Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 45-59)




  45. Welcome you had the benefit of hearing our questions to our previous guests, they will not be same for you, not entirely. Thank you also for the excellent memorandum you also put in. Is there anything you would like to add to that?
  (Mr Goodall) If I may briefly, three brief points. Firstly, I am particularly pleased to be joined by our chairman this afternoon. Earlier on today we have had a meeting of all of the companies involved in developing the offshore sites, which I am sure you can imagine was quite fraught and lengthy.

  46. Was it an interesting meeting?
  (Mr Goodall) Very. We moved through it with some speed and I am very pleased to have David Still with me today. Secondly, we have also, with the Committee's permission, introduced an additional piece of evidence, which is this supporting document which I may refer to in due course. Thirdly, to update you on our current membership, since I submitted this note we have had three more companies in memberships, so it is 178 at present.

Mr Jones

  47. Mr Goodall, afternoon I am very pleased you presented us with this booklet, I have not had an opportunity of reading it thoroughly yet, I would like to question you on some of the contents of it. The Committee is, as you know, looking at how the Government intends to achieve its targets on renewable energy which are, of course, United Kingdom targets. We are aware that the United kingdom is made up of various parts and since devolution those parts have various roles to play. Although we have tried from time to time in various other enquires to ask ministers do they have in mind a breakdown of targets we have not succeeded as yet in getting any sort of answer to this. Clearly in order to achieve our United Kingdom targets we must have some view about how different parts of the United Kingdom will contribute to that and the Government must, I would imagine, have a view. Have you informed the Government or been involved in developing this view, can you help us?
  (Mr Goodall) Yes I think I can shed some light on that, if I may use that blue book by way of illustration[10], what we attempted to do is, taking the only known figures that exist as to how the government has at any point in recent history envisaged the target being met by a technology split—there was in the early consultation document the government put out on prospects for renewable energy—an indicative split that was given as onshore wind. What we did by way of working out how that might translate into an equitable share of the opportunities that wind energy presented was to break it down on the known regions, and within that we include Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for present purposes. Using a very simple formula, which I promise you there are pages of detail about, not simply looking at the resource but also looking at the population, there being an inherent assumption in this that in some way localising energy, particularly electricity, wind in this case, generating to local demand, was a very sensible idea in anticipation of what we were going to be seeing in terms of changes on the grid and came up with a formula and a calculation and an indicative number of turbines that each region or country may find within it to meet that section of the target. That was nearly four years ago and there have been a number of developments since then, not least of which the imminent obligation and the influence that has had on the market's behaviour. We have also seen developments in other technologies and the political context in which they exist as well. We have also seen the emergence of offshore wind and the apparent popularity of that. This blue book is a useful illustration of how that might work. You are right in identifying that we imagine that a United Kingdom government may have a view as to how it sees both its regional programme and how it sees Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland meeting their own aspirations within that. I have to say that one thing, what I would like most of all this year is to find a clear understanding of how central Government sees its renewable resource studies which it has charged the government offices with doing being converted into targets and how that process might work. I cannot answer you as to how the government might see this working but we can illustrate, and have done so far, is how that might be seen across regions.

  48. Thank you. In your submission you contrast those regions and say considerable progress has been made in Scotland, quite the opposite has occurred in Wales. How do you justify that given that, as I understand it, as I have been told, 40 per cent of the available onshore energy wind energy in the United Kingdom is inherently produced in Wales? In your document you suggest that the target should be 80 per cent. Going on those figures, Wales is well ahead of the game.
  (Mr Goodall) May I answer that in two parts? You are absolutely correct in your analysis of the current generation. Looking towards what the government envisaged as a United Kingdom generation and how much of that might be from onshore wind we looked at what the additional capacity might be, rather than simply taking a resource calculation by looking at populations and we see how that might be distributed across the United Kingdom. The second part of that is simply looking at where planning consents are being granted across the United Kingdom and where we are seeing this new capacity coming on. We are seeing projects winning consent generally in Scotland, the opposite is the case in Wales, where it is a rare event to see a planning consent awarded in Wales.

  49. The 40 per cent figure is historical achievement.
  (Mr Goodall) Yes.

  50. As a former Environment Minister for Wales I am interested in that.
  (Mr Goodall) If we look at what Wales could contribute and therefore take an opportunity from there is an enormous resource in Wales, as there is in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom. Much of the United Kingdom is sufficiently windy to have wind projects. When one looks at the most economic projects they may well be in certain locations and the opportunity afforded by Wales is considerably greater than the opportunity used thus far.

  51. Why is the planning system operated more successfully in Scotland?
  (Mr Goodall) To some extent this is anecdotal, there does appear to be a very deliberate embracing of the opportunity in Scotland, and we can see in the recent Scottish Executive Study and Report that Scotland has identified it has a renewable resource and has welcomed the process of introducing new developments and with that the associated jobs that go with it. It is no coincidence that the recent announcement of the first wind turbine manufacturing plant in the United Kingdom for some time was made in Scotland, largely on the back of an expected succession of orders for wind farms to be built, again not surprisingly, not too far from the source of manufacturing.

  52. Can you explain to the Committee, is it not true that below a certain level of power production, I think it is 50 megawatts, that planning applications are considered by devolved organisations or will this differ from one devolved organisation to another? My knowledge is more clear about Wales, but the DTI take planning decisions above those threshold figures?
  (Mr Goodall) Section 36 applications which are greater than 50 megawatts are taken by the Secretary of State

  53. Which secretary of state?
  (Mr Goodall) For energy.
  (Mr Still) The DTI. That is in England and Wales, for Scotland it is under the Scottish minister.

  54. If there is a concern about difficulty in getting planning applications in order to meet targets for various regions can that be overcome by simply applying for very large sites?
  (Mr Still) I think that you find a wind farm site and you cannot say I can make it over 50 megawatts, it depends where it is in the area. It is appropriate in certain locations to have two, four or five turbines. In other areas, especially the remoter areas of Scotland, you can get above 50 megawatts on a coastal site in an industrial area. It is finding the right location for the right sized project. Where you have a few turbines there probably is not a normal generating infrastructure, so it benefits even more because you are putting power very close to consumers.

  55. Turning to the England, you say in your memorandum that the government has committed itself to preparing regional assessments and targets for renewable energy in England but you refer to an uncertain outcome of this process?
  (Mr Goodall) The Government asked government offices to do a resource assessment across the renewable technologies available. One of those has now reported and come up with figures that suggest there are considerable resources, particularly of onshore wind, in each of those regions. If there is this question of an overall United Kingdom ten per cent target it would be great fortune were all those regional assessments and interpretations to happily add up to that magic ten per cent in a way that everybody else was comfortable with. What we do not understand is how that challenge will be brokered and what role government will play in terms of whether it will simply leave it to the market underneath or whether it will say, "Okay, there needs to be more of a shift from one region to another". We do not understand, because we do not know, how that process will come out and that has created uncertainty, particularly in England, because most planning authorities are aware of this process going on and that has in some cases apparently led to some delay as to making decisions about planning applications, because this bigger process is about to be unveiled in due course.

  56. You seem to be as ignorant as the Committee is in these matters. Could you enlighten us as to what other countries do? We are about to go to Germany, partially to discover how German national commitments are achieved via their various Lander. Do you have any information about how foreign countries meet their targets?
  (Mr Goodall) Yes.
  (Mr Still) A good example is Denmark, where you have 14 to 15 per cent of their electricity from wind energy at the moment. Effectively, the overall plan comes from central government and it goes right down to the parish council to designate where wind farms should be within their parish boundary or the district council equivalent as it goes through. There is a positive push from the top right down to the smallest council to say that this is an area which could take a certain amount of wind energy.

  57. I do not understand how that works. If we are talking about a universally perceived good which unfortunately we are not, then I can understand why everyone puts their hand up for the parish and says, "We will have a wind farm", like Spartacus. They all want wind farms. That is not the real world. The real world is that there is a reluctance in certain areas and regions for wind farms and there are likely to be people saying, "Why should we have this number of wind farms and you are not doing your share in a different part of the country?" How do other countries get over this or how do you suggest the United Kingdom should get over this? Should there be incentives or disincentives?
  (Mr Goodall) By way of example from Germany, there are two additional factors that may be directly relevant. One is the nature of land ownership. Quite often, particularly in Germany, land is owned in small pockets. There is also the issue of the supporting tariff and essentially, over-simplifying the process, in Germany, there is a "must take" arrangement for wind generation. There are tax breaks and there is a very high tariff, a feeding tariff, paid. The Germans have a wonderful phrase which is "Your own pigs don't smell" and therefore farmers are quite highly incentivised to put up a turbine because they are going to get a good rate for it. The neighbours see it and say, "We will have that as well." Because of the nature of land ownership and arguably the nature of the local planning process and understanding of national objectives, one tends to see a proliferation. They tend to be very small developments. You rarely see a large project being developed and there is a bit of a "me too" factor in that respect because there is a direct material benefit accruing to the farmer.

  58. I have been to a wind farm and climbed a turbine and I know there is not any difficulty in getting the farmer to approve of the wind farm on his land, not surprisingly, because I think at the time he was getting £5,000 per turbine per annum. Is that right?
  (Mr Goodall) Maybe.

  59. It was a lot more money than he was getting from the sheep. There was never any difficulty in persuading a farmer that he should have a wind farm. I never encountered a farmer who did not want a wind farm. I encountered farmers who were jealous of a neighbouring farmer who had a wind farm and they did not have a wind farm but that was never the problem. The problem was people who maybe lived nearby or more likely visited occasionally, who would object to the wind farm's impact upon the landscape. How does that operate differently in Germany?
  (Mr Goodall) I do not know of a significant resistance to wind turbines in Germany and that may be for a number of reasons, partly steeped in the German democratic tradition and some of the activities of the Green Party particularly and its nuclear agenda. There is also perhaps the very pedantic point about the ownership of the turbines as opposed to taking a rent, where the farmer owns the turbine, which is a different relationship to paying rent to an operator of a wind farm.

10   Planning for wind energy, a guide for regional targets', published by BWEA Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 25 March 2002