HL Deb 18 September 2003 vol 652 cc1052-4

11.23 a.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it is still their intention that 10 per cent of the energy needed in England and Wales should be generated by wind turbines by the year 2010.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the Government have not set a specific target for wind energy. They remain committed to the target of obtaining 10 per cent of the UK's electricity from all renewable sources eligible for the renewables obligation by 2010. Wind energy, from both on and offshore installations, is likely to be the largest contributor.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. While renewable sources should be exploited so far as is practicable, might not the Government have to create veritable forests of windmills, mostly around our coasts, if they continue with this intention?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, as I indicated in my initial reply, it is certainly the case that we are looking to wind energy to provide a substantial proportion of the 10 per cent target. We expect the majority of intensive wind farms to be on the coast, which raises important issues that this House will recognise. The Government are confident that, first, we have in place both the commitment to hit 10 per cent, and, secondly, a strategy which will ensure that we do.

Earl Peel

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many people in this country are becoming increasingly concerned at the encroachment of wind farms into some of the most sensitive parts of the British Isles? Could the Minister give a guarantee that at least areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks will be preserved from these white aliens? Otherwise, what is the purpose of such designations?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I recognise the point made by the noble Earl. We certainly need to give careful attention to planning permission with regard to wind farms. In the wrong place, they can obviously detract from the beauty of an area. Clearly, national parks will need special protection. As I indicated in my earlier reply, we are anticipating that the major concentration of wind farms will be a considerable distance from any national parks.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that even if the objectives for wind power were achieved, it would still be difficult to meet the emission reduction target of 2010 and even more difficult thereafter because of the withdrawal of nuclear power? In those circumstances, should not the Government mobilise other means of carbon reduction more effectively? For example, should more support he given to combined heat and power (CHP), which is presently in difficulty, including micro-CHP, in which I declare an interest, to tidal power, to bio-mass in its various forms, to clean coal technology processes, including carbon extraction, and to the recovery of methane from coal mines, all of which could make a big contribution in the future to carbon reduction?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the House well recognises the expertise of the noble Lord in this area. I am grateful for his contribution. We recognise that the target for reduction of CO2 emissions is difficult to hit. The 10 per cent target is challenging for this form of energy. He is right. We need to invest in many other forms of energy generation in order to hit the targets. I assure the noble Lord that the Government are already investing in a number of these developments; namely, wind and wave power, and clean coal technologies, to which he referred in particular. They all play their part in hitting a target to which we are committed.

A noble Lord

My Lords, with regard to the potential of tidal—

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross- Benchers.

Lord Oxburgh

My Lords, my question is about the intermittency of wind, which does not matter very much when the total contribution of wind to the national energy supply is at the level of a few per cent. When the wind does not blow, the shortfall can be readily accommodated by the rest of the system. At higher levels, it is a different story. There must be standby capacity that can come in when the wind does not blow. That changes both the cash and the carbon economics of wind power significantly. Can the Minister explain how this is taken into account in the Government's policy?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the noble Lord has identified a key point. It is clearly the case, given the obvious intermittent quality of wind production, that it will be necessary for proper research and investment into storage techniques to ensure that we have sufficient capacity to meet those occasions when immediate on-stream electricity is not so readily available.

The noble Lord will also recognise that when we hit our targets this form of technology will still be playing a small part of the overall provision of energy in this country.

Lord Harrison

My Lords, does my noble friend believe that those who criticise wind energy are simply tilting at windmills?

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us whether a public inquiry is held on every occasion when wind turbines are proposed in an area?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, not on every occasion, but certainly on all those occasions when it is clear that planning requirements ensure that that should be the case. That would apply to areas of outstanding natural beauty.

We are reviewing issues with regard to planning laws in relation to these developments. Obviously planning will play a major part in the consents required for such projects. However, as I indicated earlier, it is already the case that major projects for the future seem to be a considerable distance away from some of the more sensitive areas to which noble Lords have alluded.