HL Deb 10 March 1981 vol 418 cc102-3

2.39 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the enormous capital investment and time-delay involved in obtaining an economic return from an optimum sized combined heat and power (CHP) generating station, they will consider smaller CHP stations, given that even low density housing district heating schemes are economic, that CHP stations in Europe are not of optimal size and that industry has found CHP on a small scale profitable.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (The Earl of Gowrie)

The Government's CHP/District Heating Feasibility Programme is designed to identify and produce detailed proposals for one or two locations where there is the potential of early and economic development of large-scale CHP schemes. Any such schemes would necessarily involve the aggregation over a period of 10 to 20 years of a number of smaller schemes. However, as there is little evidence that these smaller component schemes could, in their own right, produce major economic and energy savings, it would be inappropriate for the Government to concentrate their own efforts on them. We would, of course, welcome any economically worthwhile small schemes that were self-financing.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. First, would he agree that the size of power station which the CEGB is thinking of for CHP combined heat and power is never really likely to come into being in the foreseeable future, simply because of the very great costs? Secondly, would the Minister agree that if one is thinking seriously of civil defence, the very limited number of large power stations which we have and which we are planning is not a very good idea? If there is a possibility of creating some smaller ones which are still economic, or reasonably economic, would that not be a matter worth thinking about in terms of civil defence?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I broadly agree with the noble Viscount. The difficulty is, as he says, that there is quite a lot of argument about whether a smaller unit can be economic, particularly in this country where we have other favourably priced sources of supply.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, could the noble Earl say what is the position regarding Battersea Power Station, which had a district heating system? Could he also say whether or not there is a case for using the fluidised bed system in order to resuscitate Battersea Power Station and at the same time burn and absorb a great deal of Greater London's rubbish?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I cannot tell the noble Lord what the future of Battersea Power Station is to be, though as one of the most beautiful industrial buildings in the world one hopes that its future is very secure. On the general issue of using old power stations, refurbished plant may well have a role to play during the construction of the heat network in a major scheme, but the costs of maintaining a power station which has already served its design life would probably in most cases be too high for it to have a long term role.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, as the question of old power stations has been touched on, can my noble friend say what progress is being made in selling waste heat from existing power stations, which is now largely heating the atmosphere?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I think I need notice of that question.