My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for introducing this important Bill. Countless reports have strongly recommended much greater investment in renewable energy. Without such investment, the UK is extremely unlikely to reach its net-zero carbon target by 2050. One such report, which UCL and Vivid Economics submitted to the Climate Change Committee, recommended:
“Significant new renewable generation capacity is needed to accommodate rapid uptake of electric vehicles and hybrid heat pumps”.
Without it, those changes will not really be able to take place. The report goes on to say:
“Over the period to 2035, up to 35 GW onshore wind … could be needed.”
Moreover, the Net Zero Strategy recognises the need for more onshore wind, stating that carbon budget 6
“also requires a sustained increase to the deployment of land-based renewables such as locally supported onshore wind and solar in the 2020s and beyond.”
The problem is that it fails to set out how this is to be achieved. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister could tell the House what assessment the Government have made of the recommendation of 35 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2035.
As has been said by both the previous speakers, one great advantage of onshore wind is that its cost is relatively low. Indeed, it is the lowest-cost form of new electricity generation, so much so that the cost of electricity from onshore wind projects is currently lower than the wholesale electricity price. Forecasts suggest that it will become even cheaper, providing considerable benefit to consumers—and we must think about the consumers in this area. It has been calculated that 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2030 would create approximately £16.3 billion of consumer payback, cutting energy bills by £25 per year.
The fact that the Government have included onshore wind in the next auction round for contracts for difference is therefore very welcome. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, more clarity on this with respect to the longer term would lead to greater certainty for investors as well as cheaper electricity for consumers. At present, auctions are approximately every two years. Renewable UK recommends annual auctions. More frequent auctions would reduce the risk for investors by increasing the availability of finance and bringing down costs even further, allowing investment to happen at lower capital cost. So would the Government be prepared to commit to annual CfD auctions for onshore wind as part of a long-term plan? It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm this.
I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to updating the energy national policy statements so that there can be even greater clarity on the need and urgency for low-carbon infrastructure. Can the Minister tell the House what the progress of the review in respect of nationally significant infrastructure projects has been? Since 2008, onshore projects have not been included following changes to the Planning Act 2008; nor was this rectified in 2015, which was disappointing. Will they now be mentioned?
I end by supporting everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said about the planning process. I hope that the Minister accepts the polling evidence about public opinion on this issue, which is very positive, and that when he responds to the debate he will be able to give the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the answers she sought on planning, so that the bids for onshore projects may get consent in greater numbers in the future.