WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
  
                               _________
  
                           Members present:
              Dr Michael Clark, in the Chair
              Dr Lynne Jones
              Dr Ashok Kumar
              Mr Tony McWalter
              Dr Desmond Turner
  
                               _________
  
   JOINT MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
   AND THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS
                       EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES
  
                 MR PETER HAIN, a Member of the House, Minister of State for Energy and
           Competitiveness in Europe, MR JOHN DODDRELL, Director of Sustainable
           Energy Policy Unit, Department of Trade and Industry, and MR JEREMY
           EPPEL, Head of Sustainable Energy Policy Division, Department of the
           Environment, Transport and the Regions, examined.
  
                               Chairman
        172.     Minister, good afternoon.  Thank you for finding the time to
  come along to the Science and Technology Select Committee, with your new
  ministerial briefing.  We welcome you very much indeed.  I wonder if, before
  I put the first question, you would be kind enough either to introduce your
  two colleagues or, perhaps, invite them to introduce themselves?
        (Mr Hain)   Thank you very much, Chairman.  Can I say what a pleasure it
  is to be in front of you, especially a Committee with a lot of scientific
  expertise on it, and I look forward to developing the case.  John Doddrell
  heads our Renewable Energy Unit, and Jeremy Eppel is from the DETR, with
  responsibilities in the same area.
        173.     Thank you very much indeed.  Can I ask you, Minister, if the
  Government is on course to meet its target of 10 per cent of sustainable
  electric energy generation and 20 per cent of carbon dioxide emission
  reduction by 2010?  Ten per cent up on generation and 20 per cent down on CO2?
        (Mr Hain)   We are certainly on course in respect of the obligation to
  reach the 10 per cent objective on renewable sources in terms of our overall
  electricity supply.  The renewables obligation is a powerful driver because
  it requires, as you are aware, every generator, by the time the instrument
  comes into force - which is planned for 1 October - to have, over time, 10 per
  cent of its capacity from renewables.  So I think we can achieve that, but
  there is a long way to go.  We are up, now, to 2.8 per cent of energy supplies
  from renewables ----
        174.     And nine years to go.
        (Mr Hain)   And nine years to go.  Obviously, on CO2 emissions, again, we
  are working very hard to achieve that objective and I think we are well
  advanced compared with many other countries.
        175.     To help us in this Inquiry, could you indicate to us, as of
  this moment, if you cannot indicate anything else, which of the renewable
  energies that are most likely to give you a sizeable part of this 10 per cent
  from sustainable energy?
        (Mr Hain)   Offshore wind is, perhaps, the leading area at the moment. 
  Biomass is also an important contributor.  I am myself, which is why I very
  much welcome this Inquiry of yours, very much a trail blazer for renewable
  energy.  I think that it has a great potential for contributing in the future
  beyond the end of the decade well above the 10 per cent limit, provided we
  give it the necessary impetus and the necessary support, and provided we also
  recognise that if we are to create Britain as a leading knowledge-based
  economy in the world then, in an energy sense, the renewable sector is
  probably the area where we have the most potential in that respect as well. 
  Far too often in the past British inventions, British science and British
  technological capacity has not had the support either from Government or the
  wider community, and so we have often trail-blazed in the scientific sense but
  not carried it through into production and, in this respect, fulfilled a vital
  strategic need as well.
        176.     We blaze the trail but we do not make the road.
        (Mr Hain)   Indeed, or the waves.
        177.     You move us nicely on to the next question I wanted to ask. 
  You did say that you hoped that after 2010 there will be a continuation of
  this aim to have a higher proportion of energy coming from sustainable
  sources.  Have you any plans to set targets after 2010?  If you have not,
  could I point out to you that setting targets might not only help Government
  to know where it is going but it would certainly encourage research councils
  and researchers in their projects if they know that Government has got a
  secondary target after 2010 - say, 2020.  It would give them encouragement and
  determination to keep going.
        (Mr Hain)   Of course, the renewables obligation does provide an assured
  market until 2026.  So that is why it is a powerful driver beyond the end of
  the decade.  The whole future of renewable energy is something under active
  consideration.  I do not think, if I may say so, Chairman, that we have always
  given it the priority that it deserves and requires which, in my view, we are
  obliged to do given the long-term shortage of energy supply, environmental
  considerations and so forth.  Even as a Government, although we have done more
  than any other government with 250 million now earmarked over the next three
  years for various forms of project support, research and development support
  and so on, I think that we have to step up the impetus.  Certainly the next
  Government must carry that baton forward with renewed vigour.
        178.     When you answered one of my questions you indicated that
  offshore wind and biomass were the two most likely areas, but you did not
  mention a wave contribution.  Could I ask what has been learnt from the
  Government's wave energy programme that ran from 1974 to 1982?  You will
  notice that is a carefully non-political question because it is 1974 to 1982,
  over two governments, so there is no political bias in the question.
        (Mr Hain)   Chairman, the Committee is always neutral.  Perhaps I will
  ask my officials to assist on this since I was not even in Parliament at the
  time.  I was disappointed - and I make no party point in return - that the
  support and assistance for wave and tidal stream energy was abandoned in 1994,
  then it was resurrected.  It followed the report of an independent committee
  which recommended that this should be the case, but we picked it up again in
  1999.  I think it is very clear from the potential which we have discovered
  already (which I am happy to go into) that this has got great potential in the
  future.  Perhaps I can ask Mr Doddrell to assist on that.
        179.     I do not think we have time to go into massive detail, but we
  would just like to be reassured that we had some exciting projects in the
  1980s or thereabouts, including Salter's `duck', and so on.  We all thought
  these things were going to go somewhere and then, for technological reasons,
  they did not.  I just hope some lessons were learned from them, and I would
  be delighted to hear from Mr Doddrell.
        (Mr Doddrell)  Thank you, Mr Chairman.  I think that the deciding
  feature, really, to discontinue the programme at that time was one of
  economics, and the prospects of wave energy coming in and being competitive
  with other energy sources, even other renewable sources, at that time did not
  look promising.  The decision to discontinue was really one taken on economic
  grounds.  With hindsight, it was clearly a mistake.  I was not around, either,
  then, like the Minister, but there were lessons learned from those projects. 
  Some of them have been on hold and the same people are now active again with
  renewed support from the Government, and we are working closely with them as
  to how we can now take them forward.
        Chairman:   That is a very frank answer, if I may say so, that you have
  learnt from what happened in the past, and looking back at it again with a
  little bit of hindsight you realise that some things that might have been able
  to continue were not allowed to, and you will pick them up and run with them.
  
                               Dr Jones
        180.     Can I ask whether the DTI was pro-nuclear during that time?
        (Mr Doddrell)  I do not think that the nuclear issue, really, had
  anything to do with this decision; it was an independent committee that looked
  and evaluated the programme, and looked at the economics of wave energy.  To
  the best of my knowledge, nuclear energy really had nothing to do with that
  decision.
  
                               Dr Turner
        181.     Minister, recent reports have stated that the UK, with its
  excellent wave resources, very strong tides and offshore engineering skills
  base from the North Sea oil industry, has the perfect combination and perfect
  opportunity to become world leader in wave and tidal energy, with all that
  that implies.  Do you agree with those statements?
        (Mr Hain)   I do agree with them.  I think the geographical situation,
  surrounded by stormy waters, as well as the innovative research and
  development projects which we have seen develop (and I am happy to go into
  those) place us in a position to lead the world on wave power and, also, on
  tidal stream energy.  That combination of factors of scientific and
  technological development, coupled with our natural advantages, means that I
  think we have responsibility, as a Government, to help industry secure that
  leading role and, therefore, help Britain contribute not just to its own
  energy needs but to export the expertise right across the world.
        182.     That leads perfectly to the next question, Minister, which is
  could you then outline the long-term research and development strategy that
  you propose to adopt to bring forward wave and tidal energy, bearing in mind
  the Prime Minister's recent speech promising a green industrial revolution?
        (Mr Hain)   Indeed.  Of course, in that speech he announced an additional
  100 million in support for renewable energy - active support - some of which
  will come in the way of wave and tidal stream.  In terms of the detailed
  research support we are giving, this is of course part of the 55 million
  budget specifically earmarked for research and development in renewables.  The
  budget this year is 14 million, and then 55.5 million over the next three
  years.  That is general, right across renewables.  In terms of wave and tidal
  stream, we are presently supporting 7 wave energy projects and 1 tidal stream
  project, a total value of 1.86 million, with the DTI contribution of 1.27
  million.  Then the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has 10
  wave and energy tidal stream projects in place with a total value of just over
  1.1 million - part, obviously, public funding.  In addition, within the
  European Commission's Fifth Framework Programme, wave and tidal stream
  projects co-ordinated by British companies currently amount to 2.6 million
  euros.  We cover a number of areas, including further development of existing
  design concepts, research to tackle key development issues and monitoring
  prototype devices.  The EPSRC has, of course, an emphasis on fundamental
  research, and we are involved in peer review and oversight of those projects. 
  We have got closer links with the EPSRC and we are currently in discussion
  with them on how to take forward our support, especially in this area.
        183.     Is your support strategy based on any sort of long-term aim
  of a specific market share for wave and tidal energy, or is it randomly based? 
  What is your view of the potential contribution towards our energy economy
  that wave and tidal can make?
        (Mr Hain)   It is neither randomly based, nor does it have a target
  because the technology at the present time is far too limited to make an
  assessment yet of the potential.  As the Committee may be aware, there is an
  important project based at Islay, which you may know about already.  It is a
  200 kilowatt limpid 500 project, and if I can find the detail of it I will go
  into it.
  
                               Chairman
        184.     Minister, if I may say, we have had papers on it and we were,
  in fact, last week due to visit it but, for various reasons, we had to
  postpone our visit.  To save time, we are very familiar with that project.
        (Mr Hain)   There is also the swimming snake device which has completed
  its laboratory testing, and for Pelamis there are plans for sea trials of a
  model later this year, which will take place off the vale of Ireland.  You are
  familiar with that as well?
        Chairman:   Yes, we have had a briefing on that.
  
                               Dr Turner
        185.     Can I ask, Minister, does your 10 per cent renewables target
  include waste or other carbon sources?
        (Mr Hain)   It does.
        186.     If so, do you not think this is a sort of counter-incentive
  to try to bring on the development of totally clean sources like wave and
  tide?
        (Mr Hain)   No, I do not.  I am as enthusiastic a ministerial advocate as
  you are likely to find of clean energy and green energy renewables - possibly
  (without commenting in any adverse way) more enthusiastic than any of my
  predecessors.  However, I do not think we can afford to avoid taking advantage
  of the capacity for generation from waste.  After all, what else do you do
  with it?  Just fill up the ground and produce, in time, a lot of
  environmentally contaminated problems as a result and a leakage of methane gas
  completely wasted.  Others may say this is beyond the terms of reference of
  this investigation, but I have had quite a lot of briefing and seen some of
  the companies that are developing various uses of waste once all the maximum
  amount of recycling has taken place, which has the potential for producing -
  and can actually in present conditions produce - very clean gas with either
  no emissions or limited emissions.  So I do not think we can simply ignore
  that potential, but neither - picking up your point - must we see it as an
  alternative or a block on really pushing forward wave energy and tidal stream
  energy, photovoltaics (which I do not think we have done enough of yet but we
  are now picking up that baton very energetically) or other renewable sources,
  genuinely renewable, clean and green sources.
        187.     I am very glad, Minister, to hear that commitment.  Having
  said that, do you think that total spend of 2.37 million over a number of
  years from the DTI and EPSRC together on wave and tidal research represents
  a really serious commitment to the technology and is sufficient to give us the
  lead in this field, bearing in mind the single-minded way in which the Danish
  government have supported wind energy and the fruits that has borne for them? 
  Do you think we are really putting our money where our mouths are
  sufficiently?
        (Mr Hain)   I think we have made a very important start, but I would like
  to see that contribution as a beginning.  The signal I want to give out to the
  inventors, businesses and researchers involved in this whole area is that you
  have a friend in court in the DTI and any new bids for research and
  development assistance for technological support for capital projects will be
  looked at very sympathetically.  This budget is now a very considerable one,
  as I say, amounting to 250 million across the board.  I just want to
  encourage people to make progress and they will - obviously, on a properly
  costed and assessed basis - get our backing.  Certainly one of the reasons I
  am very encouraged by your Inquiry is that I look forward to reading your
  recommendations and receiving them, and if you feel minded to give an extra
  impetus to this whole agenda that will be something I will welcome.
        188.     Coming back to the Prime Minister's 100 million for
  renewable energy, how much of that do you think will be directed to wave and
  tidal energy?  Will you be prepared to put forward a strong case for wave and
  tide?
        (Mr Hain)   Yes, I will.  Of course, the Performance and Innovation Unit
  is looking at this matter at the present time, and when the Prime Minister
  made his announcement he put it in the context of awaiting its recommendations
  later in the year - sooner rather than later, I hope.  Yes, subject to that,
  I think that there is enormous potential here for wave and tidal stream.
  
                               Dr Jones
        189.     In your memorandum you stated that the UK is one of the
  leaders in the field of wave energy.  On what sort of international comparison
  do you base this statement?
        (Mr Hain)   There are only a few devices internationally at a
  demonstration stage.  We have got programmes, of which you may be aware, in
  China, Denmark, India, Japan and Sri Lanka, with commercial devices being
  built or having been built in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands and the USA. 
  That is in wave energy.  In tidal stream we have got only two government-
  written programmes resulting in small test devices in China and Japan.  There
  are no plans for these to be developed further but there is some company-led
  research going on in Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand.  There is one
  130 kilowatt project in Italy.  So I think compared with that, the fact that
  we are supporting 7 wave energy projects and 1 tidal stream project, with our
  geographical advantage and this new government backed commitment, I think puts
  us in that position.
        190.     You have mentioned a number of countries.  Who do you see as
  the major players in the field and how do we compare to them?
        (Mr Hain)   I think it is a bit early to say.  What I will do, if that
  helps, is offer to write to you more fully on this matter.
  
                               Chairman
        191.     Thank you.
        (Mr Hain)   The Scandinavians have always got a good track record in
  this, as was mentioned earlier.  I hope that we can really build on what is
  a world lead at the moment and make sure we extend it.
  
                               Dr Jones
        192.     Do you think we will be in a position where we will not get
  overtaken by countries like Denmark as we did on wind power?
        (Mr Hain)   That rather depends on government policy in future years and
  who is driving it.  No doubt your recommendations will act as a spur, if that
  is the way we go.
  
                               Chairman
        193.     Putting it as a wish rather than a prediction, would you wish
  us to be leaders in wave and tidal energy?
        (Mr Hain)   Unquestionably.  I want to see us as world leaders.  We have
  that potential.  We are in pole position at the present time and we want to
  make sure we win the race.
  
                               Dr Jones
        194.     I understand that the DTI is a founder member of the
  International Energy Agency which is being led by Portugal at the moment.  How
  did that involvement come about and what scope do you see for future
  collaboration in the development of this source of renewable energy?
        (Mr Doddrell)  We are closely involved with the IEA in a range of
  activities on renewables, but we do not have any plans for any new, specific
  initiatives with the IEA in wave and tidal stream at the moment.
        195.     So there are no collaborative programmes on the horizon?
        (Mr Doddrell)  No new initiatives.  It is still a very infant industry. 
  In a sense, one collaborates with other countries when we feel we can benefit
  from what they have developed.  At the moment, we are at the leading edge and
  we want to build up our own domestic industry and make sure we maintain a
  competitive advantage as these things come through into the market place.
        (Mr Hain)   Of course, there is, in addition, the prospect of a European
  Union agenda here and an obligation being considered.  That places us, I
  think, in a position where precisely this sort of initiative would become
  easier.
  
                               Dr Kumar
        196.     Minister, you said you are a trail blazer for renewable
  sources.  How refreshing to hear that.  What leads you to believe that you
  have the right strategy in place for effective, co-ordinated funding to take
  wave and tidal energy from the basic drawing board to commercial exploitation? 
  You mentioned earlier there are many other organisations - EPSRC, the European
  Union, DTI and private funding - but what leads you to believe that the blocks
  you put in place are going to deliver the results?
        (Mr Hain)   They are very much foundation blocks, I do not deny that, but
  I think they are early signs of a commitment to build above and build as fast
  as we can.  The funding that is now in place is relatively new, so I think it
  sends a signal out to everybody that we do mean business in this area.  We
  have a lot more to do, I do not really dispute that at all.
        197.     Minister, some of the companies who have given evidence to
  this Committee have said to us that they have done the academic research and
  laboratory testing and now they need real testing of data in real situations
  to prove that the devices they have are actually going to work and gain
  commercial backing.  Will you make this one of your priorities?
        (Mr Hain)   Yes.
  
                               Dr Jones
        198.     Well, what are you going to do about it?
        (Mr Hain)   Make it one of my priorities.
  
                              Mr McWalter
        199.     Do you not think that could be very expensive and you could
  end up with a sort of Millennium Dome in the middle of the sea?
        (Mr Hain)   I think that is an important point.  I am not conceding that
  comparison, it would be a very unfortunate image to attach to it.
        200.     An upside down Dome.
        (Mr Hain)   An upside down windmill.
  
                               Dr Jones
        201.     I think the figures are not in that league, actually,
  fortunately.
        (Mr Hain)   Before we get totally diverted, Chairman, I think that the
  potential is quite large but the research and development is still at an early
  stage.  When the priority is to work with the industries - which we are doing
  - to develop a strategy in consultation to support research and development,
  and where projects are being taken forward either at the testing level or at
  a practical level as in Islay, then our money will go in.
        202.     Many of our witnesses have mentioned that the UK needs an
  offshore wave energy test site facility similar to that which has been set up
  by the Danish government.  When you were talking about priorities earlier,
  would this be, perhaps, a priority that could be brought forward as part of
  your priorities for this sector?
        (Mr Hain)   We will certainly have a look at that.
        203.     We have Wavegen and Ocean Power Delivery, two of the
  country's leading wave power companies, and they told us that they are
  actively considering moving part of their research to Portugal because of the
  lack of such a facility.  Are you aware of this?  Might that, perhaps, give
  an added impetus to you looking at this issue?
        (Mr Hain)   I actually was not aware of that, and certainly we will
  follow that up right away.
        204.     Can you look at what needs to be done to attract companies
  like that into the UK?
        (Mr Hain)   Well, of course, they are in the UK.
        205.     There are other companies as well.  If we have the few that
  are in the UK moving abroad, then we are not likely to attract more are we?
        (Mr Hain)   I have not heard that they are about to move abroad ----
        206.     It is part of their ----
        (Mr Hain)   Although it could be part of extending their arm.  I will
  encourage British companies to find investment opportunities abroad and work
  abroad, but as part of spreading our expertise.  We do want to preserve and
  develop a solid British platform.  Certainly I will look at that and get to
  the bottom of it.
  
                               Dr Turner
        207.     Could I just enlarge on that point slightly, Minister?  One
  of the problems which keeps being brought to our attention with respect to
  either installing or testing devices is access to the grid.  The provision of
  a grid point of access is virtually the most important aspect of a test site,
  so long as it is in suitable natural conditions.  Is there anything the DTI
  could do to facilitate that?
        (Mr Hain)   Obviously, yes, we can help.  That is not something that I
  was aware was an enormous hurdle to the overall momentum of the project.  I
  think we are, really, in a demonstration stage of the technology at the
  present time, but, of course, the renewables obligation will provide plenty
  of opportunity if the technology starts to take off.  I think I am right in
  saying that Islay is connected to the grid.
        Dr Turner:  Islay is.
  
                               Dr Jones
        208.     If I can come in there, it is only able to transmit a
  proportion of the power it generates.  In fact, Wavegen has been quoted 0.5
  million to be connected fully to the grid and Ocean Power's device, which is
  due to be installed, is facing a bill of 1 million to be connected.  We are
  not talking about anything like Millennium Dome sums of money but it is a step
  for those companies.  So what are you going to do about these specific
  problems?
        (Mr Hain)   Are you saying that that is an obstacle to their development?
        209.     Yes, because they cannot transmit all the power that they
  generate into the grid.  This was a problem, for example, in Dounreay with the
  nuclear fast reactor.  Do you know who paid the substantial costs to get that
  generation into the grid?
        (Mr Hain)   No, but nuclear has enormous liabilities.
        Dr Jones:   This was before they started generating liabilities.  As I
  understand it, there was a lot of public money being put in to connect such
  remote facilities.  Obviously, with wave and tidal power a lot of the
  facilities will be at the edge of the grid and this is a very important issue.
  
                               Chairman
        210.     Minister, before you answer, if I may add a little bit.  At
  the time of Dounreay, for example, Dounreay would have been nationally owned
  and the grid would have been nationally owned, and I am sure the nationally
  owned managers would come together and do it.  We are now talking about a
  situation where the grid is privately owned, and where, with projects such as
  Islay, although the research is government-sponsored the projects will be
  privately owned.  So it is a very different situation when you have got two
  privately-owned organisations from when we had two state-owned organisations. 
  One is not necessarily suggesting the Government has to spend the money but
  the Government might have to bang a few heads together and act as a catalyst. 
  So I make those comments before you answer Dr Jones.
        (Mr Hain)   Yes, I am quite happy to look at either a role of banging
  heads together or a role of providing public assistance, if it is justified
  and if it can be defended.  One of the reasons that we are providing finance
  on a very large scale compared with what it has been in the past, which is
  next to nothing, is precisely to assist with capital costs of projects,
  including, doubtless, connections to the grid.  I would not want to see any
  successful renewable project, least of all wave power or tidal stream power,
  founder because of the cost of a cable.  Our Embedded Generation Group (?) and
  the Performance and Innovation Unit and the work we are doing will consider
  all this and, again, I look forward to reading your recommendations on that.
  
                              Mr McWalter
        211.     I think, perhaps, you have addressed this already, Minister
  but it is worth dwelling on it.  There was a joint DTI and DETR memorandum
  which said that the long-term commercial viability of wave and tidal power
  remains uncertain.  That was written in March 1999 and you were not in post
  then, and I get the impression there is going to be a fresh breeze blowing
  through that judgment.  One of the issues, in part, is that the assessment of
  commercial viability has looked very much at the prototypes, or whatever,
  whereas we know that with the Danish wind business once they actually had the
  thing up and running and then they redesigned the turbines, and so on, the
  costs fell very dramatically; once you have got the thing up and running you
  can see where you can make economies.  Do you now, basically, disavow that
  remark, and wish to replace it by one saying "Well, we expect to make the
  commitment needed to wave and tidal energy to ensure its long-term commercial
  viability is assured?"
        (Mr Hain)   I do not want to disavow that statement made two years ago,
  but a lot has happened since, both on the development front and in terms of
  the Government putting its money where its mouth is in that respect.  There
  is naturally - and I guess the Committee is more familiar with this than most
  ministers - a balance to be struck between backing a technology and pouring
  lots of money into it, which then proves commercially uncompetitive compared
  with other renewable sources, and depriving it of the investment and support
  which could stop it developing in the way that I think it has the capacity to
  develop in this instance.  So we have got to get that balance right.  I hope
  that we can resource potentially commercially successful wave power and tidal
  stream power with the backing that it needs.
        Mr McWalter:   In the case of Islay, electricity apparently is produced
  at a cost of about five pence three farthings, as it were.
        Chairman:   Is that a metric farthing?
  
                              Mr McWalter
        212.     I thought I would put that word "farthing" back into the
  Parliamentary vocabulary.  Do you think that we can seriously expect wave and
  tide energy to be able to compete with fossil fuels without the massive
  subsidies that certainly nuclear power receives and certainly the massive
  subsidies per kilowatt hour it received when it first came on stream?
        (Mr Hain)   I do not think that renewable energy will get off the ground
  in the way it needs to be without massive support.  That is why the renewables
  obligation is such a powerful driver because it requires generators to have
  10 per cent of their market share from renewables.  So that will inject
  resource as well.  In fact, we estimate - I will be corrected if I am wrong -
  about 600 million through the renewables obligation, which means that if you
  add together the various components of support - our 250 million, plus other
  support - you are talking about round about 1 billion worth of support for
  renewables, including this area, over the coming years.  That is a lot of
  support.  However, I would readily concede that nuclear energy never would
  have got off the ground without the massive public subsidy it had - rightly
  or wrongly, from different points of view.
        213.     The sort of devices currently on stream have got potential
  capacities of up to 130 kilowatts (?).  If you are talking about the
  investment needed to get power delivery of 2 megawatts or something, you are
  talking about a very, very different level of investment.  Given that the DTI
  analysis itself says that the potential export market for wave energy, even
  excluding tidal power, is estimated to be in excess of 1 trillion, at some
  stage or other has there not got to be a brave, major investment in devices
  of the right sort of order to get all of those teething problems at initial
  stages and so on sorted?  That is something that is very clear that the EPSRC
  is utterly unable to do.  The scope of it and the investment needed is way
  beyond their current ability.
        (Mr Hain)   Again, I think we are in the infancy of a strategy and the
  development of the technology and capacity for it to provide increasing shares
  of energy.
        214.     This infant needs to be reared very quickly, does it not?
        (Mr Hain)   I think you are right.
  
                               Dr Jones
        215.     Can I just turn to the question of planning permissions? 
  Last month you announced a consultation on proposals for a one-stop shop for
  gaining planning consent for offshore wind farms.  We have been told by one
  tidal energy company that they are going to place their prototype device off
  the coast of Iceland because of the prohibitively high cost of obtaining
  planning consent from, apparently, seven different planning authorities, with
  the prospect of about two years to get planning consent.  What are you doing
  to alleviate the situation?
        (Mr Hain)   As you indicated, that consultation document is an attempt to
  strip down the levels of application people need to go through.  I think there
  is a serious problem here, both in the sheer bureaucracy and in the associated
  costs that have to be waded through - if that is the right term - coupled with
  (and I think I referred to this in the House last week, Chairman) what,
  frankly, I think is the schizophrenia on the part of the public and the
  authorities; that, on the one hand, everybody wants clean energy but nobody
  particularly invites a nuclear power station in their back yard or a coal-
  fired power station or even a gas-fired power station, but when it comes to
  renewable energy, particularly wind farms offshore or onshore, or doubtless
  in the future we will have wave and tidal stream (and I am aware of this
  problem in respect of the company locating in Iceland, but if you have got any
  more details I will look at that), when confronted with a decision you get a
  less enthusiastic commitment from the local community and from the relevant
  planning authority.  We have to engage in a public debate that confronts
  people with some pretty stark choices here.  What really do they want?
        216.     It is important to take account of the possible offshore
  environmental degradation that could occur.
        (Mr Hain)   Oh of course.
        217.     Why did you not, though, when you announced this consultation
  over planning permission for wind, consider this might be an issue for other
  forms of renewables?
        (Mr Hain)   It is offshore.
        218.     It is for all, it is not just for ----
        (Mr Hain)   For offshore wind, yes.
        219.     I am talking about tidal and wave.
        (Mr Hain)   That is tidal and wave as well.
        220.     So that is included in the current consultation?
        (Mr Hain)   Yes.
  
                               Chairman
        221.     I think that brings us just about to the end.  I did want to
  conclude with a question which you have made very much easier, Minister, by
  your personal commitment, made very clear to us this afternoon, to alternative
  energy generation.  What I was going to say was that many of the people who
  have been to give evidence to us and the submissions we have had have said
  they have had difficulty in getting investors' capital into their projects
  because there seems to be a less than adequate degree of enthusiasm or
  commitment from government for these types of projects.  This afternoon you
  have given a very strong personal pledge.  Do you think it would be possible
  sometime in the not-too-distant future for the Government to come out with,
  perhaps, a more publicly announced pledge to support the need for renewable
  energy which might encourage investors to believe they have got a long-term
  opportunity of having a return on their capital?
        (Mr Hain)   I will certainly look at that, Chairman, with a very
  sympathetic mind.  Clearly, the Prime Minister's commitment a few weeks ago
  was an important and ground-breaking event, and created quite an impact.  In
  fact, in this very room, I think it was last week (the weeks go by quite
  quickly in this job) there was the all-party renewables group meeting.  I
  expected it to be a fairly small meeting but it was absolutely packed, with
  standing room only.  I think that is an indication of the interest.  As to
  capital financing, Britain has not been very good at venture capital in these
  sorts of areas, and I think we, as a Government, need to look at this very
  closely.  Again, I will study any recommendations and evidence that you have
  with a great deal of interest because it is something that I really do think
  we have a responsibility to take forward.
        222.     Minister, thank you very much indeed and thank you, too, to
  Mr Doddrell and Mr Eppel.  Minister, you have given us a lot of information
  this afternoon.  We are most grateful to you.  You have also been kind enough
  to say that you are looking forward to our report.  That gives us an added
  incentive to make sure that our report is as helpful to you as it can be, in
  the hope that when we do present it to the House you and your department will
  take an interest in it and it will, perhaps, then be mutually beneficial to
  us to have the report that reflects our views on this subject and for you to
  have the report that is from, almost, an independent point of view on the
  benefits of alternative energy.  We thank you for helping us and we hope we,
  in due course, can help you.
        (Mr Hain)   Thank you very much.  I look forward to it.