HC Deb 17 December 1998 vol 322 cc704-5W
Mr. Prior

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the use of wind farms as an alternative to conventional power plants. [64344]

Mr. Battle

The Government are committed to a new and strong drive to develop renewable energy sources, including wind power.

We need to move away from dependence on fossil fuels. But this needs to be managed gradually so as not to damage the economy.

I am currently reviewing new and renewable energy policy, including consideration of what would be necessary and practical to achieve 10 per cent. of the UK's electricity needs from renewables by the year 2010 and how renewable sources can make an effective contribution to meeting requirements for future greenhouse gas reductions.

As a first step towards that new and strong drive, on 24 September 1998 I announced the fifth and largest Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation Order for 1177 Megawatts of renewable energy electricity capacity, including 368 Megawatts from wind energy. As at 30 September 1998, some 1,076 Megawatts of wind energy capacity had been contracted under NFFO, and 57 projects, totalling 137 Megawatts, were operational. Electricity costs from wind power in NFFO have more than halved on average to around the same cost as the average wholesale price for electricity from conventional plants but not yet at prices competitive with new gas-fired generation. NFFO5 contracts for the large wind energy band were at an average of 2.88p/kWh compared with the average Pool Selling Price of 2.67p/kWh in 1997/98.

On 2 September 1998 I launched a consultative document on opening up NFFO in future to offshore wind energy. I am now considering the responses to that exercise.