Alternative Energy Sources

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1991.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands 12:00 am, 15th July 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he proposes to have discussions in the European Council of Ministers about alternative sources of energy.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

Alternative sources of energy will continue to be important and relevant in future Council discussions. The next Energy Council meeting is planned for 29 October.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands

Can my hon. Friend say which specific area of research into alternative sources of energy is likely to be most fruitful? Does the European Community propose to devote additional funds to research in that area?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

Grants are available for projects in a wide range of areas on renewables, not least energy efficiency, renewables across the board, clean coal technology and gas and oil exploration and development. We very much welcome the recent announcement that there will be an inclusion of wave power projects under the non-nuclear energy sub-programme of the third framework programme in view of that technology's potential contribution to energy supplies in Europe.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

In recent meetings of the European Council of Ministers on energy matters, have the Government discussed the problem that is afflicting the Government and worrying the Opposition—the payment of those who make the decisions on these matters, such as the chairman of East Midlands Electricity, who has received a 63 per cent. pay increase at a time when industrial workers in the area have been held to 8·9 per cent? Surely that matter has a European dimension. Does any other European country have miseries that are similarly scandalous to those with which we contend here?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

The hon. and learned Gentleman asks whether we have discussed that point at Energy Council meetings and the answer is no.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

As alternative energy sources are environmentally friendly, when my hon. Friend meets his colleagues in Europe, is not there a strong case for reviewing progress on clean coal technology, which is also an environmentally friendly source of electricity generation?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the Commission and the Community, through its Thermie programme, have made grants available for projects on clean coal technology.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

When the Minister next discusses alternative energy at the European level, will he take the opportunity of separating nuclear energy and the Government's support through the nuclear levy and the non-fossil fuel obligation, which is justifiably due to finish in 1998 given that it is a mature industry that is now more than 30 years old, from the similar protection of the non-fossil fuel levy that is given to alternative energy, which should certainly not be terminated in 1998 as that is an infant industry? Will he confirm that, at some point or other, he will extend the protection of the two-tier price system that he has instituted beyond 1998 for non-fossil, non-nuclear energy?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I accept the importance of the hon. Gentleman's point. This year, despite the 1998 issue, which the hon. Gentleman raised, many projects for the second tranche of the NFFL obligation have come forward to be contracted and are thus financially viable. As I said, I recognise the importance of the hon. Gentleman's point, which will be discussed in detail by the group that is shortly to meet for the first time to consider the strategy of renewable energy projects.