Energy Supply (Decarbonisation)

Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 7th July 2011.

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Photo of James Morris James Morris Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis 10:30 am, 7th July 2011

What estimate he has made of the number of jobs which could be created as a result of his plans for decarbonisation of energy supply.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The Government have not estimated the impact of the decarbonisation of energy on employment levels, but we have substantial opportunities—for example, offshore wind has the potential to employ a further 70,000 workers by 2020, bringing benefits to the UK of £6 billion to £8 billion a year. About 16 GW of new build nuclear could create up to 30,000 new jobs and equates to investment of around £50 billion, with the construction of each reactor delivering investment equivalent to that for the 2012 Olympics. We should not forget either the impact of the green deal in the current Energy Bill, which is forecast to increase the number of jobs in the insulation sector from 27,000 to 100,000 by 2015. This is a jobs-rich, green-growth programme.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis

While I welcome the potential for new jobs in the green economy, does the Secretary of State agree that we need to strike a balance between generating new jobs and protecting jobs in the existing manufacturing sector, especially in the black country, part of which I represent, which has manufacturing businesses with high-energy intensiveness—Somers Forge being one particular example? Does he agree that we need to strike a balance so that we do not undermine the competitiveness of our manufacturing industry?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I absolutely assure my hon. Friend on that. As I mentioned previously, we have a working group with BIS looking exactly at what help is necessary for the energy-intensive industries. It is also worth pointing out that, particularly when we are emerging from such a deep recession, it is jobs in new industries, rather than merely the recovery of the old industries, that tend to drive the overall recovery. That was the story of the 1930s: we did not regain our prosperity by reversing the declines that had happened in the old industries that had caused the recession; we built entirely new industries. The low-carbon goods and services industry offers us enormous potential in that respect.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

To consolidate and maximise the benefits of the low-carbon economy, does the Secretary of State agree that rather than having a broad concept of enterprise zones, we actually need to create energy zones so that we can maximise the skills base in those areas and transfer the skills from existing downgraded industries into the energy sector?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that industries that share a skills base and a knowledge base often tend to cluster. As I understand it, however, that is not the enterprise zone concept. It is certainly the case that, through the ports infrastructure improvement programme, for example, we are encouraging the clustering of some of the new technologies in offshore wind and elsewhere.