Scotland Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 29th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Dunlop Lord Dunlop The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 6:15 pm, 29th February 2016

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, spoke to a number of these provisions when we considered this matter in Committee. He made some observations about the clauses and I have met him to discuss his thoughts on these areas, as he said. I am also grateful to him for withdrawing the amendments he tabled regarding heat. Again, we spoke about that issue and I was glad I was able to reassure him on the position.

In Committee, we discussed consultation on renewable heat incentive schemes, Ofgem’s Strategy and Policy Statement, and transferring executive powers related to contracts for difference and feed-in-tariffs, which the noble and learned Lord advocates. Similarly, on Ofgem’s energy strategy and policy statement, statutory arrangements are already in place. That remains my position. However, although I do not agree with the amendments, I am grateful that the noble and learned Lord has brought them before the House. As he mentioned, I know that Scottish Renewables have a particular interest in how Ofgem’s statement is produced, and therefore it is helpful to remind the House that these arrangements exist. I was due to meet Scottish Renewables recently but had to postpone the meeting. I very much hope to meet it in the near future and I commit to continuing the dialogue to see how we can improve all aspects of consultation. If the noble and learned Lord will allow me, I will write to him further following those discussions, to see what improvements can be made.

Turning to Amendment 56, I have outlined to the noble and learned Lord why I do not agree with his proposals in relation to contracts for difference and feed-in tariffs. That is not just because they go beyond the Smith agreement but because both CFDs and FITs are GB-wide schemes and do not operate in a regionally specific way. We have a GB-wide, integrated energy system. The costs of both CFDs and FITs are spread across all GB consumers, which helps to keep down the cost ultimately borne by bill payers. If the Scottish Minister were to set separate rates, or directly award CFD contracts, this would create distortions in the market as well as being a duplication of effort. That could also result in decisions taken in Scotland imposing costs on electricity consumers across Britain.

The Scottish Government have the power to set different renewables obligation bands for specific technologies, but the CFD scheme generally awards contracts through a competitive auction open to GB-wide generation. This ensures that for each particular technology grouping only the most cost-effective projects receive support. Moving to a regional allocation would be likely not only to increase the overall costs of meeting our renewables and decarbonisation targets but to lead to an increase in supplier costs being passed on to consumers across GB. I understand that the noble and learned Lord may not accept this argument, but I do not agree that this is a sensible change to make.

I hope I can be more encouraging on Amendment 47, which would introduce a new clause on “Consents for electricity generating stations and overhead lines”. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for the clearly thoughtful consideration he has given to this. He expressed the issue very cogently in his remarks, but I am afraid at this stage I am not able to accept it as an amendment to the Bill. However, I commit to him that I am prepared to consider this matter further, outside of the Bill. I am sympathetic to the point he raises and therefore would like the opportunity to consider it further, including the planning points that he raised and the existing balance between executive and legislative competence in this area. Officials in the Department of Energy and Climate Change have already raised the issue with the Scottish Government. Energy consenting is a complicated area and one where any change merits detailed consideration to ensure that any agreed policy is delivered. Far be it from me to prejudge that consideration but, if the proposal were found to have serious merit, there are legislative avenues by which we can take it forward, such as a Section 30 order under the Scotland Act 1998.

Therefore, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will allow me to consider the matter further outside the Bill. I will of course be happy to update him on further discussions. On that basis, I urge him not to press his amendment.

Amendment 45 agreed.