Energy: Renewable

– in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 8th February 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson in the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 3:15 pm, 8th February 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What developments there have been since 2004 in tidal and wave energy production; and what research and development funding they have allocated to these renewable sources of energy.

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, since 2004, £11.6 million has been committed across 13 projects to support research and development into wave and tidal energy through the DTI's technology programme. In addition, £50 million has been allocated to a marine renewables deployment fund that will support the first small grid-connected pre-commercial demonstrations. The technologies have also been supported through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Supergen marine consortium and the Carbon Trust's marine energy challenge.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson in the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Does he accept that his previous reservations about tidal lagoons in particular are no longer valid, since Ofgem's independent report found that the equivalent annual cost of tidal lagoon power was £2 less than for offshore wind? Given the predictable nature of the tides and the environmental benefits of constructing tidal lagoons, should not the DTI be fully behind them now?

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 change my views about tidal lagoons at all. Every time I look at the issue I am more convinced that the costs are still way beyond what one can find elsewhere. This is a mature technology which we know a lot about. It is quite easy to cost, and the costs come out at about four times the figure that the noble Baroness mentioned.

Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that, some years ago, it was estimated that the Severn barrage could reduce Britain's carbon emissions by 3 per cent and supply 6 per cent of the electricity needs of England and Wales? Is it not time for a re-examination of the case for a Severn barrage, taking account of Britain's increased dependence on imported energy; the development of markets in renewables and greenhouse gas emission savings; intensified concern about the impact of climate change in terms of flooding; and the reduced cost of long-term capital?

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 looked again at the Severn barrage project as part of the last energy White Paper. The facts remain very similar. It would produce about 5 per cent of the UK energy needs, but it would cost £14 billion. It could not be brought forward on a commercial basis in the private sector, and I believe that it still raises strong environmental concerns. We recognise that wave and tidal barrages have the potential to make significant reductions in the long term—after 2020—and we will continue to explore the opportunities, but it does not yet seem to come within the right parameters.

Photo of Lord Lang of Monkton Lord Lang of Monkton Conservative

My Lords, does the Minister accept that, although wave and tidal power may eventually contribute something worth while to the energy requirements of this country, it is highly unlikely that wind power ever will, although at the same time it desecrates the countryside? Does he accept that any energy policy that does not have a major nuclear component will never succeed?

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 are a number of different points in that. I do not agree with the noble Lord; I believe that wind power can provide quite a substantial amount of our energy needs—probably up to 20 per cent. After that, it becomes much more expensive. The question whether it is sensible to have a nuclear component has been discussed many times in the House. There are differences of opinion, but many people feel that a diversity of sources is very important.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that what is needed is not just more research but the actual starting-up of decentralised electricity generation—for example, through combined heat and power stations, using wood and biomass?

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, no one source of energy will meet all our needs. Combined heat and power can play a part, but to think that it is going to make the big impact is simply to ignore the realities of the situation.

Noble Lords:

Ezra!

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is not standing up—I am.

Will the Minister ask his colleague who does building regulations whether it would be a sensible idea to ensure that every new house that is built has solar panels on its roof, which would automatically take electricity out of and put it into the electric grid? That would not add significantly to the cost of building a new house.

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 has to pay some attention to the cost factors involved in that debate. Photovoltaics is still by a long way the most expensive kind of energy, so to put that into building regulations would build a huge cost into our energy bills.

Photo of Lord Ezra Lord Ezra Liberal Democrat

My Lords, my noble friend, in her Question, referred to an Ofgem study, which concluded that the capital costs of tidal lagoons would be competitive with offshore wind. However, the Minister said that his study showed that they would cost four times as much. Would he get in touch with Ofgem and try to co-ordinate what the real situation is?

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 know of that study, and I shall most certainly find out what it said. The briefing that I had was based on the latest figures, and I think that the figure that the noble Lord mentioned would have been taken account of, if that was the case. I shall certainly look into the matter and write to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness if I have got it wrong.

Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that major long-term projects, such as the Severn barrage, which has been spoken of, will never be viable until a guaranteed major long-term financial preference is given to green forms of electricity generation rather than conventional fuels? Until that is done, the Severn barrage and everything else is pie in the sky.

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, it is extremely expensive at this point, and it is difficult to see that the cost will decrease in future. We are talking about a large amount of concrete, and I do not think that that cost will decrease. Clearly, if you are prepared to put in enormous sums to subsidise it, you can make it viable on that basis—but only on that basis.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Shadow Minister, Trade & Industry

My Lords, I acknowledge that an energy review is taking place during 2006, but what steps have Her Majesty's Government taken so far since they made their commitments—they were, after all, made in the 2003 White Paper—to reconcile the growing need to meet the carbon reduction target of 20 per cent by 2010 with their duty to ensure the integrity and security of electricity and gas supplies?

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 have debated in the House for many months the question of wind turbines and renewable obligation certificates. Those are all methods by which to do exactly what the noble Lord is asking.