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In the context of renewable energy, we are clear that further measures will be needed once the final shape of the target is known. The Secretary of State and I listened carefully to the various suggestions that were
made, which we will consider very seriously. We have already invested about £500 million between 2002 and 2008 in capital grants and research and development for emerging renewable and low-carbon technologies, such as offshore wind, biomass, solar, photovoltaics, and wave and tidal. Wave and tidal is still a new technology, but we could become a world leader in its development, for obvious reasons. By 2010, alongside exemption from the climate change levy, the renewables obligation will be worth about £1 billion each year in support of the renewables industry. Some say that we are not doing very much, but I think that £1 billion a year represents a great deal.
We are already seeing a dramatic expansion in our renewable generation capacity. For example, we have recently given consent to the worlds biggest biomass plant in Port Talbot and to one of the worlds largest offshore wind projects: the London Array. We have also set out plans for up to 33 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020, following the Secretary of States recent announcement. Today, the Secretary of State announced a feasibility study into a possible Severn barrage. That renewable source could provide some 5 per cent. of the nations energy, but we need to approach it scientifically and environmentally to assess the benefits and any possible disbenefits.
Let me address the issue of nuclear waste because it has excited some debate. I am always surprised by those who say that they do not like nuclear and also that it will never be built in Britain. If they are so confident that it will not be built in Britain, I wonder why they are so worried.
I shall be absolutely clear to the House. The recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management followed more than two and half years work and stakeholder engagement. The Government have accepted the committees recommendations: geological disposal is the best available approach to the long-term management of the UKs higher activity waste, coupled with a robust programme of safe and secure interim storage.
Let us be clear that quite apart from the question of new build, we have a duty and responsibility. There is a waste; there is a legacy. When I visited Sellafield a year or two ago, I came away with two feelings. I had a sense of real shame that, for several decades, different Governments and Parliaments had neglected the issue, which was a gross act of irresponsibility. However, I also felt proudalbeit not on my own behalf, because I did not initiate thisthat this Government were finally tackling this great legacy. We have a duty to do so. The Government believe that it would be technically possible and desirable to dispose of waste from new build in the same facility. We will further explore that through the managing radioactive waste safety process, which is under way. However, the Government believe that nothing has emerged from the managing radioactive waste safety consultation, which closed on 2 November 2007, to change our view about the feasibility of geological disposal.
Our concern is that the problem of waste should not be dumped on future generations. If there is to be new build, there has to be complete clarity
now about the regime, which must include waste. We are concerned that the White Paper suggests that storage above ground might go on for 50 or even 100 years before a decision is taken. When does the Minister think that he will be morally obliged both to describe and implement the regime so that new investors will know exactly what they will have to do?
Malcolm Wicks: There is a great deal of material that can help to inform the hon. Gentleman on that point. We have said that, in principle, geological storage is the answer in the long term, and we have a process to bring that about; that is absolutely clear. On safety, there is nothing wrong, scientifically and environmentally, with interim storage for several decades. That is what is happening in many countries; I have seen it in France and in Britain. The issue is the long-term storage, and we have a strategy in place for that.
There are many doubting Thomases, so I want to emphasise that we are absolutely committed when it comes to who pays for new nuclear power. The answer is the companiesfull stop. It is not the taxpayer. That is an absolute commitment. We can discuss the issue in Committee, and I look forward to that, because I want to reassure colleagues on that point. Operators of new nuclear power stations will pay the full costs of decommissioning their stations, and their full share of waste management costs. By full decommissioning costs we mean the dismantling of the plant at the end of its operational life, and returning the site to a condition agreed on with the regulators. The full share of waste costs means the costs directly attributable to the disposal of new-build waste in a geological disposal facility and, furthermore, a contribution towards the fixed costs of building a geological disposal facility. We are conducting a cost-modelling exercise to determine estimates of waste management and decommissioning costs. That is significant, and I understand that there will be 100 questions about that.
Malcolm Wicks: That makes it 101 questions. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. We will deal with the questions in Committee, as I want to satisfy Committee members, and therefore the House, on the subject. In a few weeksin February, I thinkthe Government will consult on two sets of draft guidance that set out what an approvable funded decommissioning programme should contain. That will assist business to understand its obligations under the Bill.
Martin Horwood: Will the Minister clarify whether the fact that companies will bear a share of both the cost of waste and the cost of the final repository means that the new nuclear programme will still leave the British taxpayer with an unlimited liability?
Malcolm Wicks: I do not confirm that; indeed, I deny it. By a full share we mean 100 per cent.the absolute cost that is produced. That is what we mean by the share. Perhaps there is a linguistic problem for Liberal Democrat Members, but I can satisfy even the Liberal party in Committee.
I have mentioned energy security and climate change, but there is a third important issue to discuss: fuel poverty. While we talk about global warming, we have a duty to make sure that our elders and betters and other vulnerable people are warm in their homes. That is why the Government have set a target. I am not complacent, but I am proud of what we have done. The winter fuel payments, totalling £2 billion a year, are again helping some 12 million people this winter.
May I say to the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry), with as much politeness as I can muster at this hour, that I cannot take seriously all this concern about fuel poverty on the part of Tory Members? I find it difficult to do so. [Interruption.] I will tell the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) why: when we took office [Interruption.] Hon. Members say that I am doing well, but I will do even better now: when we took office 10 years ago, the Conservative Government expected a single elderly woman to live on £69 a week in income support. We introduced pension credit and winter fuel payments, and our energy efficiency programme has helped 2 million people with loft insulation, heating appliances and new boilers. I am proud of that, but I repeat that I am not complacent, because rising energy prices are now hurting the vulnerable. I recognise that people are worried about that. That is why we have urged companies to improve their social tariffs, and why the Secretary of State has said that if companies do not do the right thing, we will consider legislation. This is an important Bill and the issues at stakeenergy security and global warmingare significant. We need a clean, diverse energy policy to address them. I commend the Bill to the House.
That the following provisions shall apply to the Energy Bill:
The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on 11 March 2008.
3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and Third Reading
4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.
7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed [Mr. Khan.]
Question accordingly agreed to.
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Energy Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of
(1) any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State by virtue of the Act;
(2) any expenditure incurred by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority by virtue of the Act; and
(3) any increase attributable to the Act in sums payable out of money so provided under another enactment. [Steve McCabe.]
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Energy Bill, it is expedient to authorise
(1) the levying of charges under or by virtue of the Act in connection with functions of the Secretary of State (including such functions which are transferred by virtue of the Act to another person);
(2) the levying of charges by virtue of the Act in connection with the termination of licences relating to the storage of carbon dioxide;
(3) the levying of charges by virtue of the Act in connection with costs incurred by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority or the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation;
(4) the imposition, by virtue of the Act, of charges under licences issued under the Electricity Act 1989 or the Gas Act 1986; and
(5) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund. [Steve McCabe.]
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