Encouraging and supporting innovation is central to everything that we do. The United Kingdom has a proud record of leadership in energy innovation, through, for instance, our success in driving down the costs of offshore wind technology. The Government took steps to build on that in last year’s spending review, more than doubling our energy innovation budget over the next five years to a total of £500 million. With that budget, we can continue to support the development of clean, cheap and reliable technologies.
I recently visited two farmers in my constituency. J.C. Channing and Sons is generating electricity through anaerobic digestion, while Dale Aston of Brinklow Biogas is using the same process to generate and supply biogas via a connection to the national grid. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating those entrepreneurs, who are demonstrating considerable innovation in the use of new technologies, and will she tell us a little more about how the Government are supporting the sector?
My hon. Friend is, of course, right. One of the biggest challenges that we face is how to decarbonise our heat and electricity supplies over the coming decade. Anaerobic digestion has played an important role in meeting the challenge to date, providing low-carbon heat and electricity for consumers in the United Kingdom. I congratulate employers such as those in my hon. Friend’s constituency who, by using food and farm waste, are helping to deliver the kind of renewable energy that we need.
May I ask the Minister to get out a bit more? I walk around my constituency talking to environmentalists and to the big companies that invest in new technology, and they say that the stops and starts and changes in Government policy, especially in the Treasury, have deeply harmed innovation and research in this area.
I am sorry to hear that from the hon. Gentleman, but the facts speak for themselves. Investment in renewable technology and energy is at a record high in the UK, and the Government are always careful to consult before making changes so that we take industry with us and deliver the stability that it needs.
My hon. Friend is, of course, absolutely right. Nuclear power is an important part of the energy mix that we continue to need, and the Government support advances that will enable us to replace our ageing nuclear fleet over the coming decades. Since we launched the SMR competition we have received 38 expressions of interest, and we will be working closely with those companies to ensure that the competition proceeds in the way that is most likely to generate investment.
Late last month the United States Senate passed an energy Bill, in a rare occurrence of bipartisan co-operation. The Bill could potentially unleash billions of dollars for research and development in new energy technologies, including energy storage, hydrokinetic and marine R and D, and advance the electricity grid in the US. Can we expect the United Kingdom Government to act in a similar manner, investing in the future and addressing the myriad problems that affect our energy infrastructure?
The hon. Lady will know that the Climate Change Act 2008, which underpins the drive towards renewable energy in this country, was passed on a cross-party basis, and our work in developing a low-carbon future remains absolutely cross-partisan. This Conservative Government are committed to ensuring that we invest and plan for the long term, so that we can develop that renewable energy, while always ensuring that we do so at the least possible cost and put energy security first.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that supporting the innovative electric vehicles industry is an excellent way in which to protect the environment while also backing UK businesses? If so, will the Government do all they can to support that new technology for the benefit of both the environment and business?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The future for transport is indeed electric, and the Department for Transport has clear plans to develop and support the electric vehicles industry. I am proud to say that one in four of the electric cars that are currently being driven around Europe was made in the UK, and I hope that the UK will continue to be a leader in this developing industry.
The hon. Gentleman may be aware that we have recently launched a consultation on tidal energy, headed by Charles Hendry. In regard to tidal stream, which he might also be asking about, we have yet to decide how the pot 2 allocation will be taken forward.