Renewable Energy

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 7th September 2004.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:30 pm, 7th September 2004

What discussions he has had with the (a) First Minister and (b) Energy Minister on the Government's policies for renewable energy.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I have discussed renewable energy over recent months with both the First Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Promotion of renewables is, of course, a devolved responsibility in Scotland.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. He will be aware that renewable energy is unreliable and in most instances requires back-up from other sources, so the Government have asked the oil companies to take a special lead in that regard. Against that background, how can he justify parts of Scotland, such as the west of Scotland and the Isle of Skye, being blighted?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

It is the case that it is best for energy to come from several different sources, but if we are to meet our environmental obligations, it is important to increase the amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources. There are parts of Scotland in which the development of renewable energy has been welcomed for such reasons as job creation. I accept the hon. Lady's general point that if electricity is generated and transmission lines then have to be built or upgraded, it can be controversial. However, there is no getting away from the fact that in an economy such as ours, in which every single one of us depends on electricity, we need to generate the stuff as efficiently and effectively as possible, and that means having the right mix of supply.

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Labour, Aberdeen South

I am sure that the Secretary of State is already aware that a week last Thursday at an anniversary celebration for 10 years of Talisman in the North sea, both the Minister for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services and the First Minister made announcements. The First Minister made an announcement on the development of the Beatrice platform, which has huge wind turbines and has received investment from the Government, and the Energy Minister announced new developments for the Tweedsmuir field. Does the Secretary of State agree that that shows how Scotland and the UK working together will ensure that the energy needs of the north-east of Scotland and the rest of the country will come from a mix of oil and gas developments and renewable sources?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

That is a very good point. Both the Scottish Executive and the UK Government—as well as industry—are working together so that we may increase the amount of energy generated from renewable sources. It is also worth bearing it in mind that over the summer the Conservatives came out against a lot of renewable energy generation. Most people who want to ensure that we have supply in the future will want us to have the right mix and, especially, to increase the amount of renewable-generated electricity because that must be good for the environment. As I said earlier, all such applications can be controversial, but most people, especially those in the north-east of Scotland who listened to last week's announcement, would have been pleased that the Scottish Executive and the UK Government were working closely together.

Photo of John Thurso John Thurso Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland)

Is the Secretary of State aware of the recommended transmission charge by National Grid Company of some £22 per kilowatt for electricity generated in my constituency, which Scottish Renewables estimates will create a burden of some £75 million above that on similar producers in England? What can the Government do to ensure that that unfair burden is not levied on the nascent Scottish renewables industry?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I am aware of the proposals. There is provision in the Energy Act 2004 to provide relief from charges, which I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome. On electricity generation and the new scheme, it is important to bear it in mind that, as a result of the changes, the interconnnector charges that Scottish generators would otherwise have to pay when selling electricity to England and Wales will be removed. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that it is important to ensure that there is a level playing field for generators throughout the country, although account must be taken of the inevitable costs incurred when electricity is transmitted. I am aware of his point and anxious to ensure that Scottish renewable energy generation is encouraged.