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8 Apr 2010 : Column 1173

Electricity Demand/Capacity

11. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): What recent estimate he has made of the level of additional electricity generating capacity that will be required by 2015. [325616]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): It is estimated that around 16 GW of existing electricity generating capacity-coal, gas, oil and nuclear-will close by 2015. Some 2.3 GW of new generating capacity was commissioned last year, 10.1 GW is currently under construction, 11.3 GW has both planning permission and permission to connect to the grid, and a further 18.5 GW is in the planning process in England and Wales. This new capacity, as well as energy efficiency measures, means that there will be sufficient capacity in 2015.

Mr. Robathan: I am interested in what the Minister says, because it seems to be at variance with what Ofgem and others say. The Secretary of State talked about the greatest hits of my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark). I would rather go back to Gold radio station, which I listen to because it plays music from the 1960s and 1970s, and that reminds me of when I sat by candlelight through the power cuts. Does the Minister think that Ofgem and others are wrong when they say that they expect power cuts within the next decade?

Mr. Kidney: There is a difference between facts and projections for the future. I have just given the hon. Gentleman the facts as they are today. Project Discovery was all about stress-testing the system, using scenarios that would put it under stress. What the hon. Gentleman can see from the statistics that I have given him from the Dispatch Box is that there is more than sufficient capacity to 2015.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Can the Minister assure me that the production of aircraft carriers will not be threatened by a lack of generating capacity, given that the manufacture of the aircraft carriers is already threatened by the Opposition?

Mr. Kidney: My hon. Friend's chutzpah is remarkable, enabling him to get aircraft carriers into a question about capacity. I assure him that all reasonably foreseeable demands on the electricity system are catered for in the answer that I gave.


12. John Howell (Henley) (Con): What his most recent estimate is of the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources. [325619]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): Provisional 2009 data on electricity generation were published in the March 2010 edition of Energy Trends. This showed that, after excluding an estimate for non-bio degradable waste use, 6.6 per cent. of electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2009. In 1997, the equivalent figure was 2 per cent.

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John Howell: From the answers earlier on renewables, it seems that the Government do not share the pessimism of a number of independent commentators who have said that not enough has been done by way of technology, and particularly by way of developing skills, to achieve the 2020 target. Will the Minister say by how much he estimates we will miss the 2020 target?

Mr. Kidney: I certainly will not, because we will not miss the target for 2020. The hon. Gentleman should watch and learn as all the new renewable capacity, including the immense amounts of offshore wind generation that are already planned in this country, takes effect. On skills, I had the great pleasure last week of launching, on behalf of the Government, a consultation on the subject of skills for a low carbon economy, with the opportunity there to transform the economy of this country and create millions of new jobs in a clean, green and prosperous UK.

Wave Energy

14. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): What estimate he has made of the potential contribution of off shore wave energy to meeting energy needs in the next 10 years. [325621]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): The Carbon Trust has estimated that between 1 and 2 GW of wave and tidal energy could be deployed in UK waters by 2020. This will be followed by large-scale deployment in the period beyond 2020.

Alun Michael: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his encouraging answer. Taking account of that larger scale deployment, what proportion of our energy needs does he estimate can eventually be produced in that way? Can the aim of reaching that target be accelerated, in order to increase our take from that form of renewable energy?

Mr. Kidney: In the future, as depicted in the low- carbon transition plan last year, our energy will come from a diverse range of sources, including all kinds of renewables, new nuclear power, and clean fossil fuels such as coal and gas with carbon capture and storage. Within that, marine energy has a huge part to play, as was shown in the recent marine energy action plan, which was agreed between my Department and the industry, with the result that the Carbon Trust estimates that there should be about 16,000 jobs directly engaged in wave and tidal stream energy by 2040.

Climate Change

15. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What his most recent assessment is of the progress in tackling climate change made since the Copenhagen climate change conference. [325622]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): Since Copenhagen, we have seen support for the Copenhagen accord grow. Over 100 countries have now associated with the accord, and more than 70 have listed actions and targets to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Those countries account for over 80 per cent. of global emissions. The willingness of many countries to take substantial domestic action
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demonstrates that-with ambition-the international community has the opportunity to come together to tackle dangerous climate change effectively.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What progress, if any, has been made by India and China to fully co-operate in climatic change measures?

Joan Ruddock: A lot of progress has been made. We have seen China submit to the United Nations its proposals on the way in which it aims to reduce its emissions below business as usual and on how it aims to participate in international discussions. Indeed, we have also seen the constructive way in which China is approaching the progress towards Mexico.

Of course, some issues at Copenhagen disappointed us, and some of the actions of China were a disappointment, but I must say that we are delighted with the way in which China has responded to the accord, and look forward very much to working with it in future.

Fuel Poverty

16. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): When he expects figures to be available on the level of fuel poverty in the UK in 2008; and if he will make a statement. [325624]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) some moments ago.

Miss McIntosh: I am most grateful, but the particular question to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention is this: in rural parts of the north of England, where the cost of housing is high, the wages are below average, and the cost of energy is high, what special measures are the current Government proposing in the short time available to them to reduce fuel poverty?

Mr. Kidney: The hon. Lady does better to ask me than Conservative Front Benchers, since their detailed policy document says nothing at all about fuel poverty or any policy to tackle it. In her constituency, more than 1,400 households have been helped with insulation measures by Warm Front. If the House passes the Energy Bill later today, that could help up to 2 million households with their energy bills.

Electricity Generating Capacity

17. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): How much additional electricity generating capacity is planned to be in place by 2020. [325627]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): In addition to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) some moments ago, taking into account planned closures of existing power plants and other factors such as the renewables targets, modelling suggests that we might need around 100 GW of total capacity in 2020. In a typical year now, peak consumption will be around 60 GW and total available supply around 80 GW.

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Mr. Swayne: I am clearly at one with my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby in my recollections of "Life on Mars"-I remember doing my public exams in the dark. The Minister has expressed confidence in his models, but will he at least recognise that those on the Treasury Bench are almost alone in believing in those models and that there will be sufficient capacity?

Mr. Kidney: I am pleased that Opposition Members have such fond memories of a Conservative Government that brought the country to its knees as they tried to destroy the coal mining industry in this country. However, I have nothing to add to what I said earlier to the hon. Member for Blaby. Those are the facts, and the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) is talking about projections or perhaps his own wishes.

Topical Questions

T1. [325629] Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): Over the past 18 months, my Department has set a new plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050; published low carbon transition plan sector by sector for our country; produced a comprehensive plan to help households go green; introduced feed-in tariffs; as well as passing through this House a levy for clean coal. We look forward to continuing our work into the next Parliament.

Bob Russell: I wonder whether the Secretary of State has realised that his Department feels that climate change does not originate-in any shape or form-in the United Kingdom. I ought to have had a question on the Order Paper, but the Department withdrew it, because it did not want to the Secretary of State to answer it. That question referred to the effect of climate change brought about by the continued urbanisation of our countryside-in particular, I draw attention to a new township of 2,200 in the Mile End area of Colchester. This is the question that the Secretary of State's officials did not want to answer: what recent discussions has he had with ministerial colleagues on the effect of climate change on the UK's wildlife and habitat?

Edward Miliband: I think that perhaps people were being over-protective; if I had known, I would have been happy to answer the question, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to ask it now. He raises the important issue of the impact that climate change can have on our natural environment and biodiversity. Conservative Members complain about wind turbines, but the bigger threat to the countryside is climate change-that is what could have a real impact on our countryside. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman got to ask his question and I agree with the intention behind it.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Humankind is borrowing from the earth's capital at a rate that threatens the very viability of our planet. Although we do not yet have an agreed currency for the environmental deficit, does the Secretary of State agree that tackling that deficit is as vital as tackling the fiscal deficit? How are we doing in this country in meeting Lord Stern's
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recommendation that we should have a carbon constraint on the economy equivalent to 2 per cent. of GDP if costs are not to be even higher in the long run?

Edward Miliband: Let me pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is standing down. We did not always agree on every issue, but she pursued the issues that she cared about passionately and with great idealism. She asked about carbon constraint. We are living at the moment as if there were three planets on which to live, rather than one. That sums up our excessive use of carbon in this country. Carbon budgets are an important step forward in constraining what we do, Department by Department and sector by sector.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr. Speaker: Order. If I am to accommodate everybody who wants to get in, there will need to be single, short questions and short answers.

T2. [325630] Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): The Secretary of State is enthusiastic about wind power and other renewable energy sources. Will he address two concerns? The first is that wind energy can be connected to the grid only by non-environmentally friendly and wasteful overhead power lines. The second is that renewables can be achieved only by heavy subsidies from all energy users.

Mr. Speaker: There were two questions, but one answer will suffice.

Edward Miliband: My answer is that, yes, there are costs to the low-carbon transition, but the costs of not acting are much greater than the costs of acting. That is the central finding of Lord Stern's report, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) referred some moments ago.

Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State say a few words about the impact of the proposed level of feed-in tariffs on the development of anaerobic digestion plants such as the proposed Selby renewable energy plant, which is set to power 10,000 homes in the town?

Edward Miliband: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned tirelessly on a whole range of issues in the House. He will be sorely missed. He is right to say that the issue of anaerobic digestion and the feed-in tariff is important. After the consultation on the feed-in tariff, we made some changes to help anaerobic digestion projects. That will help the take-up of what my hon. Friend has talked about.

T4. [325632] Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Does the Secretary of State share my party's concern that a number of active Conservatives, including parliamentary candidates, do not believe that climate change is happening or believe that if it is happening it cannot be changed by Government policy? What steps will he take over the next few weeks to assist us in challenging that?

Edward Miliband: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As I recall, there were only five votes against the Climate Change Bill when it went
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through the House. If those Conservative candidates are successful, there will be less of a consensus on the issue in the House than we had at that time. That is why we need to maintain the consensus and convince everyone around the country that climate change is real, happening and man made.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): There are now more than 250 climate change agreements with the chemical industry. Has my right hon. Friend calculated the impact of next year's reduction in the subsidy on the climate change levy from 80 to 65 per cent. in respect of the energy-intensive industries?

Edward Miliband: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is standing down. He raises an important issue about energy-intensive industries and protection for them. A number of changes were made and there has been some consultation since then with those industries. We are convinced that we can make that change in a way that gives them proper protection against the things they are concerned about.

T5. [325633] Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware of the consensus between me and George Monbiot? Mr. Monbiot says that the Government's introduction of feed-in tariffs will

How does the Secretary of State justify that loss and waste?

Edward Miliband: I do not consider it to be waste. [Laughter.] I am not sure why that is so funny. There is a cost to making the transition to low carbon. Part of the way in which we need to make it is by individuals having solar panels and wind turbines on their roofs. That is a way of engaging people and local communities. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks would be better directed at his party's Front Benchers, who want to make the feed-in tariffs even more generous.

Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): Despite the Tories' attempts to destroy the coal mining industry, the north-east of England still sits on massive coal reserves. What future does the Minister see for that coal?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): My hon. Friend has a long-standing interest in supporting a UK domestic coal industry, and so do the Government. We see that a future for a strong domestic market will come from making a success of carbon capture and storage. That is why we have been prepared in the Energy Bill to make provision for funding to contribute towards four commercial-scale demonstration models of the full carbon capture and storage operation.

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