, the increased buy-out price for renewables will encourage wind farm projects to be located at lower levels. That should reassure my hon. Friend and her constituents.

Ms Drown

Is my hon. Friend aware of a recent survey published by the Scottish Executive that shows overwhelming support for renewable energy. especially wind energy? Interestingly, there was more support in areas adjacent to existing projects. That reinforces evidence from many surveys that show that a lot of the fears that are raised before a project is installed are unfounded. Will my hon. Friend agree to have a public information campaign to emphasise the benefits of renewable energy, which is better for the environment, uses safer production methods and improves the environment for the staff who work in the area? Will he also emphasise the fact that that massively expanding sector also benefits British business.

Mr. Hain

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is why we have made £250 million available to support wind projects, solar photovoltaics, biomass projects in better generation and other renewable energy projects that we are keen to promote. Our approach will encourage cleaner energy and environmentally more sustainable energy. I agree that public opinion is often more content with such projects when they are established. When people consider a renewables project on their doorstep. they should bear in mind the fact that it is the cleanest form of energy. Whatever planning issues may be at stake, people should not adopt a Nimby attitude to those projects.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Does the Minister agree with the unanimous view of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs that energy from waste should not be classified as renewable energy?

Mr. Hain

I read the report yesterday and was impressed with the level of analysis. I know that the hon. Gentleman takes an interest in such matters. However, it is important that we give maximum encouragement both to the recycling of waste and to clean methods of waste disposal. New technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis allow the transformation of waste into energy in a manner that is clean and produces few, if any, emissions. I do not rule out bringing the biodegradable form of waste generation into the renewables obligation. We are studying how that might be achieved to give maximum environmental protection while ensuring that the alternative of burying waste in landfill sites is not encouraged. Indeed, we want radically to change that practice.

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton)

Given that this is likely to be the last trade and industry questions before Labour has to defend its record to the country, will the hon. Gentleman say how he will explain to the electorate the fact that the Government's target of reducing CO2 emissions to 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010 will be missed by a mile, with Britain achieving just 8 per cent. by 2010 and CO2 emissions rising, according to the Government's own figures? How will he explain his Department's failure to get anywhere near the target of generating 5 per cent. of electricity from renewable sources by 2003, given that just 2.8 per cent. has been achieved so far, and most of that is hydro-electric? Is not the truth that this is a Government full of grandiose targets that no one believes will be met and with absolutely no idea of how to achieve them?

Mr. Hain

It is rich for the hon. Gentleman to complain about renewables targets when the Conservatives did virtually nothing to support renewable energy when they were in power. There is the potential for at least two more terms of Labour Government before 2010, and during that time we will drive forward the renewables programme and meet the targets. We have already achieved 2.8 per cent. of generation from renewables towards our target of 5 per cent. by 2003. Today's announcement will help us, and the recent announcement of £250 million will be a huge boost to spending on research and development and capital projects in renewable energy.

Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East)

Given that the Labour party had a strong commitment to renewables in its last manifesto, will my hon. Friend assure the House that the next Labour Government will strongly support renewables industries—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hardly a day goes by when the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) does not shout. I do not know whether he is rattling anyone else, but he is beginning to rattle me.

Mr. White

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that there will be strong support for indigenous renewables industries, especially combined heat and power programmes?

Mr. Hain

Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. We want a vibrant, expanding renewable energy industry. There is enormous potential for British businesses, with which I have had many discussions in the past few weeks, to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that exist as part of our strategy for creating the best knowledge-based economy in Britain.

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