|Scottish Energy in the 21st Century
Mr. Foulkes: That is a serious question and I promise to write to the hon. Gentleman answering every point that he raised. I have the time to write letters as I do not write columns for all the newspapers, as the hon. Gentleman seems to do[Laughter.]including the racing column.
As the Secretary of State and the Minister said earlier, the PIU report is a report to Government, which will be published tomorrow. I caution people not to believe that it is Government policy; we will have to consider its recommendations. It will start a debate on the issue and set out the facts, options and scenarios. It will also remind us of the Kyoto target; little has been said today about carbon emissions and global warming, yet the Government must take account of those important requirements, just as it is our remit to take account of the security and diversity of our supply of energy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South is right about the potential of the continental shelf, which is greater than we originally thought. The investment last year was £3 billion and will be even greater in 2001. The Clare, Argyll and Buzzard fields were mentioned earlier; there are many more reserves than we thought there would be, and there are more to come. We commended the PILOT initiative, started by my right hon. Friend and continued by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson).
My right hon. Friend earlier raised the matter of new, fuel cell technology, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Gordon. We must look beyond the next few years, or even decades, when considering how to store energy more efficiently and effectively. The Government are supporting research into fuel cells and will shortly issue a consultation on the future powering of vehicles, as transport uses 25 per cent. of energy supplies.
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Members on both sides of the Committee have rightly concentrated on the importance of renewables. I share their enthusiasm and have done for some time. I can tell the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) that I tried to persuade previous Governments to be enthusiastic about renewables, and I agree that there is a great potential for Scotland to benefit from them. I visited the Wavegen machine in Islay, which is great, and the Scottish Power wind turbine site at Harlock Hill in my constituency--I give 100 per cent. support to all wind power applications in my constituency.
When the PIU report is published tomorrow, those who argued today for increases in the target for renewables will not be disappointed. I hope that I do not get into trouble for having released that information in advance. However, I caution hon. Members to be aware that there are significant unresolved issues. The electricity grid is the weakest, whereas the potential for renewables is the greatest. We have heard about planning constraints and problems of low flying, but not about the problems at Prestwick airportparticularly the radarthat is affected by wind farms. It is a genuine problem that, like the others, must be resolved.
Capital investment is also necessary. I would like briefly to mention, for the benefit of the hon. Member for Angus, the extent of Department of Trade and Industry investment in renewables£55.5 million for research and development, for example. In March 2001, the Prime Minister announced an additional £100 million to support renewable energy technology, which has had a huge impact. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, from being on the margins and fringes, renewables are now moving into the mainstream of our electricity supply.
The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is right about energy efficiency. When he reads the PIU report tomorrow, he will find a strong emphasis on the importance of energy efficiency and of taking account of demand. He spoke about mis-selling by electricity companies, and I have received complaints about that myself. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department will investigate further.
Having said all that and having declared myself a strong enthusiast for renewables, I want to inject just one cautionary note. My right hon. Friend mentioned it and the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross picked up on it. The Government's job is to ensure that the lights stay on, that the television still works and that transport still runs. We will not be popular if the lights go off because our constituents do not have enough electricity to meet their needs.
I have been a long-term nuclear sceptic. I took part in the Malwarcher march in the 1970s and I managed to have Chapeldonan removed as a potential nuclear power station site, so I have a long history of involvement in the movement. However, we need to keep the option of new or replacement nuclear power open. If other sources cannot meet the demand, nuclear power may need to be considered further. I say
Column Number: 39that with some reluctance and disappointment, but it is vital to recognise our responsibility to ensure sufficient electricity supply for the future.
Annabelle Ewing (Perth): I thank the Minister for giving way so near to the end of his speech. He has just brought up the nuclear issue. We cannot prejudge what will appear in tomorrow's report, but will he confirm that planning consent for new nuclear power stations in Scotland is an entirely devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament?
Mr. Foulkes: I am not expecting tomorrow's report to be predictive on new nuclear power. I am saying only that the nuclear option needs to be kept open. I have said previously that the responsibility for agreeing on new power stations is devolved to the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament, but they also have to recognise their joint responsibility with us to ensure that electricity continues to be available for their constituents.
We have had a good debate. I wish that I had more time to mention coal, which is important to my constituency and I hope will continue to be important in the future. We have invested £41 million to keep Longannet going, which many hon. Members have welcomed.
The astonishing aspect of our debate, as always, is that Scottish National party Members see a panacea for everything. The hon. Member for Angus concluded his over-long contribution by saying that the way to solve all the problems would be an independent Scotland, and he implied that that miracle would solve everything. However, there was no mention of the North sea oil fund that we used to hear about. That is because the SNP now realises that that is totally foolish--
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 13 February 2002|