Results so far in the wave energy programme suggest that costs will be higher, and the quantities of energy obtained smaller, than initially estimated. There are grounds for believing that improvements can be made, and present research is being concentrated on the areas of design which will be most important in doing this. I am satisfied that work on this new technology is being pursued as fast as is practicable, and intend to keep progress under review in the light of advice from the advisory council for research and development.
As Britain leads the world in research into wave energy, which experts estimate could produce a substantial proportion of our electricity requirements at today's levels—say, 30 per cent. to 50 per cent.—and as in the next century the costs of coal and oil may increase faster than the cost of energy from this new source, should we not go flat out towards producing it?
With my very limited experience in the subject, and knowing my hon. Friend's experience as author of a specific report on wave power for the Western European Union, obviously I listen carefully to what he says. On the basis of the limited advice so far received from the ACRD, the Department is very conscious of the importance of wave power. All that can be done technically so far has been done and is being pursued. We shall certainly watch the matter, however.
Clearly the hon. Gentleman would not want me to go into too much detail. The original suggestion was that we were talking about considerably lower costs than suggested by the initial technical estimates which now put the figure at about 20p to 50p per kilowatt hour. It is suggested that, with further engineering work, that figure might ultimately be brought down to the range of 5p to 10p per kilowatt hour. It is on that basis that studies will be pursued.