Energy Supply

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 25th February 2015.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 11:30 am, 25th February 2015

What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the supply of energy in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

I have regular discussions with colleagues on issues affecting the energy sector in Scotland, including with the Scottish Government on energy supply issues.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

People in North Yorkshire have noted with great interest that the Scottish Government have banned fracking for the moment. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on progress towards a debate on energy supply not only for Scotland, but for the whole of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

My hon. Friend’s key words were “for the moment”. The Scottish Government have come forward with a moratorium, and I am sure that we shall all watch the debate with keen interest. I remind her and the House that we removed the Scottish provisions from the Infrastructure Bill, and that the power to license onshore exploration for oil and gas will be devolved under the Scotland Act that will come after the next election.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

When the Secretary of State meets the First Minister, will he get information—this is not in the public arena—on how much compensation is being paid to wind farms in Scotland from his and my electricity bills as a consequence of the fact that they are, in my view, inefficient?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman seeks that information from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, it will be forthcoming.

Photo of Charles Kennedy Charles Kennedy Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

I am sure that the Secretary of State, as a highlands and islands MP, will share the sense of anger and injustice at

SSE’s 2p surcharge on electricity costs, given that it made a profit of £1.5 billion last year. Will he do everything possible at the UK level to ameliorate this state of affairs, not least by endorsing the excellent campaign by

The

Press and Journal

?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

I rarely have any difficulty in endorsing a campaign run by The Press and Journal. The question of the price being paid by electricity consumers across the highlands and islands is complex, but I know that we all benefit from being part of the wider UK energy market.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

Scottish generators, including Longannet, provide 12% of the electricity going into the British network, but pay 35% of the transmission charges. The Secretary of State has been in government for five years. What has he done to end that discrimination?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman is well aware that transmission charging is the responsibility of Ofgem, the energy market regulator. He will also be aware of the work that Ofgem has been doing with other parts of the energy industry in relation to Project TransmiT.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

Last week, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister about this very subject, asking

“the UK Government to initiate a dedicated capacity assessment for Scotland, informed by stakeholder views, and take steps to transfer to the Scottish Parliament the authority to set our own national reliability standard for electricity.”

Having failed to end the discriminatory transmission charges, will the UK Government agree to those reasonable suggestions?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman and the First Minister must both be aware that National Grid has a constant process of reviewing energy supply. The system operators in Scotland have stress-tested 140 scenarios in which Longannet and other Scottish fossil fuel generators were closed, and National Grid has the tools to keep the lights on in every one of those scenarios, including by being resilient against one-in-600-year risks. Those are the facts, and they are preferable to the sort of scaremongering that we hear from the nationalists.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

But is the Secretary of State satisfied that the capacity of the electricity interconnector between Scotland and England is sufficient and will not act as a brake on competition in the supply and generating markets?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

That is exactly the kind of work that is within the ambit of National Grid and Ofgem.

Photo of Sandra Osborne Sandra Osborne Labour, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

I have raised many times the devastation caused by abandoned coal mines in my constituency. The Secretary of State will be aware of the proposal for an exemption from carbon price support, which would greatly help their restoration and create 1,000 jobs. Can we expect good news on this in the Budget, and does he agree that the Scottish Government should step up to the plate with some of their £500 million surplus to help the restoration?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

First, I am happy to pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who has been a doughty fighter for her constituents’ interests in this regard. As for what will be in the Budget, I am afraid that, like the rest of us, she will have to wait and see, although I can assure her that my Department remains engaged on this issue. We continue to work closely with the Scottish Government on their joint taskforce, which will next meet in March. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will represent the UK Government on that occasion.