HC Deb 24 March 2004 vol 419 cc868-9
3. Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab)

If he will discuss with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry the establishment in north Wales of a research centre for the manufacture of renewable energy products.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

I will certainly raise that with ministerial colleagues, because the Government are committed to their target of producing a far greater proportion of the UK's energy supply from renewable sources, with north Wales making a key contribution to that goal.

Ian Lucas

In the past fortnight my right hon. Friend visited the Sharp manufacturing plant in my constituency, where photovoltaic cells for the whole of Europe are to be produced. Is he aware that in Germany more than 130,000 jobs in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells have been created in the past five years? As we are looking forward to more house-building projects in the UK, is not the time right for seizing the initiative on photovoltaic cells, developing research and providing the infrastructure to make sure that when new houses are built, they are supplied with renewable energy sources constructed in Wales?

Mr. Hain

I agree with my hon. Friend. May I say how impressed I was with Sharp's new investment, creating 90 jobs, to build photovoltaic cells in Wrexham, when I visited the plant with him? It is a path-breaking initiative which, I hope, will create a centre of excellence in north Wales of the kind that he describes. He is right that we should find a way—this was raised in the energy White Paper of last year—of designing into new-build housing projects photovoltaic solar energy and other renewable energy sources.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC)

In Germany, a price was set for the sale of renewable energy into the market. That is not the case in this country, and we do not even have net metering to allow householders to generate their own electricity, if necessary, from small-scale embedded renewable energy. As a former Energy Minister, what is the Secretary of State doing in discussions on the Energy Bill, which is shortly to come before the House, to ensure that we have opportunities for job creation in Wales for wind generation, tide and wave generation and the very useful photovoltaic cells being produced?

Mr. Hain

I welcome the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. I know that he has taken a close and informed interest in these matters. We want Wales to become a centre for green energy. We need to focus on the issues that he raises, which is why the Government have made available nearly £350 million for support for renewable energy projects right across Britain. Wales should claim its share of that.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned wind power. It is important that there be greater support from local communities and local authorities for planning consent to take forward wind power projects. Wales has a great deal to offer if we are to take a lead in renewable energy in that way.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con)

Does the Secretary of State recognise the mounting concern that the Government will not meet their own renewable energy targets? Does he share the concern that not enough investment is being made in that industry, and admit that far too great an emphasis is being placed on wind farms to generate electricity, rather than any other form of new technology?

Mr. Hain

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that complementing wind power are biomass, photovoltaics and solar energy. An exciting new initiative called wave dragon is being developed around Milford Haven, involving a partnership between a Welsh company and a Danish company, which seeks to harness the power around the coasts of Wales using the newest technology. There are many different renewable energy opportunities in which the Government are providing a lead. May I say, in the nicest possible fashion, that the shadow Chancellor plans to cut support for renewable energy and other such programmes in the Department of Trade and Industry?

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