Onshore Wind: Scotland

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on support for onshore wind.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on support for onshore wind.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

BEIS Ministers regularly discuss a range of issues with their counterparts in the Scotland Office, and just last week I met with the Scottish Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands at the British-Irish Council in Manchester to discuss energy and the environment. It was an incredibly productive meeting, in contrast to what I often find with Opposition Members in this place. The Government will continue to work with Scotland on a range of issues, including strengthening the city region deals in six areas, including Glasgow, Stirling and Aberdeen.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

Research published today by Vivid Economics estimates that proposals by the Committee on Climate Change for increasing onshore wind capacity to 35 GW by 2035 would reduce the cost of electricity by 7%. Ahead of the energy White Paper, can the Minister confirm whether the Secretary of State for Scotland has made the case for onshore wind to receive contracts for difference support, just as that new report suggests it should?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

It is a little known fact that we have 13.8 GW of onshore wind capacity installed in the UK already—enough to power over 7.6 million UK homes—which includes 8.1 GW in Scotland. I understand that there are new projects close to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency in north Lanarkshire, with 46 MW of onshore wind projects planned. I am not necessarily interested in what the Secretary of State for Scotland has to say on this issue; I am interested in what the Scottish people have to say and in securing local community support for ensuring, whatever our range of energy supply, that we commit to renewables of all forms in meeting our net zero commitments by 2050.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

It is interesting that the Minister seems not to care what the Secretary of State for Scotland says, but wants to listen to the people of Scotland. That is good going forward. The Vivid Economics report shows that supporting onshore wind will create 2,300 jobs in Scotland. Will the Minister confirm that the blocker to those jobs and investment in Scotland is the Scottish Secretary of State and that he put his ideological objections in writing to the BEIS Secretary?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

I understand that the hon. Gentleman has a particular issue with the Scottish Secretary of State; and I am sure that he will be happy to take up some of those issues with him at Scottish questions. All I can say is that the hon. Gentleman has made a freedom of information request to the Department. The Government have replied and that is the Government’s official response.

When it comes to renewables, let us take the positives. Let us get away from the SNP’s negativity and endless griping. There are Scottish MPs on the Government side of the House who are committed to delivering positive action to the benefit of the Scottish people—putting politics and discussions of independence aside, getting down and doing the job, delivering for the people of Scotland, and ensuring that we have offshore wind, onshore wind or whatever supply is most appropriate for Scotland.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Does the Minister not share my concern that, as we try to build an effective industrial base for renewables in Scotland, we are seeing—because of a change in the rules for the delivery of 60% of through- life content, instead of 60% of manufactured content—that contracts for manufacturing components have been sent to Indonesia, whereas BiFab’s yard is a mere 10 miles from a potential wind farm? What conversations has he had with the Scottish Government on these issues?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

Boosting local and national content is a key issue, and, taking up the point raised by Rebecca Long Bailey, the Government are determined to ensure the delivery of local green jobs. The offshore wind sector deal has obviously committed to 60% content by 2025 or 2030. I cannot remember the exact date, but I am happy to come back to Mr Sweeney on that.

It is important that, as we go forward with the contract for difference proposals, we make sure that we bring local suppliers with us. That is a key part of the Government’s industrial strategy.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change)

If the Minister had an opportunity to look at today’s report from RenewableUK on onshore wind, he would see that there has been a complete collapse in planning applications for onshore wind, in Scotland and in the UK as a whole, yet the report indicates that customers could have substantially saved on their future energy bills if that collapse had not happened.

Does the Minister agree that the policy of banning onshore wind in England, through planning restrictions, and in the UK as a whole, through discrimination in support, is now completely indefensible? If he does agree, what is he doing to reverse this policy?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

When it comes to renewables, we now have a record high of 52% of our electricity being generated from low-carbon sources, with 33% from renewables. We have seen with offshore wind that, actually, the reduction in our prices demonstrates that we can move towards effective renewables for the future. As I mentioned, we have 13.8 GW of onshore wind delivering for 7.6 million households. We have the local planning processes in place for the future, which was a commitment in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, but we want to make sure that we take local communities with us. That is also the case with net zero. It has to be a transition on which we have the confidence of the entire population. There is no point trying to impose green technology on local communities if they do not support that technology for the future.