HC Deb 11 April 2002 vol 383 cc133-4
2. Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell)

What fiscal measures are being considered to assist the renewable energy industry reach the Government's target of 10 per cent. of energy being sourced by renewables by 2010. [44498]

10. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

If he will use the forthcoming Budget to help increase investment in renewable energy. [44508]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng)

The Government are already putting in place significant support for renewables, not least through the renewables obligation in England and Wales. Most forms of renewable energy are already eligible for exemption from the climate change levy. Hon. Members will appreciate that, for obvious reasons, this is not the time to speculate about future measures.

Mr. Challen

Is it not evident that the Government have done more in the past five years for the renewable sector than the nuclear neanderthals on the Conservative Benches did in the previous 18 years? Nevertheless, perhaps because of that inheritance, Britain, which has the greatest wind energy resources in Europe, does not have a single wind turbine manufacturer. I urge my right hon. Friend to follow in the footsteps of the parliamentary renewable and sustainable energy group and the Environmental Audit Committee and speak to the German economics ministry and consider the measures that it has taken which, by 2025, should generate a quarter of all German electricity needs from wind.

Mr. Boateng

That was a breath of fresh air on the debate. My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. We are always happy to learn lessons from Germany. It, too, has a lot to learn from us in terms of reducing the burdens of business taxation, not least on its manufacturing sector, and in terms of the rate of growth of the economy. But it is always important to keep such matters in mind and we certainly shall.

Lynne Jones

I am glad that my hon. Friend is happy. I want him to be sunny. By 2005, Japan will have 370,000 solar roofs and Germany 140,000. Under current policies, Britain will manage only 4,000 to 5,000 and we need 15,000 a year to justify manufacturing capability. Will my right hon. Friend consider fiscal and other measures to ensure that building projects automatically consider the incorporation of photovoltaics? Not only will that help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but it will give a boost to manufacturing investment in innovative technologies.

Mr. Boateng

My hon. Friend makes an important point that has already formed the subject of a considerable volume of Budget submissions in this area. She will know that we have already put in place a programme of support for measures that increase the use of solar panels, but she makes a powerful case for fiscal measures and no doubt my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will bear that in mind in due course.

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus)

The Minister will be aware that to obtain the full benefit of wind and wave energy it may well be necessary to extend the national grid, particularly to the north and west of Scotland. Has the Minister given any thought to public investment in so extending the national grid?

Mr. Boateng

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary gives that matter thought from time to time. It is important to recognise the importance of the national grid in that area, and also to recognise, as the performance and innovation unit's report did, the ramifications of the new electricity trading arrangement in terms of renewables. The Government are considering the PIU report and we will make our views known in due course.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Will the Minister explain why he made particular reference to England and Wales in his earlier response although wind and wave energy are also vital within Scotland and Northern Ireland? Is it a question of co-operation? In that context, will the Department be having discussions with local planning authorities, especially in England, which have been hindering the development of such proposals?

Mr. Boateng

As the hon. Gentleman will recognise, my noble Friend Lord Falconer has brought forward a raft of proposals in relation to planning and they will undoubtedly have ramifications for renewables, and wind farms in particular. My omission of Northern Ireland was an oversight for which I apologise.

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Minister for Industry and Energy is to establish a Government agency in Aberdeen called Renewables UK? This is the first opportunity that I have had in the House to welcome that initiative. It will make a huge difference in helping to steer some of the energy companies—I do not want to call them oil and gas companies—currently operating in Aberdeen and in the North sea towards renewable energy. Obviously, any help that the Treasury can give in next week's Budget in ensuring that the fiscal regime is helpful to those companies to diversify into renewable energy will be helpful.

Mr. Boateng

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that further Budget submission. She will be aware of the not inconsiderable support that we are already giving in terms of renewables, but she makes an important point and no doubt my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will take it into account.