Energy

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 22nd April 2004.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:00 pm, 22nd April 2004

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-1185, in the name of Jim Wallace, on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and three amendments to the motion.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 3:02 pm, 22nd April 2004

It is important to reflect on the fact that this debate is about a topic that, although it underpins much of our daily lives, we often take for granted. From the moment we wake up in the morning, we use energy: through using our alarm clocks, if we have an electric alarm clock, to using lighting, heating and transport. Energy is vital to the running of our businesses, schools and hospitals. In recent decades, our demand for more energy has regularly and consistently increased. We know that our lives would be very different without it; indeed, the lives of our communities would be significantly impoverished.

It is clear that we cannot continue simply to demand more energy and to generate more energy without giving thought to the long-term implications and limitations. That is why I believe that today's debate is on an important topic for our future not just in this country, but globally.

From the early days of the Scottish Parliament, the Executive has put the generation of renewable energy high up the political agenda. I believe that we face five significant challenges: to attain our target of generating 40 per cent of electricity in Scotland from renewable sources by 2020; to develop a range of renewables technologies that can achieve a balanced and consistent supply of energy; to exploit the major economic opportunities in developing and producing renewables technology by ensuring that we put Scottish business at the cutting edge of the emerging worldwide market; to reduce the amount of energy that we use and the costs to individuals and business through effective energy efficiency measures; and to address the threat that is posed by climate change in order to protect and enhance our environment.

The actions that we set out in our strategy just a year ago will help us to meet those objectives. They will enable us to help to create a thriving renewables industry in Scotland that will safeguard existing jobs and that will have the considerable potential to create new ones.

In the past 12 months, we established the forum for renewable energy development in Scotland—FREDS—under the chairmanship of my deputy minister, Lewis Macdonald. The forum brings together industry, academia and government. Well before the end of the year, it will produce action plans for the development of marine energy and biomass. I believe that both those technologies provide us with good opportunities for increased economic development, export opportunities and rural regeneration. Marine energy technology is still in its infancy, but it provides a major opportunity for Scotland. We have potentially the largest marine energy resource in Europe and more than enough to satisfy Scotland's entire demand for electricity. Of course, there are formidable challenges associated with that, not least in developing marine devices to economic viability. FREDS is considering those challenges.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

The Deputy First Minister will be aware that the Portuguese Government has stimulated the market for wave technology by means of tariff subsidy. Is the Scottish Executive prepared to consider a similar scheme to bring such new initiatives to the marketplace here?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I would certainly not rule that out. However, in making comparisons with Portugal, we should consider the facts that our national resource is better, that we are further ahead of the Portuguese in our academic approach and that we have several designers and developers in the field. Portugal might also offer us export opportunities. The developments there present us with a challenge, but it is one that we can meet. They also present us with an opportunity. If we can develop cutting-edge work, there will be opportunities for an export market, to which we are highly alert.

On marine technology, we have committed, as the Parliament will know, more than £2 million towards the establishment of a wave device test centre off the coast of Orkney, which will play a major role in enabling the many device designs that have been developed to prove their worth. The first of those, Ocean Power Delivery's Pelamis, will commence testing during the next few weeks. It was with a sense of great pride that those of us who were in Leith a few weeks ago for the launch of the first full-scale prototype of the device were able to see it and to appreciate the academic and engineering expertise that was necessary to develop it, as well as the fact that the prototype is from Scotland. With our partners, we are considering the possible extension of the Orkney centre to enable it to test tidal stream devices as well.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

How long does the minister expect it will be before the Pelamis project becomes a commercial reality? The question whether we meet our targets is very much tied up with the answer to that.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

One of the purposes of the test centre is to ensure that the necessary facilities are in place for the technology to prove its worth. It would be invidious to put a timescale on that, but we all recognise the importance of pressing on with the work. I very much look forward to seeing Pelamis off the coast of my constituency and the work that will be done with it.

I welcome the fact that one of the main sub-groups of FREDS is on marine energy. The sub-group brings together people from business and academia, as well as allowing for a political input. As that shows, we want to ensure that any barriers to the development of marine energy can be eliminated. There is a real sense of urgency and commitment around taking that forward.

The use of biomass for energy has not yet taken off in Scotland, despite the huge natural resource in our forestry industry, which represents a significant opportunity for Scotland to grasp. That is why FREDS has been asked to give urgent consideration to the actions that are needed to increase the penetration of biomass technologies.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

Does the Deputy First Minister accept that it might be necessary for the Executive to intervene with additional support for the biomass industry in order to kick-start it and to get it to the level that we want it to be at?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

That is very much the sort of issue that the FREDS sub-group has been asked to consider—what are the things that we can do to assist with the use of biomass? We hope that the sub-group will report later in the year, after which we will be in a better position to identify the measures that we need to take in order to give a kick start, as Christine May described it, to the biomass industry.

In all fairness, I should now give way to Jeremy Purvis.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the Deputy First Minister. Will he ensure that, given that the Minister for Communities' affordable housing review is now being carried out, there will be an opportunity for social housing to benefit from combined heat and power plants? That could be exactly the sort of thing that could stimulate the development of renewables in the public sector.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

A whole range of things can be done on combined heat and power and on the heating of housing and public buildings. For example, there are opportunities for thermal heat pumps. That is another technology that has not taken off in Scotland as much as it has elsewhere. In continental Europe, there have been huge and exponential advances in its use and I think that we will see that in Scotland as well. Jeremy Purvis is right to identify some of the opportunities that can not only help to ensure that we are better stewards of our natural resources, but result in job opportunities.

Together, wind power, wave, biomass and other renewables technologies represent a range of renewable energy sources that will provide a consistent and balanced energy supply. If that can be achieved, it will be a huge prize not only for Scotland, but for the world.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I have been pretty good at taking interventions, but I will take one more, from John Scott.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

When will all the fine ideas that the minister is talking about become a commercial reality? Will they deliver a worthwhile amount of energy?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

The target is that 18 per cent of electricity will be generated by renewable sources by 2010, which we believe we are on course to deliver. Although it is a challenge to us to deliver 40 per cent of our electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020, I believe that it can be done, which is why we are taking action to ensure that we contribute to meeting that target through marine and biomass technology and through saving energy, so that the base to which the percentage is applied is lower.

I will now deal with the economic advantages and opportunities. We are committed to developing and implementing a green jobs strategy to help Scotland to realise the significant business, environmental and employment benefits of a greener economy, of which renewable energy will be an important part. The strategy is focused on how best to create and support indigenous wealth, jobs and opportunities; in the coming weeks, I will launch a major public consultation exercise on it. I am confident that one of the reasons why we can benefit from the strategy is that it plays to many of Scotland's traditional strengths, such as innovation, engineering, manufacturing and exporting. New skills will certainly be needed, but they can be developed alongside existing skills. I am sure that Scottish business and education can rise to the challenge.

Our strategy for growing the renewables sector supports a range of renewables technologies at grass-roots level. In the next three years, we will invest more than £5 million in the Scottish community and householder renewables initiative for small-scale wind, solar, biomass, hydro, marine and geothermal energy projects.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I have been pretty generous until now and I want to make progress. If I have time, I will give way later.

As well as promoting renewable energy, we must take steps to reduce our demand for energy. The partnership agreement acknowledges that it is vital to make efficient use of our energy sources. Last month, I announced £20 million of new funding to implement energy efficiency measures that will reduce carbon emissions through a scheme covering all local authorities and health boards and Scottish Water. It is intended that the scheme will involve revolving funds to be administered locally.

Although some of the savings from energy efficiency measures will be reinvested in new measures, most of them will be invested in front-line services. That will build on the work of the Scottish energy efficiency office, which carried out more than 600 energy audits in 2003-04. Those are estimated to have identified potential savings to Scottish businesses of around £15 million and carbon savings of 228,000 tonnes, which is enough to power 35,000 homes for a year.

Domestic energy efficiency has improved in recent years. In 1996, only 7 per cent of Scottish homes had high energy efficiency ratings, but that figure has increased to nearly one third of Scottish homes by 2002.

I have set out briefly the action that we are taking to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. There is an opportunity for business as well as a requirement to protect and enhance our environment. I know that we cannot be complacent, but the actions that I have outlined today and the record of the Administration in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency show the importance that we attach to addressing the issue and identifying not only the challenges that we want to meet, but the opportunities that exist for our businesses as we try to bring some of our ideas to reality.

I move,

That the Parliament endorses the Scottish Executive's targets to generate increasing amounts of electricity from renewable sources; notes that Scottish ministers have, in the last two years, approved 600 megawatts of wind farms and 7 megawatts of hydro power schemes and that Scottish local authorities in the same period have consented to approximately 170 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity; acknowledges the contribution of the Scottish Community and Householder Renewables Initiative in encouraging renewable energy capacity building for communities; acknowledges the long-term potential for the development of renewable energy technologies, including the associated economic benefits and rural regeneration and export opportunities; welcomes the associated drive to increase energy efficiency measures across Scotland, including the recent announcement of the public sector energy efficiency fund and the environmental best practice being promoted by the Scottish Energy Efficiency Office; also recognises the contribution that both renewable energy and energy efficiency make to reducing carbon emissions, and supports the Executive's commitment to tackling climate change.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 3:14 pm, 22nd April 2004

Moving towards renewable and greener sources of energy is an essential part of reducing our carbon emissions. The Scottish Power briefing indicates that its existing wind farms alone will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Scotland by more than £3.5 million tonnes over the next 25 years. The threat of climate change is real and we ignore it at our peril.

The need to reduce carbon emissions is only one of the reasons why we must go down the renewables road. For all my concerns about the way in which the wind energy market is being developed, I have no doubt that I would rather see in my back yard a field of wind turbines than a nuclear reactor leaking goodness knows what and leaving an environmental legacy to be dealt with by generations to come.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Roseanna Cunningham's amendment mentions a target of 25 per cent renewable energy by 2010. Given the fact that peak demand in Scotland can reach almost 6,000 megawatts, does she believe that that target is achievable? Can she guarantee that there will be sufficient back-up plant to ensure that peak demand is met and that there will be stability of supply?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That certainly is achievable. However, the closer we get to 2010 without meeting that target, the less likely it is to be achieved. We need to work towards the target in order to meet it. I will address that issue later.

The nuclear industry lobbyists have been hard at work yet again and there have been reports in the newspapers this week punting calls for nuclear power to be promoted ahead of wind and other renewable energy sources. I know that there are some cheerleaders for the nuclear industry in the chamber, but I hope that the rest of us will make it known that there is no support in Scotland for going down the nuclear road. Regardless of what the nuclear apologists might claim, nuclear power is not green, clean or renewable.

The Executive's targets for renewable energy production are a step in the right direction, but we need to be even more ambitious if we are to become a leading player in the renewable energy industry. Other European nations are well ahead of us, which may be an answer to Phil Gallie's question. For example, 29 per cent of Swedish electricity generation comes from renewable sources. In Finland the figure is 22 per cent and in Austria it is 21 per cent. I want us to release Scotland's massive potential for electricity production from renewable sources and I would set a target for the production of electricity from renewables at 25 per cent by 2010, with a progressive build-up capacity leading up to 40 per cent by 2020.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I hear what Roseanna Cunningham is saying. In her view, is the best way of releasing that renewables potential to make it easier to develop wind energy production or to make it more difficult?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The best way of doing it is to ensure that the widest range of renewable energy technologies is available to most people in Scotland.

Understandably, new technologies inevitably take a while to become commercially viable on a large scale. At present, apart from hydro generation—which is well established—wind turbine generation is the main commercially viable new renewable energy technology. As such, it has an important contribution to make to the mix of Scotland's energy generation, although it cannot be the only contributor.

However, hostility is being created by the absence of clear, concise and coherent national guidelines for the approval of wind farm sites. Friends of the Earth thinks that such guidelines are necessary for all renewable energy technologies, especially in view of their cumulative impact. The publication of local guidelines on wind farms is welcome, but the continuing silence of the Executive on proposals to generate more than 50MW is causing untold damage. I have little doubt that many of the more contentious proposals will be rejected, but the effect of the cack-handed way in which the Executive has dealt with the whole issue is that many individuals and communities will have had their hackles raised by the system. There is a real danger that public support for the wider case for wind farms and renewable energy will be undermined.

Local communities and wind farm developments can get along together beneficially. In Argyll, Scottish Power's first two wind farms have contributed tens of thousands of pounds every year to community trust funds. That is good news for those communities. The Executive should be doing more to encourage all developers to recognise their responsibilities towards local communities so that the communities can benefit from developments on their doorstep.

It would be better yet if the involvement of communities and individuals in power generation came from the bottom up rather than from the top down. At present, power generation is almost exclusively developer led. I am aware of the Scottish community and householder renewables initiative. Although it is early in the day to comment on its effectiveness, I would like much more to be done to promote and assist community-led renewable energy projects.

At national level, we need to encourage the development of a wide range of renewable technologies, for economic as well as environmental reasons. The issue is not just about research and development funding, but about investing in the industries.

Murdo Fraser has already mentioned the Portuguese example. Portugal is determined to become a market leader and is offering a level of funding that provides a firm support framework for early technology. In return, the Portuguese are understandably looking to attract companies to establish manufacturing in Portugal. The worst-case scenario, which we have to be careful to avoid, is one in which technologies that are initially developed in Scotland by Scottish companies are used to establish new industries in countries other than Scotland, such as Portugal.

We should be ambitious for Scotland, to the point that Scotland becomes the first place that people think of when they think of renewable energy innovations. We need to consider investing in a wide range of renewable projects, including biomass, geothermals and hydrogen fuel cells for the storage of energy. WWF Scotland believes that around 24,000 jobs could be created in the renewables industry. The industry could therefore be very important economically for Scotland.

I am aware that I have devoted the bulk of my speech to the importance of renewable energy. However, we must not overlook the equivalent importance of improving energy efficiency and addressing our continually increasing demand for electricity. Unless we address that side of the equation, all the good work done in setting and meeting targets for renewable energy production—regardless of whose targets we choose—will be cancelled out by increases in consumption.

I do not doubt that most parties in the chamber desire to make Scotland the green powerhouse of Europe. It is just a pity that the Scotland Act 1998 reserves to Westminster the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity and leaves the Executive with the power only to promote renewable energy development. If our country is to become a powerhouse, our Parliament must become one, too. That will require independence.

I move amendment S2M-1185.1, to leave out from "endorses" to end and insert:

"recognises the contribution that both renewable energy and energy efficiency make to tackling carbon emissions; further recognises the importance of tackling climate change; agrees, therefore, to raise the Scottish Executive's targets for generating increasing amounts of electricity from renewable resources to 25% of electricity generation capacity by 2010, 30% by 2015 and 50% by 2020; regrets that energy policy is largely reserved to Westminster and rejects calls for an expansion of the nuclear contribution to Scotland's electricity production; acknowledges the important contribution that can be made by small-scale, domestic and community-based renewable energy projects; notes the recent growth in applications for wind farm developments and regrets the absence of clear, concise and coherent guidelines for the approval of such developments; acknowledges the long-term potential for the development of renewable energy technologies, including the associated economic benefits and rural regeneration and export opportunities, and urges the Executive to ensure that these technologies are supported beyond the research and development stage to ensure that Scotland can become a world leader in renewable energy technologies."

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 3:22 pm, 22nd April 2004

I welcome the opportunity to debate the Executive's policy on renewable energy and to highlight its current policy failures. We also have the opportunity to expose the gaping black hole at the heart of Executive policy, which is the lack of any forward energy strategy.

We have heard a lot from the Executive about its targets for renewable energy—18 per cent by 2010 and 40 per cent by 2020. However, the Executive must be aware of growing scepticism about the achievability of those targets. Some weeks ago, the former Labour energy minister, Brian Wilson MP, questioned whether the targets were achievable. In the briefing for today's debate, Unison, the trade union that is most involved in the energy industry, says that it does not believe that the 40 per cent target is achievable. The United Kingdom's leading engineer, Sir Alec Broers, who is the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, has said that the UK targets are unrealistic.

Notwithstanding the public scepticism, the Executive seems hell bent on rushing ahead with its current strategy. However, that strategy is not, sadly, a renewables strategy at all. All it seems to be about is building wind farms right across rural Scotland. In the Deputy First Minister's speech, there was hardly a mention of wind energy, yet he must be aware of the widespread public concern about the development of wind farms. My colleague Ted Brocklebank tells me of a plan in north-east Fife to build on Clatto hill 17 wind turbines, each of them, at 93m, approximately the height of the statue of Liberty.

We know that there is a great deal of concern across the country. Last week, a group of 11 Perthshire ladies made a unique protest against what they regarded as over-scale wind farm developments in their area. They performed "The Full Monty" strip for the cameras. Now, it takes some courage to take one's clothes off in Perthshire in April and I think that that shows the strength of feeling on this issue.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Murdo Fraser has just exposed the complete contradiction in his attack on the Executive. He said that we had no strategy other than to promote wind farms and then he criticised me for not referring to them. For the best part of 12 minutes, I described a strategy of renewables development that barely mentioned wind power. That just shows how wrong he is. We have a balanced strategy.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

We are always glad to hear from the Deputy First Minister about the new technologies but I am surprised that he did not address what seems to be at the core of the Executive's current strategy, which is to develop onshore wind power.

My criticism is not exclusively of the Executive. I listened with great interest to Roseanna Cunningham. It is extraordinary that the SNP is calling for an increase in targets that others are saying are likely to be unachievable. All that increasing targets will do is to increase pressure for more wind farms in rural areas. I cannot believe that Roseanna Cunningham's constituents in rural Perthshire will welcome the prospect of yet more wind farm applications. The Executive is trying to meet its targets exclusively from onshore wind, and is using its planning policies to stamp on local opinion.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

In a second.

The deputy minister, who will be responding to the debate, is fond of quoting surveys at me that show that the public are generally in favour of wind power. I have no doubt that, if I were to walk down a residential street in Morningside and knock on the doors, I would find almost unanimous support for wind power. However, if I were to propose building a wind farm on the top of Arthur's seat or the Braid hills, I could guarantee that that public opinion would shift overnight. It is all very easy for Labour members, in the main representing urban constituencies, to support the building of wind farms in rural Scotland—they do not have to answer to their constituents for that. May I suggest that, before those Labour members become too enthusiastic about wind turbines, they speak to people living in rural communities?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Speaking as a representative of Edinburgh—but not, I hasten to add, Morningside—I suggest to the member that, if he were doing such a survey, it would be an awful lot more useful to offer people the prospect of photovoltaic cells and mini-wind vanes, which represent a huge opportunity that we have not even begun to explore in Scotland. That is where Labour members are putting their energy in urban areas.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

If that means that the member will join me in opposing large-scale rural wind farm developments, I am delighted to hear it.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

The member is shaking her head. Sadly for the Executive, its single-minded approach to developing onshore wind is already looking out of date. The tide is starting to turn against onshore wind development. Last month's report from the Royal Academy of Engineering was extremely sceptical about the benefits of wind power, making the case that wind generation is two and a half times more expensive than conventional generation. It is more expensive than nuclear energy, even if the cost of decommissioning is included. Tonight, the David Hume Institute is launching Professor David Simpson's paper, which is another contribution to the debate. It, too, argues that nuclear power is half the price of wind power and it maintains that the drive to establish onshore wind represents a stealth tax.

I know that there are economic benefits from wind generation and I would not rule it out completely. I have seen the jobs that have been created at Campbeltown and elsewhere. The sad fact is, however, that all the focus on onshore wind is leading to neglect of other renewables technologies. Like other members, I would like a greater focus on hydro power, on tide and wave power and on biomass. There are opportunities to develop those technologies if we tweak systems such as the renewables obligation certificates.

Even if the Executive meets its ambitious targets, there is now serious doubt about whether its programme is achievable without blanketing the entire countryside in wind turbines. We still have a black hole at the heart of the Executive's policy. Every existing conventional power station in Scotland is coming towards the end of its natural life. We should be planning now for the next generation of non-renewable power generation. That means power from gas, coal and nuclear. It is not often that I agree with Unison, but in its briefing for the debate it made the excellent point that the Scottish Executive should be adopting a balanced energy strategy, which includes a mix of generating capacity. That would include a larger element of renewables, when proven capacity can be delivered, together with gas, coal and nuclear power. Unison is absolutely right.

The Executive's current strategy is seriously flawed. Unless it is prepared to consider the issues that I have highlighted, the lights will be going out across Scotland because of the lack of energy production. It is time for the Executive to work with the Westminster Government to produce a proper and sensible energy strategy for our future.

I move amendment S2M-1185.2, to leave out from "endorses" to end and insert:

"notes the increasing scepticism about the achievability of the Scottish Executive's targets for renewable energy from a number of sources, including former Energy Minister Brian Wilson MP and UNISON; further notes the publication of reports from the Royal Academy of Engineers and Professor David Simpson of the David Hume Institute on the costs of wind power generation as against other generation methods; regrets the current rush to develop onshore wind capacity to the exclusion of other technologies such as hydro, wave, tidal and biomass, and calls on the Scottish Executive and Her Majesty's Government to work together to develop an energy strategy for Scotland which will include a mix of generating capacity, with components from renewables, gas, coal and nuclear power."

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 3:29 pm, 22nd April 2004

We have a cavalier attitude towards our use of electricity and take notice only when the power supply fails. Even now, when most scientists accept the reality of climate change and are now talking about the timescale and the implications, neither the general public nor businesses are showing any real concern. Reducing our demand for electricity must be a top priority, with energy efficiency playing a huge part. The Energy Saving Trust has calculated that greater household efficiency could save 120 terawatt hours of energy and 8 million tonnes of carbon across the United Kingdom by 2010.

The Executive must set mandatory energy efficiency targets. Improved building standards for new-build homes and business properties are vital if we are to ensure that all new developments are at least as energy efficient as the best in the world. It is not easy to address energy efficiency in existing buildings, but much more can and must be done to prevent the massive wastage of electricity through poorly insulated buildings. Even in Scotland, it is possible to build homes and offices that require no heating.

We must understand that electricity makes up only 20 per cent of Scotland's energy use; the remainder of the energy is used by transport, industry and non-electrical heating. If that situation remained the same, even if 100 per cent of our electricity came from renewable sources, 80 per cent of our energy would still come primarily from dirty fossil fuels. Oil is not renewable. At present, we use four barrels of oil for each new barrel that is discovered. The economics of extraction cause concern, especially in Scotland, where economic oil extraction is expected to peak in 2010, which is just six years away. However, we do not have to wait until the oil runs out. To paraphrase Sheikh Yamani, the stone age ended not because we ran out of stone, but because we came up with something better. Let us not kid ourselves that nuclear power has anything to offer: it is a dirty, unsustainable and hideously uneconomic power source.

Should we wait for oil prices to rocket and thereby forfeit fuel security by looking abroad for our oil needs, or should we take action now to develop alternatives? Alternatives such as biofuel and hydrogen fuel cells are being developed by enterprising companies in Scotland. Do Scottish Enterprise and the Executive encourage and support those companies?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Does Shiona Baird accept that the nuclear generation industry is the safest electricity generation industry, both worldwide and in the UK? Does she accept that the industry does not emit noxious gases of any kind? Does she accept that nuclear is the most reliable power source that we have? She is always complaining about the cost of fuel for old folk, but they depend on the nuclear output at many critical times.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

Phil Gallie asks three questions; my answers are no, no and no. Has he forgotten about Chernobyl? We are still suffering the effects of that disaster, which I think happened about 17 or 18 years ago.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

The effects of Chernobyl came across to the UK.

The Executive has the vision to look two decades ahead and it has set an ambitious target for renewable energy. Some doubt that that target is achievable, but it is achievable if the will exists. The target must be achieved if we are to have any chance of reversing the worst excesses of climate change.

Scotland has huge resources. The potential output from four tidal stream locations around Orkney could be 34.2TWh, which is around 8 per cent of current UK electrical generating capacity. To our shame, we have a long way to go before we can realise even a fraction of that enormous potential. To date, only around 200MW of installed capacity has been built in Scotland, although the Executive estimates that there is the potential for 11.5 gigawatts of onshore wind capacity, which means that we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. Offshore, the potential is even greater.

What is the Executive doing to show its commitment to the environment through the economy? If we manufactured all the turbines that are required for onshore and, ultimately, offshore wind farms, that would provide a great benefit for the Scottish economy. We lost the initiative in the 1980s, when Howden of Glasgow was given no support, but we have not learned the lesson. The world's first wave-powered farm is being set up in Portugal. How can the Executive have allowed that to happen?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Does Ms Baird accept that the success of a Scottish renewables company in exporting its product to Portugal, which is one of our potential competitors, is a good sign of how far ahead we are in the area of technology concerned?

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

Both Portugal and Ireland have provided favourable market incentives, unlike us. While we have been sitting around talking, our European competitors have been getting on and making things happen. Portugal already has a grid connection in place in the Bay of Biscay; we do not even have grid capacity. My answer to Lewis Macdonald's point is that Portugal will soon want the economic benefit of building machines out there. The potential loss to the Scottish economy does not bear thinking about.

Ocean Power Delivery—the company that is behind the successful wave energy converter—demonstrates all that is best in a smart, successful business, and what does the Executive do? Not a lot and that is done too late. I ask members to support our amendment.

I move amendment S2M-1185.3, to leave out from "endorses" to end and insert:

"believes that the Scottish Executive can play a much more significant role in tackling climate change by encouraging reductions in energy use through greater energy efficiency and by achieving a greater shift in energy use from fossil fuels to renewable sources, whilst at the same time creating sustainable 'green' jobs; welcomes the targets set by the Executive for generation of 40% of electricity from renewable sources but notes that this amounts to only about 8% of Scotland's total energy use; recognises that a study commissioned by the Executive shows that the energy potential from renewable energy in Scotland is as much as 60 gigawatts and therefore that renewable energy has a massive potential to supply energy, not only for electricity but also for fuels; further recognises that Scotland leads the world in research and development of wave energy converters; is gravely concerned that the first order for wave converters has come from outside Scotland and that the potential for a manufacturing industry for wave converters may be lost to Scotland because of insufficient market incentives, and therefore calls on the Executive to set concrete targets for energy efficiency, to publish an action plan, including targets, for renewable energy to supply non-electrical uses and to improve market-based incentives for emerging renewable energy technologies."

Photo of Richard Baker Richard Baker Labour 3:35 pm, 22nd April 2004

The Executive's targets to increase electricity generation from renewable sources are ambitious but achievable, and we are making progress towards them by investing in and encouraging the renewable energy industry and some of the technologies to which Shiona Baird referred. The industry has huge potential not only for creating a Scotland of cleaner energy production, but for allowing us to reap the rewards of its development in economic benefit and job creation if we continue to provide the right support.

Of course, a wide-ranging debate will take place about the right mix of future energy production to ensure a secure supply and lower carbon emissions. As I am sure that we will hear from other members, an important role remains for more established electricity generation methods.

We have heard before in the chamber from those who are worried about reliance on wind power because they fear that its energy supply may be intermittent. I have heard during the Enterprise and Culture Committee's inquiry that our future mix of energy generation will be able to deal with intermittency. More concerning is the intermittent support from some Opposition parties for renewable energy developments. SNP and Tory MSPs give us warm words about how they want more renewable energy production, but they oppose specific wind farm proposals. The Tories even propose a national moratorium on wind farm developments. Such attitudes, which are based on political opportunism, will not secure progress on renewable energy.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Has the member asked Mr Iain Smith of the Liberal Democrats or Dr Elaine Murray of the Labour Party what their attitude was to two recent wind farm applications in their areas?

Photo of Richard Baker Richard Baker Labour

I have not spoken to them about those proposals. I am talking about the Executive's strategy as a whole—that is what the motion refers to. What the SNP's amendment says about wind farm planning applications contradicts the SNP's overall strategy of having more ambitious renewable energy targets. The member must examine that contradiction.

The Executive's strategy is in contrast to the other parties' political opportunism, because it is based on encouraging the development of experimental new technologies and supporting technologies that are in the marketplace. It does that successfully through the programme of renewable obligation certificates.

Making progress now on developing our renewable energy is not only an environmental imperative. It is not simply part of a green agenda, worthy as that might be; it is an economic imperative, too. Debates may take place over the aesthetics of wind farms, and planning processes should be sensitive to several factors, including the environmental impact of proposals. I am sure that Dr Murray would have referred to such matters. We hear often from a small but vocal group of people, regularly including the Tories, who oppose wind farms and specific developments.

When the Enterprise and Culture Committee visited Campbeltown, we heard about the extremely positive impact that the wind farm there is having on the local economy. It is providing vital jobs for local people in an area where they are greatly needed.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

Mr Baker must be aware of the enormous economic benefit that nuclear facilities have provided to their communities not only in Scotland, but elsewhere in the United Kingdom. As a Labour member of the Executive, will he undertake that the Labour group will not allow the Liberal Democrats to determine energy policy and rule out nuclear power?

Photo of Richard Baker Richard Baker Labour

I would not want the Labour group to be dictated to by anybody, and certainly not on such an issue. I am sure that John Home Robertson will refer to the matters that Mr Mundell mentioned. I am talking about the benefits of renewable energy and I want to make progress on describing what we can achieve with that.

We could bring great benefits to our economy by investing in developing renewable energy technologies. Tidal energy is a particularly exciting development because of its potential to provide a predictable energy supply. In particular, I want to refer to offshore technologies, which are not being neglected—they are being invested in. The Executive has recognised their potential in the funding that it has given to research projects, such as the £2 million that was given to the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, and the intermediary technology institute for energy in Aberdeen will help us to consider how we can diversify current skills and resources in the oil and gas sector into developing offshore renewables.

The Executive has also supported the development of offshore wind through a research grant for the plans to develop Europe's first deep offshore wind farm. Those plans propose to place some 200 turbines on existing platforms in the Beatrice oilfield, and there is the potential to generate around half of the new generation that is needed to meet the Executive's 40 per cent target for 2020. In Scotland, we have some of the world's leading expertise in new technologies for marine and tidal energy, at universities such as the Robert Gordon University. That is no accident, but part of the Executive's strategy for funding research. I hope that that funding can be backed up by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council looking to fund more marine energy research in our universities, because, by capitalising on the development of such technology in Scotland, we can be Europe's leaders in the industry.

I was pleased to see that the forum for renewable energy development in Scotland has set up a marine energy sub-group, and that meetings are to take place with people who are developing the marine energy sector in Portugal, to which Murdo Fraser and others have referred. Indeed, we heard much about that matter during the committee's inquiry. We must ensure that we are in a position to capitalise on the expertise that we have in Scotland and ensure that the skills and infrastructure that have made Aberdeen the energy capital of Europe can be applied to successful new industry, with new ways of developing energy that will go beyond the lifespan of the oil and gas industry.

The minister has rightly stated that Scotland has the greatest marine energy potential in Europe and the Executive has welcomed reports that 35,000 jobs could be created throughout the United Kingdom in the renewable energy industry by 2020. Nearly 2,000 people are currently employed in the industry in Scotland. The committee's inquiry heard from the Scottish Renewables Forum that as many as 24,000 jobs could be created through marine and tidal energy production in Scotland alone by 2015.

That is why I am pleased that the Executive is investing in developing marine energy, which represents the great potential of the renewable energy industry as a whole, not only to improve our environment, but to benefit our economy and create jobs. It is also why I lament the timid support and confused strategies for developing renewable energy that are displayed in the Opposition amendments, why I applaud the Executive's bold strategy of developing renewable energy and why I support the Executive's motion.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to the open debate. Members have five minutes.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 3:42 pm, 22nd April 2004

As Richard Baker said, the Enterprise and Culture Committee is conducting an inquiry into renewable energy. I hope that I can touch on one or two issues without either pre-empting what the committee's report will say or straying from my neutrality as convener of the committee.

It is all too easy to concentrate on electricity generation or electricity consumption, as much of the debate has done, rather than on energy use as whole. Even in Scotland, I think that around 80 per cent of household energy is used on space heating and a substantial proportion of that space heating, of course, does not use electricity—other fuels, such as oil or gas, are used.

Some members of the Enterprise and Culture Committee recently paid a visit to Denmark and had the opportunity to visit a large power station on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Apart from seeing what electricity that power station produced, it was fascinating to see that the hot water that is produced as a by-product, if you like, was used in combined heat and power systems. I think that hot water was being pumped as far as 25km to 30km away from the power station to heat district power systems in various municipalities. In this country, where we have a fairly mature housing infrastructure, the back installation of large numbers of district heating systems would be an expensive operation, although that is clearly possible in new developments—I think that a member has already alluded to that.

The other fascinating aspect of the power station was the amount of co-firing that was used. The basic fuel was, or had been, natural gas, but it was fired along with straw and wood pellets. Local farmers brought in bales of straw, which were then piled in the warehouse to be fed into the boiler of the power station. Both straw and woodchips are sustainable and renewable fuels, as well as being CO2 neutral. The use of woodchip pellets was particularly instructive. The pellets are, in effect, a previous waste product from furniture manufacture in Denmark. That is particularly relevant in the light of Scotland's substantial production of timber, which is due to reach a peak in the near future. The ability to use a fuel that is both renewable and locally obtainable must be a substantial attraction, which we should exploit.

Given what I said about the proportion of energy that we use for space heating, we must realise how attractive it is to use wood fuel in boilers, particularly in large buildings such as swimming pools, schools or hospitals. For every 100 tonnes of timber that we process, we produce 45 tonnes of sawdust, bark and woodchip, which do not have much of a market or sell at a high price, so the attraction of being able to use that material is high. The idea is particularly appealing in Scotland's rural areas, where we produce so much timber. We have all that fuel sitting on our doorstep and if we could use it, we would not have to bring in tankers of liquid propane gas or whatever other fuel to use in our boilers.

When we visited the Vestas-Celtic Wind Technology plant at Campbeltown, I took the opportunity to drop into the swimming pool at Lochgilphead, which uses precisely that method. [Laughter.] Fortunately, it was only the boiler room of the swimming pool that I dropped into. It was fascinating to see the use of wood fuel at the swimming pool; virtually no ash was produced, the boiler ran seamlessly with little intervention and used fuel that was produced only a few miles away, and no pollution whatsoever was produced.

The problem with getting manufacturers to install such equipment is that they are far happier with the conventional, safe option. That is a particular problem in private-public partnership and private finance initiative schemes, in which the choice of method of firing the boilers is left to the contractor rather than to the local council. The Executive must encourage that kind of technology a bit more, perhaps by considering the use of capital grants, so that we can make it a more economic option. The benefits that wood fuel can deliver to the community, to the environment and to the local forest industry, which is often hard pressed because of international prices, are significant.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 3:47 pm, 22nd April 2004

I want very much to support the Executive's motion; to endorse the targets that it has set out; to support the progress that has been made so far, particularly in hydro and wind generation; to identify the importance of long-term development of new renewable technologies; and to ensure that energy efficiency is part of the process. The importance that the Parliament has attached to renewable energy will be one of our big achievements and is one of the things that will distinguish the establishment of this Parliament.

The renewable energy industry is good news for Scotland. It is good news for research and development in universities and companies. It is good news for manufacturing and jobs. It is very good news for social justice—one of the things that I would add to Jim Wallace's list of five objectives is that we should tackle fuel poverty and end the scandal of people in the 21st century living in homes that are unfit for them. Renewable energy has something to add in that regard. The industry is also good news for the environment, a subject to which I will return.

Renewables do not add to our climate-change problems, they do not create pollution and they do not create waste and security problems that last for many generations to come. For those good reasons, we should think seriously about using renewables.

We have made progress, partly because we have made renewable energy a political priority across the chamber. I hope that we do not lose that in today's debate. Work has been done at ministerial level on the setting of targets, new research technology is being developed in Aberdeen and Orkney, as Richard Baker mentioned, and the new FREDS has been established.

However, we need to maintain overall political support. I accept absolutely that people do not have to sign up to every development regardless of their party, but we will take no lectures from the Tories on renewables. The suggestion that the current success in the development of wind power has been achieved at the exclusion of other types of renewables is ludicrous and totally wrong, and the facts do not bear it out. Let us not forget why the wave-power approach was abandoned—it was because the Tories withdrew support for it. They were in charge for 18 years and research into wave power was abandoned at the precise point at which the Danes developed a world-class wind-power industry. That is why Scotland is now playing catch-up and why we are way behind Denmark, Spain, Germany and Japan. We need to have ambitious targets and to give them political support.

It is vital that we have a range of different projects. For example, our new and refurbished hydro power systems will mean that we will meet the 18 per cent target for renewables by 2010. We also have a series of biomass projects; although we do not have enough of them, we know that the technology works and that it can provide good power. Moreover, across Scotland, many small-scale combined heat and power and solar projects are being developed with practical financial support from the Executive. Let us not pretend that such work is not being done.

There is a long distance between innovation and the mass application of some of the technologies and the Executive must focus its energies in that area. That is why the 40 per cent target is crucial. The target needs to be ambitious. After all, we need vision and big thinking if we are to lift off from our current position. On this occasion, the Executive is giving us that kind of thinking.

I say to the SNP and the Tories that that does not mean that we will never have to make difficult decisions. Indeed, we cannot avoid such decisions. Wave and tidal energy developments are not without their problems and will have potential environmental impacts. As a result, we need an appropriate planning and environmental impact assessment framework.

Roseanna Cunningham's speech was much more measured than those that we have heard in the past from the SNP. However, I must tell her that we have concise and coherent guidelines that make it clear that the issue of cumulative impact should be taken into account in every decision. I welcome Scottish Natural Heritage's work to assist that process, because it will result in better decisions and more information.

Local authorities have the democratic job of ensuring that their communities are fully involved in such decisions and are able to get into the detail of the projects. Central Government cannot resolve that critical issue. For example, although 17 wind vanes in an installation might be perfectly well located, the 18th might be in the wrong place. Such a situation will be resolved not by diktats from ministers in central Government, but by the power companies, RSPB Scotland, the local authorities and so on sitting down together and bashing things out. We need that range of decision making.

We must support the 40 per cent target, and some excellent work is being done in that regard. However, it is not enough simply to consider renewable energy; we must also think about the way in which we use energy and energy efficiency. In that respect, I was amazed to find myself agreeing with almost all of Alasdair Morgan's speech, which makes it clear that there is consensus across the chamber.

Having said that, I disagree with Alasdair Morgan on one point. There is no reason why PPP and long-term contracts cannot include provisions for energy efficiency and the use of renewables. Not including such provisions is a cop-out for companies and local authorities and the Scottish Executive should be making them key. Such contracts, with their 30-year life span, could capture aspects such as reducing carbon emissions and energy saving. Indeed, provisions on those aspects should be embedded in the contracts for every school and hospital project. I hope that the minister will tell us when he winds up how the Executive intends to deliver on that issue.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 3:53 pm, 22nd April 2004

I am afraid that I might be the one to break up the consensus in the chamber this afternoon. First, I declare my support for Murdo Fraser's amendment, which introduces to the debate on renewable energy and energy efficiency a new level of realism that is sadly lacking on the Government and SNP benches.

It is important to have this debate, because the value of renewable energy is being called into question not just in Scotland but world-wide. The benefits of wind farms are being called into question even more and perhaps it is time for the Executive to acknowledge that thinking other than its own on this subject might be equally valid.

At its simplest, wind farming is a fine idea. As a source of energy, it means that we get something for nothing when the wind blows. However, when the wind does not blow we are left without an energy source, which means that we need a back-up source. As a result, we need to build two energy systems to support one unreliable system. Such a national approach is at best uneconomic and at worst the economics of Alice in Wonderland. The greater our dependence on wind energy, the greater the prospect of grid instability. In layman's terms, that means blackouts.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I would rather not, because I have a lot to get on with.

Because of their high level of dependence on wind energy, countries such as Denmark and Éire already suffer from grid instability. We in Scotland should not be putting ourselves into the same situation simply because the Executive has not thought through the consequences of its intended actions. I am not being totally negative; after all, we cannot totally discount the benefits of renewables such as wind energy.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

No.

We need to develop constant and predictable energy sources such as tidal power and biofuels. Other renewables such as solar energy and wave energy require the sun to shine or the wind to blow and they can only ever be bonuses. That is why it is self-evident that if we are going to strengthen the grid, we must not just serve the current rush to support wind farms. We must support the longer-term development of tidal power, which is one of the potentially dependable renewables; the others are not dependable.

If we must have wind farms, they should be located appropriately near the area in which tidal currents are most likely to be harvested. That is the only sensible way in which to strengthen the grid.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Become obsessed with one type of renewable energy misses the point. Even with tidal power, there can be environmental impacts. Although tidal power is predictable, it is not constant so there still has to be a mix of sources. To rest on tidal energy would be a huge mistake for Scotland.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

If the member was listening to what I said, she will know that I did not say that we should do that. I said that wind energy is a bonus, tidal energy is predictable and biofuels are entirely predictable.

We need a more joined-up approach from Government. Commentators such as John Campbell and the Royal Academy of Engineering are rightly demanding not just that we take a strategic approach to planning, but that we take a strategic and thought-through approach to delivering a secure energy supply. At the moment, we are getting neither from the UK Government or the Scottish Executive.

That is why the Conservatives have argued for some time that realistic and transparent decisions have to be taken now to secure our future electricity supply. That is why we have to develop a balanced mix of energy sources and why we cannot let our coal, gas and nuclear power stations run down. If the minister will not listen to us, perhaps he will listen to Unison, whose excellent briefing paper hit the nail on the head, and the former minister Allan Wilson, who has long taken a realistic approach to the question.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I beg your pardon. I meant Brian Wilson. I thank the member for the correction, although I suspect that Allan Wilson's sympathies go in that direction as well.

No major economic country in Europe—by that I mean France, Germany and Spain—depends or has plans to depend on renewables to the extent that we aim to do in Scotland. Once again, the Scottish Executive is out of step with commonsense thinking elsewhere in the world. That is why I said in Parliament on 11 February that we have to start replacing our coal-fired and gas-fired plants now. We must replace nuclear with nuclear, coal with coal, and gas with gas if we want to remain a net exporter of electricity. Renewable energy sources will be a welcome bonus, but only that.

The First Minister will not want to be remembered only for his kilt sense or for avoiding taking the necessary decisions to secure our future energy supplies. He must make the commonsense decisions now. That is why I urge Parliament to support the Conservative amendment today.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 3:58 pm, 22nd April 2004

It is true to say that we must pay heed to the base-load, but I am not persuaded in any way by the nuclear lobby that its solution is the only solution. Its solution has all sorts of long-term implications, not least of which are the accidents that have already occurred. The impact of those accidents still lingers in Scotland today, in the lambs that cannot come to market from the southern uplands because of Chernobyl. As a result of that accident, it will be many years before we can bring future generations of lambs to market.

However, we have to address the problems with the base-load. A decision will soon have to be reached about what we are going to do with Longannet and Cockenzie. Those decisions cannot be put off much longer, because if we are to continue down the route of having a mix of power sources that includes fossil fuels, particularly coal, significant investments will be required to bring them up to the standard that will deliver reasonably clean power. We have to do that and Longannet—if not Cockenzie—has to be able to deliver reasonably clean energy. The route to that is through coal firing.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Given that the motivation for the debate and our action on renewable energy is the long-term impact of the burning of fossil fuels, does Mr Adam accept that nuclear is not the only technology that leaves us with a long-term waste problem?

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

Let me develop my point on the use of fossil fuels. We need to have coal firing and schemes are in place to encourage it. Indeed, it is to the Executive's credit that it has recently improved such schemes. However, perhaps we need to think much bigger. We need a significant base-load provision, not all of which should come from gas. We should consider not only using straw or its by-products but, what is perhaps more controversial, addressing our waste problems in the same way that we address the by-products of our timber industry. We are increasing the mix of available renewables, but the pace at which that is happening is disappointing.

We need to give clear signals that we want to broaden the base of renewable energy. There is a perception out there—real or otherwise—that renewable energy means wind, wind and more wind. I do not object to the principle of wind power, but it seems to be the main route for the Executive's delivery of its aspirational targets. The SNP has been criticised for having even more ambitious targets, but there is nothing wrong in aiming at high targets. The issue is how we get there and how we encourage changes in the energy industry.

I want to talk about the fuel-cell contribution that we could see. Fuel cells exist now; there are practical applications now and they are available now. Part of the fuel-cell industry's problem is that it cannot grow the market fast enough to get the unit cost down. It is not looking for direct subsidies for the companies themselves. Rather, the industry wants those who are procuring new equipment as part of the major investment in public services to be given subsidies to encourage that type of development. However, the PPP approach discourages that. We must consider how we can deliver sustainable energy requirements through public procurement, and one way of doing that is to write it into a contract. If we wish to encourage diversity in fuel sources, we should make available options such as pilot schemes, and subsidies should go to such schemes rather than directly to companies. That is what the fuel-cell industry is telling me.

I recently visited a fuel-cell company in my constituency—siGEN Ltd—that is doing exciting work, some of which is small scale. For example, the company is considering taking some of the heavy batteries out of motorised wheelchairs and replacing them with hydrogen technology.

We have the possibility of linking several of the available new technologies, but we need encouragement for that. I commend the SNP amendment to the Parliament.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat 4:03 pm, 22nd April 2004

I welcome the debate, especially as the David Hume Institute has come out this week in support of expanding the nuclear power industry in Britain. I condemn its short-sighted report and view and I have questions about who funded its research.

The Executive must hold the line and approve as many renewables projects as possible, although doing so sometimes involves difficult decisions. If the Executive does not forge ahead with more approvals, we will soon face the ominous threat of new-build nuclear facilities in this country. It is frustrating that all those who object to wind farms are, in effect, foot soldiers for the nuclear lobby. It is important that wind farm developers address people's valid concerns in order to minimise the impact of wind farm schemes, but we must recognise that the majority of objectors to wind farm schemes—who are usually also the most vocal—do not live or work in the locality, or really understand how a scheme will fit into the landscape. The objections are often ill informed and reflect an exaggerated perception of what the wind farm will actually be like; indeed, I believe that many objections are based on dislike of change and a wish to preserve the countryside in aspic, rather than have it as a place where real people live and make their livings.

Wind farms, incidentally, are not the only victims of that type of attitude. I cite as examples in my constituency two hydro scheme proposals—which I have supported over the years—one of which extended for a period of some 12 years. One proposal was for a kilometre-long dam; it would be about half the length of the Royal Mile and about as high as the spires above this building. The other proposal was for a weir that would be 2.5m high—about as high as the height of the head of the Presiding Officer in his chair. One was to be built in a special protection area and the other was to be built in a national scenic area.

One of the proposals has been turned down, while the other recently took another step towards approval. Which one do members think was turned down? The answer is that it was the smaller scheme, because it faced a concerted and highly organised campaign from objectors, many of whom were from outwith the area. The other proposal, which is considerably larger, has faced almost no opposition, despite its size. Of course, all schemes should be assessed on their merits, but I am concerned that, in the application that was refused, the Executive decision has been influenced by the force of the campaign against the smaller proposal.

My view is that both projects were worthy of approval. The Executive must be aware that groups and objectors are, increasingly, able to mount what appear to be huge public campaigns. The reality is that often the silent majority in the communities actually support renewable energy schemes and we must not let that silent majority be drowned out by the vocal minority.

We have heard several members mention the fact that Scotland has a wonderful natural resource and the possibility of our becoming the world leader in renewable energy. We have wind, wave and tidal energy in abundance, so let us grasp the opportunity now for the benefit of generations to come.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour 4:08 pm, 22nd April 2004

I start by saying that I support the Executive motion in full. No one seriously doubts the need for renewable energy or the economic potential that it represents through fabrication, for example at the Kvaerner yard in Methil, and through technology development. The Executive, the minister and their counterparts down south have done well in setting a severe target—but about which I am not sceptical—which will encourage the industry in Scotland.

Although we welcome almost unreservedly the drive to generate as much energy as possible from renewables, it is not an either/or case, as the Tory motion suggests. It is important that we do not forget about our remaining energy needs, which must be generated by more conventional methods. In the interests of taking the debate forward, I want to talk about the potential for achieving our climate change targets through changes to conventional generation methods as well as through the use of renewables. That means that we cannot discount the nuclear option out of hand, nor can we risk our energy future by relying on foreign gas supplies from less stable parts of the world. We need as wide a mix as possible, so that if there is a problem with one type of energy we can transfer demand to an alternative source. If that is locally derived, so much the better. I agree with what Alasdair Morgan said about the evidence that we saw in Denmark.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Does Christine May accept that, until some solution is found to the problem of what we do with nuclear waste, there is nothing to be gained from developing further nuclear energy in Scotland?

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

I understand that work is currently under way to consider a long-term solution for nuclear waste. Of course, Rhona Brankin is quite right.

Coal has, for some reason, received a good deal less attention than the nuclear option. It has been almost totally removed from our plans, to be replaced by the aforementioned gas—

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

That is true.

I accept that it is neither desirable nor acceptable to burn vast quantities of coal in the way that we have always done, but that should not blind us to the possibilities that coal presents, such as co-firing—as we saw in Denmark—and cleaner coal technology. Technologies such as carbon dioxide sequestration and the gasification of underground coal are under development and could significantly increase the efficiency of, and dramatically reduce carbon emissions from, coal generation. As the motion suggests, we cannot achieve our carbon reduction targets just by renewable energy generation; we need also to increase efficiency and reduce wastage. Why should not we improve our conventional generating capacities in parallel with the development of renewables as a means of reducing carbon emissions? I can see folk shaking their heads at the thought of using coal, despite the 1,500 direct jobs and 1,500 indirect jobs that the coal industry in Scotland supports—not to mention the facts that coal is cheap, local and part of our heritage. I do not advocate exclusive coal generation; rather, I simply reinforce the fact that we need a broad mix of generating methods.

Biomass is one of the few renewable sources that can feasibly support base load. Coal-firing, coupled with grants, is the only way to kick start it as a viable industry. I admire what the Executive has done through FREDS—which has a sub-group that considers biomass—and its investment in the industry. I welcome the Deputy First Minister's reply to my earlier intervention and I hope that when the FREDS biomass group reports, there will be an opportunity for a discussion about it in this forum. The discrepancy between the support that is available south of the border and the support that is available in Scotland makes us uncompetitive.

Finally, I want to say a word to the whingers who complain that Scotland is becoming a generation ground for the rest of Europe: God forbid that we should actually export anything. I can think of few better long-term economic strategies than one in which the rest of Europe depends on us for clean and reliable energy. We have the resources—let us make some money from them.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP 4:12 pm, 22nd April 2004

Scotland has achieved a reduction of only 4.9 per cent in emissions of greenhouse gases since 1990, but climate-change emissions from the energy sector increased by 27 per cent between 1990 and 2000. That poor record on energy undermines the Executive's motion.

We must recognise that the Executive can and must do more to improve energy efficiency, to increase electricity generation from renewable sources and to address the potential for green job creation. The Executive must consider how our homes and businesses are built and run. We cannot continue with our present levels of energy inefficiency, which cost money and damage the environment. Renewable energy must be integrated in all buildings at the earliest stages: all new build must incorporate features such as solar panels, and insulation must be fitted as standard. We could do worse than learn from the Scandinavian countries, where energy emissions from domestic buildings are minimal and the figures for winter deaths among the elderly are approximately half those of Scotland.

The development of renewable energy provides a great opportunity to create jobs in Scotland, but that potential cannot and will not be achieved without sustained investment and political commitment from the Executive. WWF Scotland recently published a report entitled, "A Smart, Successful, Sustainable Scotland", which estimated that more than 24,000 jobs could be created through investment in wave power and solar water heating. A report by Garrad Hassan & Partners Ltd, which the Executive commissioned in 2001, estimated that Scotland could generate more than its total electricity use from renewable sources. Where is that political commitment today, given that the first order for wave converters is being placed outside Scotland?

At present, the national grid is not capable of sustaining any great increases in electricity generation. The infrastructure requires considerable investment to increase capacity. That is particularly necessary to ensure that rural communities can benefit from renewable energy developments. The grid in South Ayrshire and in Galloway needs to be upgraded to accommodate additional generation. The Executive should move to take not only the grid, but the electricity generating companies, into public ownership. Renewable energy is a resource that is provided by nature and it should be generated and managed in a publicly owned and publicly accountable manner.

The Scottish Socialist Party is committed to the environment and to the generation of clean, green and affordable energy for all—in other words, to green energy from renewable sources, not from nuclear power. We call on the Executive to recognise that its lack of investment, lack of energy efficiency targets and lack of political commitment has failed the Scottish people and the Scottish environment on this matter. I urge members to take electricity generation into public ownership and I add that we will support the Green motion.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour 4:16 pm, 22nd April 2004

About 20 years ago, I received a letter from a household in my constituency of East Lothian in which serious concerns were expressed about nuclear safety. I was asked to oppose the construction of Torness nuclear power station. That was a perfectly legitimate position to take.

A few years later, I received another letter from the same house protesting about emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the coal-burning power station at Cockenzie and calling for that station to be closed. Again, I understand that position. The story gets more interesting because, when plans were published for the wind farm on Soutra hill, the same family wrote to object to unsightly wind turbines on their skyline.

It is fair to assume that the people who wrote those letters use electric lights, a kettle, a fridge and perhaps even a television or a computer. Like most people, they want reliable and affordable electricity but—also like some other people—they are unwilling to tolerate any means of generating that electricity.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Hold on—I will give way in a second.

My point is that we in Parliament do not have that luxury. We have a duty to plan to provide for the strategic needs of the people of Scotland.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I understand the point about the member's constituent, but I am more puzzled about his own position. When he was elected in 1978, he was pro-nuclear but, in 1986, when he addressed a "stop Torness" rally, he was anti-nuclear. Last year, he was again making pro-nuclear comments in Parliament. When is Mr Home Robertson going to become anti-nuclear again? If he does that, he might be able to sit more comfortably with the rest of his colleagues in the Labour party.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

I had thought that the member was going to make a sensible point. If he wants a seminar on the difficulties that we experienced with the construction of Torness power station and the failure of the then South of Scotland Electricity Board to employ local labour, I can tell him all about that, but he will find that I have been consistently in favour of that power station.

The Executive has set an extremely ambitious target of 40 per cent of generation from renewables. Although I support that policy strongly, it must be said that the 40 per cent objective will be phenomenally difficult to achieve; even if it is achieved, generation from renewables plant will depend on unpredictable wind, waves and rainfall. Renewables will be a valuable supplement to our base-load generating capacity but, even if we achieve the 40 per cent target, that will still leave a need for 60 per cent of generation—plus a margin for safety—to come from other sources. Parliament needs to face up to the fact that more than half of our existing generating capacity will reach the end of its design life during the next decade.

The lead time for planning and building new power stations can be 10 years or more, so it is imperative that the UK energy department and our planning department begin the process of planning for new base-load generators now. If we fail to do that, we will sacrifice a lot of Scottish jobs in areas such as East Lothian and Ayrshire and we will create a dangerous situation of higher electricity costs; indeed, over the past six months, we have seen a surge in the wholesale price of electricity. We will also create the serious risk of the sort of blackouts that have occurred in places such as Italy and California.

I have a major constituency interest in electricity. About a third of Scotland's electricity comes from Torness and Cockenzie power stations, which employ about 1,000 people in East Lothian. As Christine May said, exports of electricity through the UK grid are extremely important to the Scottish economy. Those exports would be put in jeopardy if we were to fail to start the process of planning to replace the plants that will have to be decommissioned at Chapelcross, Hunterston B, Cockenzie and Longannet.

I urge the Executive and Parliament to face up to their responsibility in this respect—it will not go away. We have a duty to the people of Scotland to plan for future strategic energy needs. The motion on renewable energy addresses a valuable, but inherently limited, part of the issue. The fact remains that we will continue to need new base-load stations. If we are serious about reducing carbon emissions, that must mean new nuclear plant.

The 12th conclusion in Professor Simpson's paper—which John Farquhar Munro dismissed—that was published by the David Hume Institute states:

"Nuclear power avoids extra network costs, emits no greenhouse gases and, as a baseload generator, contributes to security of supply."

Of course, Professor Simpson is right, which is why we must begin the process of planning new nuclear plants and why we must do so sooner rather than later.

I was at Torness last Sunday to see the arrival of the decommissioned Concorde airliner, as it made its way to the Museum of Flight. There is a worrying comparison to be drawn between the decommissioning of a fabulous piece of British aviation engineering and the risk that we could lose our world-leading nuclear industry. Torness is a clean, safe and efficient electricity generator. I urge colleagues in Parliament and at Westminster to begin the next generation of nuclear base-load stations and develop more renewable capacity. We have a duty to do that: we need to maintain security of supply, to avoid a genuine risk of blackouts, to keep jobs in Scotland and—above all—to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

With regrets to the two members whom I do not have time to call, we must move on to closing speeches.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green 4:22 pm, 22nd April 2004

The amendment in Shiona Baird's name calls for three things:

"concrete targets for energy efficiency ... an action plan ... for renewable" non-electrical energy, and an improvement in

"market-based incentives for emerging renewable energy technologies."

From the debate that we have had this afternoon, I believe that there is considerable consensus that all three things are vital for Scotland and for our economy.

As we have heard, emissions from the energy sector in Scotland rose by 27 per cent between 1990 and 2000. We know that CO2 emissions increased by 0.6 per cent between 1990 and 2001. We know that North sea gas production is running down and that peak oil production is either running down already or will imminently run down.

A Government report that was published this morning tells us that more than 170,000 Scottish households have been identified as being at risk of flooding resulting from the effects of climate change. It is also the case that, by 2080, the costs of flooding in Scotland will be up to £400 million per annum at current prices. We have to act on that information and we have to do so now.

The Executive seems frequently to talk about energy when it means electricity. We hear much about renewable energy and renewable energy targets when all that we have are renewable electricity targets. We have no targets and no action plan for reducing transport energy demands or for encouraging renewables in transport. We have no targets and no action plan for non-electricity renewables such as biomass, combined heat and power, solar heating, passive heating or geothermal—there is nothing at all. That has to be rectified. I think that there exists within the Executive the will to examine the issue. I hope that it can be translated into action.

We need increased funds for the Scottish community and householder renewables initiative, which has been one of the star successes of the Executive's renewables scheme, and which we very much support. Increased funds for energy efficiency are vital. There was an exchange on the matter at the Enterprise and Culture Committee in October last year, when we were examining the budget. It became apparent that the energy efficiency budget has been increased this year from £6 million to, I think, £10 million, purely as a result of an underspend in the renewables obligation (Scotland) budget.

The Executive civil servant—Chris McCrone—who was giving evidence to the committee, said:

"It is a one-off for this year; the allocation will return to its budgeted amount next year—unless there is an available saving from the SRO money next year."—[Official Report, Enterprise and Culture Committee, 7 October 2003; c 186.]

We need those funds to be guaranteed for next year—it is necessary that there be a continuous amount of funding for energy efficiency.

On energy efficiency, we should look around us. Parliament has been in Baden Powell House and the other buildings for nearly five years now. When were energy audits done? Why are televisions still left on every night, blaring out to empty rooms in which the lights are left on? It is tremendous that the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has now appointed an environmental manager for the new building. For the old buildings, however, that simply was not done. I hope that the environmental manager gets adequate funds to do the job.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Will Chris Ballance take the opportunity to welcome the £20 million fund for local authorities, health boards and Scottish Water, which I announced last month? It is a revolving fund and savings can be ploughed back into energy efficiency as well as helping to fund the front-line services that those authorities and boards are responsible for delivering.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

I am happy to welcome that funding, but we need to go much further.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

The tranche of PFI/PPP contracts that have gone out through local authorities over the past five years represent a real loss of opportunity.

I turn to the Conservative amendment. Nuclear power has no future. I refer also to many Labour back benchers' speeches. Elaine Murray said that we need nuclear power because the visual intrusion of wind farms is unacceptable. That is like saying that radiation must be less dangerous than a wind turbine because we cannot see it. John Home Robertson said that he has been consistently pro-nuclear, but in 1986 he told a rally at Torness:

"I can tell you with complete confidence that if the Labour Party was in power today there would be no question of commissioning Torness now. The overwhelming majority of people in East Lothian and Berwickshire are very worried indeed about the possibility of an accident at the site and I share that concern."

I do not know when John Home Robertson lost his concern, but I do not think that the people of Scotland have lost their concern about the dangers of nuclear power. However, it is not just a matter of the dangers of nuclear power; it is about the economic case, as well. British Energy has had to be bailed out by the Government to the tune of £650 million. That bail-out has been questioned by the European Commission—it might be illegal.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

The Government has had to take on at least £3.3 billion of liability for nuclear waste. Nuclear power has not proved itself to be economical. The David Hume Institute report has been written by people who are far too close to the nuclear industry.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

I conclude: the European Commission estimates that there are 500,000 to 800,000 potential jobs in renewables. If Scotland becomes a world leader in wave power, it could get into that tranche of jobs. We can succeed, but we must put more money into development, and we must consider in particular—

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

No, Mr Ballance. You are finished; you cannot go on indefinitely.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 4:29 pm, 22nd April 2004

We can take it as read that the profile of renewable energy in the Scottish Parliament is high because the resource and potential that we have in Scotland is huge.

We need to get down to the nitty-gritty. There is a lot of it—some is large-scale and some is not. Targets are a useful tool, but we should not get too hung up on them. To date, targets have focused on electricity generation. The fact that electricity represents only a fifth of our total energy demand has been made. Perhaps it would be desirable for us to set targets on supplying from renewable sources a percentage of total energy demand.

Others have nailed the idea, which is expressed in the Tory amendment, that we are developing wind power to the exclusion of all other technologies. I do not think it is a fair comment either. Murdo Fraser was at the meeting of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish economy at lunch time when George Lyon, who probably has more wind farms in his constituency than does any other member, said that he does not hear concern from constituents who have wind farms in their area; he hears concern from constituents who have wind farms proposed for their area and once they are in place the concern dissipates. I agree that we need security of expectation. We must have confidence that favourable trading regimes will be maintained to ensure continuing investment in renewable energy.

There is increasing acknowledgement of the wider aspects of energy production and consumption, which is welcome. Several members have said that the Cinderella of energy efficiency is coming to the ball. Energy efficiency can make a significant contribution. Building standards have been improved and could be improved further. Other members have said that upgrading housing stock does a lot to tackle fuel poverty, which is an important issue.

Jeremy Purvis made a good point about how the public sector can help create the market to pull renewable energy development. I would welcome attention being paid to how we can fund social housing schemes, how housing associations' procurement can be adjusted and how we can build public buildings in ways that enable the use of photovoltaics and geothermal and biomass energy. Alasdair Morgan said everything that I wanted to say about wood fuel: there is enormous potential there that we should exploit more.

The use of domestic applications could be encouraged by small measures such as installing two-way meters every time electricity meters are renewed in a house. That would provide an incentive for a domestic user to consider ways of reducing their energy consumption, from which they would benefit financially.

I would like more to be done to encourage and develop direct benefit to communities that host renewable energy schemes. Some communities have been very effective, but throughout Scotland people have to start from scratch because they do not have access to information and advice or they do not know where to find it. There is a role for both local and central Government in that. I cannot help feeling that local government must make quite a bit of money from the rates for wind farm developments, some of which could be applied to providing advice and support to communities, perhaps through community associations, as a result of local authorities' negotiations with wind farm developers. That would provide a direct community benefit to which communities are entitled.

I endorse what Sarah Boyack said about the complementary roles of local and central Government in the planning system. Several members pointed out that we have robust guidance—it just needs to be used properly. Solar energy needs daylight, not sunshine, but I agree that we need a secure energy supply and we need a balanced mix.

As power stations come to the end of their life, there is an opportunity to make considered decisions about how they should be replaced. All technologies, including nuclear, have to be evaluated against each other. On nuclear, zero CO2 emission has to be set against long-term radioactive waste creation. Nuclear energy is far from cheap and we have to bear in mind that putting a lot of eggs in one basket racks up the vulnerability of nuclear power stations.

Christine May touched on coal-fired generation. We have almost forgotten that modern generation can be much cleaner than the older technologies. There is the potential to address the problem of the disposal of sewage sludge. We are shutting down other ways of disposing of it. We do not dump it at sea and we are being much more careful about how we are dumping it on land, so perhaps we can derive benefit from it as a fuel.

I endorse what Brian Adam said about fuel cell technology. That is another area in which very good work is being done in Scotland, especially in the north-east. Fuel cell technology can take the intermittency out of wind power. Tom Pederson of Vestas-Celtic Wind Technology pointed out to us at the lunch time meeting that wind power and hydro power—both of which are abundant in Scotland—can be balanced against each other to deliver security of supply.

John Home Robertson made it clear that we do not have the luxury of time to footer about on our power supply; however, I do not agree that nuclear power is an essential part of our future. If we spend what we would need to spend on a new nuclear power station on other technologies, we can deliver base load without nuclear power. Nevertheless, he is correct to say that we need to get cracking.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 4:35 pm, 22nd April 2004

This has been an interesting debate. At times, it has been polarised, but I am glad that the Executive chose to see it as an enterprise debate rather than an environment debate. The Conservative party's policy on renewable energy and the generation of electricity as a whole will always be based on the fact that we need to ensure that this country can continue to provide an affordable and adequate electricity supply to underpin a growing economy. There are members in this chamber who do not believe that growth in the economy is important—[ Interruption .]—but for the vast majority of us, growth is so important that we cannot afford to take the radical risks with our electricity supply that John Farquhar Munro appears to be taking with his hearing aid.

It is extremely important that we realise that we are talking about the stability of our future. The Deputy First Minister said in his opening remarks that it is important that we look on renewable energy production as an opportunity for industry. It is not just an opportunity to expand into renewable energy technology: our energy policy underpins the whole of our economy. That is the point on which the Conservatives' decisions will always hinge.

When Jim Wallace went through the Executive's five main challenges, he said that he wants to reach the target of 40 per cent renewable energy by 2020. That is a worthy target for any Government to set and pursue, but I am convinced that it is unachievable. Yet, accepting that moving towards that target will benefit the industry, I am prepared to accept that there is benefit to be had. He also said that it is important to develop a range of technologies. I could not agree more. The problem that we face at the moment is that the marketplace that has been set up for energy and the timescale that has been set dictate that a single technology will be pursued. That is why we have a crisis in much of Scotland over where wind farms will be sited.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

Does Alex Johnstone agree that wind farms are not being produced to the exclusion of other technologies for any reason other than the fact that the other technologies are still at a developmental stage and are not quite ready to be delivered?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Indeed, but the fact that the target has been set on the timescale that has been given means that only the mature or acceptable technologies that are available today can be used to produce the 40 per cent. That target represents the decision that it will be inland wind farms that will achieve that aim. The minister also said that we need to exploit our opportunities. I agree, but that is why we need a range of technologies. The target that has been set will not be achieved, but it will cause distortion in the industry.

I agree with members of the Green party and others who have made clear how important it is for us to reduce energy use wherever possible. Energy efficiency is something that we must all understand is part of the process. I am the first to admit that, too often when I speak on the subject, I do not mention energy efficiency. Should I ever do that again, members may be assured that I do understand its importance. The Conservatives will continue to support measures to encourage energy efficiency as they did when they were in government prior to 1997.

We must address climate change. Whether or not we recognise global warming as a threat, the fact is that we continue to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Regardless of whether it is necessary to address it for the long-term future or the immediate future, we must address it as best we can, but given our earlier qualification that we must also encourage adequate supplies of electricity, we must be prepared to address reducing CO2 emissions in stages. That is where Executive policies seem to miss the boat. They miss many opportunities.

Biomass has been the poor relation of renewable energy for some time. Systems must be put in place to exploit the large quantities of timber that, as Alasdair Morgan said, are currently unusable. Between 40 and 45 per cent of all cut timber is unusable as wood and is therefore suitable for use as a source of energy. We must have the opportunity to use that. It could be done through combined heat and power systems— technology that Scottish and Southern Energy tells me should be encouraged further or the company will not invest in it further—or it could be done through manipulating the system for renewables obligation certificates to ensure that the production of combined fuel, which Scottish Coal is keen on doing through by-product timber, continues to be an option. Executive policies would appear to have discouraged the development of short-rotation coppicing in Scotland, so it is important to have the opportunity to use our surplus timber, especially when there is so much of it.

I cannot finish without returning to nuclear power. We heard an excellent speech from John Home Robertson. It was balanced and it contained a view that parallels the view that Conservatives have held for some time. If future electricity generation in Scotland is to be balanced, we must accept that nuclear power has a role. Unless we make decisions today that ensure that our nuclear capacity is replaced as plants are closed down, we will suffer power cuts in the longer term. Those power cuts will not only be inconvenient, they will undermine the economy of Scotland, reduce standards of living and leave us with a shrinking economy. We cannot afford to take that risk.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 4:42 pm, 22nd April 2004

Many members agree that renewable energy from diverse sources is the most important sector in the future development of energy in Scotland. However, others take a different view. Putting the two groups together makes for an interesting combination. The danger is that we will be misled into believing that the vision of windmills on hills will put people off renewable energy. I hope that the SNP's amendment will convince people that renewable energy is a good thing. The SNP believes that diverse sources of renewable energy are the way ahead. From the way in which the Government has gone about its programme, we can understand that wind farms are the easy part of renewable energy. That is why we have seen a rash of developments.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Which system would the member favour to back up wind power, given that it needs a 60 or 80 per cent back-up?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

The development of wave and tidal power—which has been long delayed by Tory Governments, by Labour Governments and by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's fiddling of the figures for Salter's ducks, which has been admitted—has been held up.

If we consider the British context, we see that a dependency on nuclear power is given a high priority, but we have to remember that Scotland still has almost 100 per cent overcapacity in electricity production. The threat of blackouts, power cuts and so on is thrown up as a spectre—in the Scottish debate and in the wider debate.

Denmark set up an energy authority after the fuel crisis of 1973. If we had control of all energy in Scotland, we could have a similar overview and take a similarly comprehensive approach here. It is a pity that only renewables are under the direct control of the Scottish Executive.

We can encourage businesses, but the fact that we are fighting with one hand behind our back makes the situation more difficult than ever—especially given that WWF has suggested that 24,000 jobs could be created in renewables. That is a considerable prize in parts of the country that are job starved and in which there are low incomes. Those areas could be receiving much income at present.

People such as John Home Robertson and Brian Wilson on one side and Murdo Fraser and Alex Johnstone on the other have adopted the attitude that the nuclear option is clean. That argument has been put firmly in its place. Carbon emissions are not the only issue. If we measure the potential of offshore wave power against the costs of disposing of nuclear waste, we may find that offshore wind power is cheaper than many conventional forms of generation—and certainly cheaper than nuclear power. One problem that I have with the Unison briefing from which people who support nuclear power are so happy to quote is that it states:

"Renewable energy is actually more expensive than other forms of generation."

That is not the case if we take into account the problem of emissions from coal-fired power stations and nuclear waste. If we are to take a balanced view, we could do with having an energy authority to make some of the arguments.

The Government has made an excellent start on energy efficiency and the SNP is very supportive of it. Today, I lodged a motion on an excellent discussion at a conference in Caithness last week on the use of timber in buildings. The conference not only favoured local use of local materials, but recognised that many aspects of modern building could reduce the costs of energy. As the Green party has suggested, we could produce houses that are so energy efficient that they do not need to be heated. We can develop such approaches—they are part of housing policy, which must be part of energy development policy. We must ensure that energy development policy pays its way. I hope that the Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning will respond to that point. The conference on tomorrow's houses today showed how we can build our way towards using less energy.

Community involvement concerns me a great deal. Some of the attitude problems that exist in many parts of the countryside result from the fact that people do not feel that they have ownership of the means of production of energy. Because the large utilities are seen as the main producers, there is immediate hostility to developments. Part of the problem is that the Government has not been speedy enough in putting community-controlled and community-developed energy in place. Highlands and Islands Enterprise was paid by National Wind Power to get its community unit going, but it took about five years for the community in which I live to receive any benefit. That effort must be matched by Scottish Enterprise, so that people can get in at the ground floor—either by acquiring proper levels of community benefit through planning gain or by acquiring equity shares in developments onshore and offshore. We would like to hear more on that issue.

SNH and non-governmental organisations on the environment support the provision of guidelines for the development of all renewables. As our amendment indicates, the SNP also supports that. However, it seems that the Government does not believe that central guidelines for such developments are needed. That is a great lack. I am sorry that there has not yet been explicit agreement to put in place guidelines that tell people exactly how they should proceed in these matters.

We should encourage support for developments by giving local people control, producing local benefits and creating local heating systems. Such initiatives are not high tech—they are innovative ways in which an ambitious Government should move. Existing large housing schemes could benefit from local heating systems. I believe that 60 per cent of housing in Denmark benefits from such systems, because they have been developed since the 1930s. Where were we when those things were being done?

Fundamentally, we should be more ambitious and take a grip of this issue, in so far as that is possible under the devolved settlement. In the Scottish context, renewables should be the main part of our energy production. I hope that the Government will reflect that energy by taking a grip of the subject and by putting renewable energy to the fore of energy production in Scotland.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 4:50 pm, 22nd April 2004

The debate has highlighted the opportunities and challenges of renewable energy. It has also made it clear that our absolute commitment to maximise renewable electricity generation in Scotland, and the opportunities for the economy that come from it, has wide support. I welcome the support that we have received from various members. However, it is clear that there are different views about how the increase in renewable electricity generation should be achieved. That is why the debate is important.

The areas of agreement are significant. All parties agree that we must support the development of a range of renewables technologies if we are to meet the ambitious targets that we have set. Everyone agrees that small-scale domestic and community projects can make a significant contribution. Such projects are the focus of our highly successful Scottish community and householder renewables initiative.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

On 16 March, I received a letter from Peter Peacock, who said that, under the Scottish community and householder renewables initiative, schools and local authorities that are involved in PPP contracts can apply for up to £100,000 in grant aid for renewable energy projects such as wood burning heating systems, which have been mentioned. How will the Executive promote the existence of those grants to those who are involved in new PPP contracts in Scotland?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Energy Saving Trust are working hard to promote the availability of the grants, which are significant. The issue of PPP contracts was raised earlier. There is the potential to build into those contracts standards that relate to energy efficiency or the use of renewable sources. Clearly, applications must be considered on a case-by-case basis, but we would welcome developments that give local authorities that opportunity.

Some of the areas of disagreement must be addressed. It is entirely false to suggest that we are ignoring the contribution that technologies other than wind power can make. It is equally absurd to suggest that the main fault in our renewable energy strategy is that we permit too many applications to develop new wind power resources—and therefore to argue to limit the potential for development—while at the same time arguing that we should set higher targets for renewables.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Given the accepted need to secure base-load by backing up wind power generation with a dependable energy source, does the minister favour coal, gas or nuclear?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

We favour the use of as wide a range of renewable and associated technologies as possible.

Some of the questions that have been asked are about the use of biomass and coal. It was extraordinary to hear a Tory representative say that we needed to strengthen the British coal industry. Anyone who remembers the history of the Tories and the British coal industry will recognise the hypocrisy that that involved.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

John Scott gave the minister a choice, but missed out hydrogen. We all want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen is the one source that is totally sustainable and friendly to the environment.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I would be astonished if Jamie Stone did not take the opportunity to mention hydrogen. He is right on that point. Hydrogen is one of the technologies that FREDS—the forum for renewable energy development in Scotland—will consider later this year, to see how we can make progress.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I want to make progress.

We want to position Scotland as a renewables-friendly country. We must show that we are better placed than our competitors to attract developers and jobs in all the renewables technologies. We will fail to attract those who wish to develop the new technologies if we do not demonstrate that we are serious about renewable energy by supporting the existing commercial technologies of onshore and offshore wind power and hydro power.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

The minister will agree that wind farms can contribute hugely to Scotland's energy production, but does he agree that they should be built in the right places and that more than enough energy to provide for Scotland's needs can be delivered without building wind farms in areas of Scotland that are designated for their importance to Scotland's natural heritage?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

It is certainly important to make the point that whether wind power, hydro power or any other energy-producing technology is involved, planning guidelines are in place to protect the environment and communities' interests, which will result in inappropriate and inadequate applications being thrown out. That is a completely different proposition from the Conservatives' proposition that wind power onshore is bad per se yet some of the other renewable technologies that have not been developed to the commercial stage are per se without fault, defect or concern.

Roseanna Cunningham suggested that the planning guidelines that apply to wind power developments that local councils consider do not apply to larger developments that the Executive considers under the Electricity Act 1989. That is not the case. Every authority that considers a planning or consent application, including ministers, must take those planning guidelines into account. The guidelines cover not only the environmental matters that Rhona Brankin mentioned, but the cumulative impact of a series of developments in the same location.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I have heard the minister make similar statements before. If he thinks that his position is correct, how does he explain the demand for national guidelines not only from members, but from organisations as diverse as developers and Friends of the Earth?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

We want to encourage the development of renewable energy. We will not do that by drawing a red line around great sections of the country and saying that renewable energy shall not happen in those areas. That would send completely the wrong signal to developers and to communities and would fail to deliver on the targets that we have set.

If a planning issue exists, it concerns ensuring that planning guidelines are up to date, that they reflect our objectives and that they achieve the balanced judgments that have been described. I am delighted to report that the United Kingdom Government is reviewing planning guidance on renewable energy south of the border, with a view to bringing it more into line with what we have had in the past two or three years in Scotland.

We have a planning policy that supports our energy policy—that is the way it should be. Significant community benefit issues under planning policy have been raised. We look forward to seeing Highlands and Islands Enterprise's conclusions on its proposals and we have undertaken to consider how to apply the same principles in lowland Scotland once the Highlands and Islands proposals have been made.

In his opening remarks, Murdo Fraser suggested that our energy strategy relies on wind power alone and that we are reluctant to talk about wind power. He was wrong in both respects. We are happy at any time to make the case for wind power as a key part of our energy strategy. It is key not only in its own right, but because it opens the door to new technologies.

Alex Johnstone suggested that the timescale means that we can use only wind and hydro power to reach our targets. The targets for 2010 will rely on existing technologies—wind and hydro—but by setting for 2020 a target that is more than twice as high, we are stimulating the development of the other technologies that we need.

That is why FREDS is doing such valuable work. It will report in May on what needs to be done to stimulate wave and tide power. I reassure Shiona Baird and others that Richard Yemm of Ocean Power Delivery is chairing the FREDS marine energy group. That is the level of his commitment to Scotland and to remaining in Scotland, which we very much welcome. The sub-group on biomass energy is examining what needs to be done to encourage the use of wood fuel for electricity and heat.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I cannot take another intervention.

The point that I made reflects some of the concerns and questions that have been raised. We recognise that issues beyond electricity generation exist. Biomass has the potential to address some matters such as space heating.

Christine May and others asked about the fossil fuel base-load. It is worth remembering that we have approved not only more than 400MW of renewable energy in the past 18 months, but a 400MW gas-firing station, part of which will run on coal firing with renewable sources. A good deal is being done to address the security-of-supply issues that have been mentioned.

Social justice has of course been mentioned. Scotland now has the highest thermal insulation standards in the UK. We have cut the number of homes with the lowest energy efficiency rating and we are working hard with the Department of Trade and Industry in considering, for example, two-way metering to enable the connection of renewables production to the grid.

In response to the threat of climate change, which has rightly been highlighted as underlying the debate, we are taking a range of actions that will bring environmental benefits. Those actions will also bring Scotland economic opportunities for business and for jobs. We have a real world lead in many new technologies in the renewable energy sector and we should continue to support them. In order to do so, we should continue to make the most of the existing renewable technologies to which we have access in Scotland.