Electricity Generation

– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 13th June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers 2:44 pm, 13th June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What percentage of the United Kingdom's future electricity needs they expect to be generated in the longer term by (a) land-based and (b) sea-based wind farms.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, the Government have a target of 10 per cent renewable electricity to be generated by 2010 and an aspiration to double that by 2020. There are no targets for individual technologies, and the Government's main mechanism for developing renewable generation—the renewable obligation—is technology neutral. However, current assessment suggests that around 7 per cent of electricity could be generated from on-shore and off-shore wind by 2010. Our best estimate at the moment is that 4 per cent of that will be from on-shore wind and 3 per cent from off-shore wind. After 2010, we expect an increasing contribution from off-shore wind and other renewable technologies such as wave and tidal.

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers

My Lords, what my noble friend has said is welcome news. Given the resistance from some quarters to the siting of wind farms, would my noble friend consider putting more emphasis on sea-based wind farms than on land-based wind farms? Secondly, if they are to be on land, what about abutting motorways with wind farms? There could surely be no environmental objections to having them along the motorways—or, at least, those stretches where there is plenty of wind to operate.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, we cannot rely solely on off-shore wind, as that presents a more complex technical challenge and is twice the cost of on-shore wind. To achieve our targets we need both on-shore and off-shore wind. Putting wind farms along motorways sounds an interesting idea, but it is for developers to decide what are the best opportunities from a commercial and environmental point of view.

Photo of Lord Ezra Lord Ezra Liberal Democrat

My Lords, in view of the fact that wind power is intermittent and requires back-up, are the Government contemplating other ways in which electricity could be generated with reduced emissions?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, there is obviously an issue with the intermittency of wind power, but it does not become a major consideration until one reaches about 20 per cent of electricity generated from wind. Of course, we are looking at all the other possible technologies and supporting them financially. We are spending just over £500 million between 2002 and 2008 on emerging renewable and low carbon technologies. As noble Lords know, that includes a £50 million marine deployment fund. So we are looking at other sources as well.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

My Lords, in the Energy Act of last year, Parliament gave the Government power to pay an additional subsidy for the transmission of electricity from remote renewable sites. When is that work going to begin?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, one of the important issues with achieving our target for wind power and renewables is that we do not have problems with the upgrade of the transmission lines, particularly from Scotland. Those are now going ahead, but there is obviously the question of where the costs fall, which is still being determined. That is clearly one of the issues that is important if we are to achieve that target.

Photo of Lord Tanlaw Lord Tanlaw Crossbench

My Lords, because wind power is intermittent, what work is being done on using it to create hydrogen, which could be stored much more effectively than electricity? Does the Minister agree with me that, while there is a literary precedent for windmills being mistaken for giants, there is no military precedent—as far as I am aware—of them being mistaken for hostile enemy aircraft? Will he say when the Ministry of Defence is going to reduce its blanket objection to planning permission in south-west Scotland for all applications for wind farms, regardless of where they are and for how many?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, obviously, energy storage is one of the issues on which there is a considerable amount of research. I do not believe that it is fair to say that the MoD has a blanket approach to the question of wind turbines. We have established a working group to bring together all the stakeholders on this issue, which is making good progress. No planning inquiries are being held up due to objections from the MoD.

Photo of The Bishop of Chester The Bishop of Chester Bishop

My Lords, do the Government have a policy relating to the size of on-shore wind farms, and the maximum or minimum number of turbines, as they are very intrusive? Is there some government-based policy in that regard, as the use of wind farms becomes more frequent?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I do not believe that there is any policy on that. It is obviously a question for those responsible for planning permission to consider.

Photo of Lord Mackie of Benshie Lord Mackie of Benshie Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the main objection, in Scotland at any rate, is to large groups of wind farms. How much progress is being made on individual farms, to which the objections are obviously very much less and where it can be quite profitable for the farmer? How many individual competent windmills of some size have been put up on individual farms and estates?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I cannot give those figures. I shall write to the noble Lord with a figure, if we have one, regarding where only single wind turbines have been raised.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Spokespersons In the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My Lords, has the Minister given any consideration to the siting of wind farms in urban areas, where there is no countryside left to despoil?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, that is perhaps one of the least practical suggestions that has been made in this House. I am sure that this matter is given serious consideration by developers looking to obtain planning permission for wind farms.