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Energy: Renewables — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:34 pm on 5th July 2010.

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Tabled by Lord James of Blackheath

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to assess the assurances given by the previous Administration on the completion date and costs of the renewable energy programme required to meet the European Union target of a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative 2:39 pm, 5th July 2010

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I note my former interest as chairman of North Sea Assets plc and British Underwater Engineering plc.

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord is referring to the European Union's obligation under the renewable energy directive to source 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, of which the UK share is to achieve 15 per cent renewable energy consumption by 2020. We are committed to meeting the UK's target for renewable energy by 2020, but we want to go further and have asked the Committee on Climate Change to provide independent advice on the level of ambition for renewables across the UK.

As part of the package of challenging energy and climate change measures, the UK has also signed up to the target of a reduction in new EU greenhouse emissions of at least 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Actual costs will depend on how the market responds to incentives, on barriers to deployment and on how technology costs evolve between now and 2020. We will continue to monitor and review the uptake of financial incentives and costs.

Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative

I thank the Minister for that reply. Can he confirm whether his department is able to agree with the former estimates last provided to your Lordships by the previous Government to the effect that they would achieve the target for 2020 with a programme of extensive wind farm developments on Crown properties within a budget to be provided by the Prime Minister of the time-not from his own pocket, I think-of £75 billion? Does that hold good as an achievable forecast today, given that not a scrap of equipment can be contracted for wind farm development until 2020?

Noble Lords:

Next Question.

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Noble Lords may want brevity of answer over here, but it will not suit Members on those Benches too well if I give that, quite frankly.

A noble Lord:

Why?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Because of lack of performance, I am afraid. However, I am avoiding any confrontation on this issue, so if I were the noble Lord, I would as well.

The most recent statistics for 2009 show that the level of renewable energy consumed in the UK has reached 3 per cent. This puts us on a trajectory to meet our first interim target under the renewable energy directive, which is 4 per cent by 2012.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

My Lords, are the Government wise to have committed £18 billion per annum for the next 40 years to combat climate change when the science underpinning it has collapsed? How many British people will suffer fuel poverty as a result of this discredited initiative?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I am not sure I thank the noble Lord for his question, but his party's views are well known and, I am afraid, do not coincide with ours. We think that climate change is one of the biggest issues to confront the nation. We are putting green awareness on the front of our agenda. We are going to be the greenest Government who have existed and we intend to deliver policies to show so.

Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour

Does the noble Lord regard nuclear-generated electricity as being renewable?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Nuclear-generated electricity is a fundamental part of our party's coalition policy but I am not sure that it is relevant to the Question in hand.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Sub-Committee C - Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy

My Lords, is not one of the ways in which we will meet this target much greater use of biogas? How will the UK catch up with other European countries, such as Germany, in terms of anaerobic digestion?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I thank my noble coalition colleague for that question. For some people who may not have the noble Lord's knowledge, anaerobic digestion needs to be encouraged. It is a recycling of waste-sewerage, animal waste and food waste-that creates biogas. It is a very important development. My honourable friend in the other place, Mr Greg Barker, has organised a stakeholder event in the Recess to discuss the development of this kind of renewable energy.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

There must be room for both noble Lords to speak. Why do we not have first my noble friend Lord Lawson and then the noble Lord, Lord Howarth?

Photo of Lord Lawson of Blaby Lord Lawson of Blaby Conservative

I am grateful to the Leader of the House. Is my noble friend aware that only a couple of days ago, Mr Bob Wigley, the chairman of the previous Government's Green Investment Bank Commission, stated that meeting the requirements of the absurd Climate Change Act will cost the United Kingdom £50 billion a year, every year, for the next 40 years. How-above all in this age of austerity-can this possibly be justified?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I am very grateful to noble Lords for fighting over a question for me; it is quite rare in this job. However, I must correct my noble friend; the Green Investment Bank was an initiative set up by our own party and one must not rule out the phenomenal business opportunities that it offers for this country. We must have 2 million heat pumps by 2020. We must have bioenergy, which will create 100,000 jobs at a value of £116 million. Wind alone should create 130,000 jobs at a value of £36 billion. At a time when the country needs investment, these are heartening numbers.

Photo of Baroness Ford Baroness Ford Labour

At a time when the country needs this investment so badly, how does the Minister propose to meet those renewables targets without the benefit of an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission, which this Government are committed to abolishing?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her question. She is quite right; the planning process is fundamental to renewable energies and we have to put great emphasis on it, and I am afraid that we have to accelerate it because it had become stuck in a mire. I am not sure that the IPC is the right method for doing that. We shall put energy into reforming that area. I am grateful to the climate change committee for recommending it.

Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Labour

My Lords, in seeking to pursue their laudable aim of increasing the proportion of energy consumption supplied by renewables, how will the Government ensure that the landscape of this country is not disfigured by a rash of ill-planned wind turbines?

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I am grateful for that question. Under the previous Government, 14 gigawatts of onshore turbines were approved, 70 per cent of which is under way. It is our determination that there should be no dramatic increase in this and that the emphasis should be offshore, where the supply of wind is much more reliable. There are of course constraints in the environment, to which the noble Lord referred, and fishing and shipping communities need to be listened to, but offshore is the future for this country.