To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what further studies he expects to authorise on renewable electrical energy potential in the north-west of England or other regions.
The recent report of the North-Western electricity board and the energy technology support unit estimates the potential for electricity generation from renewable energy sources in the NORWEB area to be equivalent to 400 MW of conventional base load plant at costs up to 3p per kWh, excluding connection costs. The board is currently considering the next steps.
I welcome the NORWEB initiative and report. Is it not astonishing that after privatisation, by the year 2000, only 1 per cent. of capacity will come from renewables, yet the report shows that 10 to 12 per cent. of NORWEB's capacity could come from renewables? As methane gas has one of the worst effects on the greenhouse problem, should not the Department of Energy be promoting a nationwide programme for using rubbish tips and harnessing methane gas as an alternative to the nuclear industry, which is expected to produce 15 to 20 per cent. of electricity. We could then ensure that methane gas was used by NORWEB and other companies so as not to destroy the atmosphere.
I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his figure of 1 per cent., but I can tell him that no Government have done as much as this one for renewable energy, not only in sponsoring research, but in providing for the non-fossil fuel obligation, which will give a special chance for renewable energy. Renewable energy has never been so protected as it will be in the future. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.