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If he will take steps to ensure that energy from renewable sources is given priority access to the national grid.
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All generators should be given a grid connection consistent with their development plans. We do not believe that the progress on that has been speedy enough, and we are determined to do more to make that happen, building on the recent agreement between Ofgem and the National Grid for an extra 450 MW of grid capacity, which will speed up connection for a range of projects by up to seven years.
I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. There are 2,500 anaerobic digesters connected to the German national grid and only 35 in this country— 36 if we count Ambridge. I can assure him that farmers in south Cumbria are very keen to help the Government to make up that embarrassing deficit, and want to create Westmorland's first anaerobic digester. Will he agree to meet me and farmers in my constituency to help us to gain priority access to the national grid and to ensure that we transform organic waste, farm waste and off-farm waste into clean energy?
I am sorry to correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. I believe the Ambridge project did not go ahead. I may be wrong, but I believe it did not get planning permission, no doubt from a Liberal council.
On the hon. Gentleman's serious question, this is a priority, and it is important that Ofgem sees it as very much part of its duty to drive this forward. It has a duty to future consumers in its remit.
I will come to the hon. Gentleman's question about meeting him.
Part of that duty to future consumers has to be to drive forward connection to the grid. I am sure that one of our ministerial team will meet the hon. Gentleman and his friends.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that a number of important wind farm developments are still facing a wait of 15 years or so to secure connections to the grid, even though they are in the process of getting ready to run. Will he talk to the National Grid Company about its 2020 vision document, to ensure that it encompasses the most urgent possible strengthening of the grid so that connections can proceed much quicker?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I took powers in the Energy Act 2008 to take action if companies, the grid and Ofgem could not sort out that problem. If they do not do so quickly, that is exactly what I will do. We have to speed up grid connection, and it has to be seen as a central part of what Ofgem, the regulator, does under its duty to consumers present and future.
Given the Government's regular warm words of commitment to the renewable sector in general, not least yesterday, and given that there is 25 per cent. growth a year in wind energy worldwide—we are clearly the best European country for wind energy—why is there no industrial or manufacturing strategy to ensure that we produce the jobs to support the industry's development and give us the green road out of recession that the Prime Minister and Ministers regularly say we need?
There absolutely is an industrial strategy on that; my right hon. Friend the Chancellor allocated £405 million in the Budget for precisely that purpose. As for wind generation, last year we saw a 29 per cent. increase in the UK in onshore wind generation and a 67 per cent. increase in offshore wind generation, making us the world leader in the latter. Of course there is more to do, and we are determined to do it.