HL Deb 10 December 1992 vol 541 cc314-5

3.20 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the inquiry into the potential for producing energy for the United Kingdom from wave power at sea is expected to be completed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

My Lords, the Government's review of wave energy into the potential for producing energy from wave power is in preparation, and we expect it to be published by the end of the year.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful for that reply from my noble friend. Is it correct that, because of the passage of time, the inquiry is now being conducted by only one person? If support is needed by that person, will my noble friend make sure that it is forthcoming because waves offer a promising future without the need for disturbance or nuisance on land?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I am pleased to repeat to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy that the report is shortly to be published. He rightly points out that the review of wave energy has been conducted largely by Tom Thorpe of the Energy Technology Support Unit, but in recent months Mr. Thorpe has been assisted by independent consultants. Most of the delay has been caused by the complexities of the problems and the desire to ensure that every potential is examined.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, given the great potential benefits of wave power —it is clean and does not involve the hazards of waste disposal or decommissioning and does not involve the burning of a primary fuel—and bearing in mind that the coasts of Scotland and Cornwall alone could provide half the energy demand of this country, will the Minister accept that on this side of the House we shall scrutinize that report very carefully? We trust that it heralds the end of the apparent hostility of the Minister's department to expenditure on research in that area.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I should not expect other than that noble Lords opposite would scrutinise carefully any reports that we publish. There is no bias against wave power. That is a myth on the part of noble Lords opposite. The Government have spent money, and wave power will be taken fully into account when considering our renewable strategy.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, originally the noble Baroness said that the report would be published before the end of the year and then she said that it would be published shortly. In my experience the word "shortly" in Government replies can often mean years. Will the noble Baroness clarify her reply?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, on this occasion I am pleased to say that the report will be published before the end of the year.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, can my noble friend give the House any news of the inquiry into renewables in general, which was initiated by the Department of Energy before it was absorbed into the DTI?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, the report of the renewable energy advisable group, which is now chaired by Dr. Martin Holdgate, is expected to be published shortly.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm to the House that before privatisation the Central Electricity Generating Board carried out an extensive survey and research into wave power and off shore energy? Will she confirm also that at that time the CEGB said that, although the economics were not right, nevertheless there was a potential for providing 100 per cent. of the United Kingdom's energy requirement? That figure is produced in the report by a committee of your Lordships' House. Will the noble Baroness say what extra evidence is available to this inquiry which was not available to the CEGB at the time?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is the question: when? The amount of work to be done and the report due to be published before the end of the year will establish clearly that every project in that area is in its development stage. When those projects have moved beyond the development stage we shall be able to form a better view of what they will contribute.