Jobs and Growth in a Low-carbon Economy

Part of Opposition Day — [Un-Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 5th March 2012.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Opposition Whip (Commons) 5:50 pm, 5th March 2012

In the past, the industries in my county and constituency were farming, coal—based on the Point of Ayr pit, which the Conservatives closed, at the cost of 1,000 jobs—and seaside towns, which have had 40 years of steady decline. The jobs in my area are now increasingly in the renewable energy sector. One of the great stimulators of that process was introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, when my right hon. Friend Mr Hain, the then Secretary of State for Wales, allowed my county of Denbighshire and the neighbouring county of Conwy to come in on the objective 1 bid. As a result, £124 million was invested in Denbighshire over a seven-year period. The pièce de résistance—the best project we had—was a £17 million research and incubation centre, the OpTIC centre in St Asaph.

That centre will create 100 new opto-electronic companies over the next 10 years. It is based in the north Wales area—the third biggest for opto-electronics in the world. We build to our success in Wales, and we have had excellent success in renewable energy. Dyesol, a small two-man company, relocated from Australia to the OpTIC centre in St Asaph, and it is now working on organic photovoltaic paint that can produce electricity. It is working with Corus, down the road in Shotton, so that when that company produces its sheet steel, with the paint by Dyesol, electricity will be automatically created. The OpTIC centre is also working on fusion powers. There are two ways to fuse atoms and create power, one of which is by magnets and the other is by lasers. That work is being conducted in my constituency and I am very proud of the centre.

The OpTIC centre also contains the Centre for Solar Energy Research, which represents the future for jobs and growth, which lies in investment in research and development. Three weeks ago, I addressed the solar photovoltaic supply chain conference at the OpTIC centre, where I encountered very disappointed people—my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson met a similar delegation last week. I spoke to dozens of people who were disappointed about what has happened on the feed-in tariff.

The OpTIC centre was founded by a great man, Dave Rimmer, who had a vision for the area, and he got the funds together to get the centre up and running. Glyndwr university has taken it over and runs it in conjunction with Cambridge university, Cranfield university and University college London. For the future of renewables and low-carbon technology in our country, we need to look to top-flight universities to co-operate with practitioners in the provinces; we need to put the theory and the practice together.

In the OpTIC centre in St Asaph, we have a Welsh solution to a British problem. The centre has been acknowledged: Rhodri Morgan, the then First Minister of Wales, visited it on the same day as the then Labour Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change—now Labour’s leader—addressed a conference there; and the current Prime Minister has also visited. So we have a prestigious centre in St Asaph, and the British Government should look to it as a means of spreading best practice around the whole UK.

My area does not just contain the OpTIC centre, because it also has the Sharp factory in Wrexham, the biggest solar panel factory in western Europe. It undertook its future budgeting on the basis of the plans the Labour Government gave it for feed-in tariffs. The company recruited its people and set its plans in motion, only to have the rug pulled from beneath it. It was one of the companies in north Wales that were upset by the proposed changes to the feed-in tariff. These companies need certainty, not uncertainty.

Let me now discuss wind power. As I have said before, I turned on 30 turbines off the coast of north Wales. I do not think that it is any relation, Mr Deputy Speaker, but these turbines were at North Hoyle. The then Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath, switched on a further 30 turbines some two years ago, and in two years’ time, those at Gwynt y Mor will be up and running. When all those turbines are running, we will have the biggest concentration of wind turbines in the world. North Wales is playing its full part in renewable energy, creating jobs and growth.

I should also mention the Wylfa power station, which is to be redeveloped—an £8 billion investment, creating 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in the local economy. These big investments have been made because of the stability promoted by the former Labour Government, but we now have instability because of the coalition. In the future, my area will see the development of anaerobic digestion, tidal impoundment power off the coast and underwater wind turbines.