Domestic Wind Turbines

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Enterprise, Lifelong Learning and Transport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 4th November 2004.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 2:00 pm, 4th November 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to achieve a significant increase in the number of domestic wind turbines in domestic and industrial premises. (S2O-3817)

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Small-scale wind turbines for domestic and business premises are promoted through our community and householders renewables initiative and by the Energy Saving Trust.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

It is fair to say that electricity should be generated where it is most used to ensure that we take full advantage of such opportunities in urban areas. What action has been taken to encourage local authorities, businesses and householders to make much more use of such technology, in whose use, despite the Executive's efforts, we still lag quite far behind some European countries?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Robert Brown is correct to point out that these technologies can be used not only to build traditional wind farms in rural areas, but to promote renewable energy in cities. A new generation of smaller domestic-scale turbines that are intended to contribute to base-load power in grid-connected houses is still at an experimental stage, but is certainly being developed.

I have already indicated that the community and householders renewables initiative helps to promote the matter that Robert Brown has raised. In that regard, I should perhaps mention one example with a local authority dimension. Funding has been provided for the installation of such turbines in a number of primary schools in Fife. I should also point out that, as the turbines have been designed and produced in Scotland, employment opportunities have also been created.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

Following on from that point, I wonder whether the minister will consider providing specific guidance on the matter to public agencies involved in the procurement of new buildings. For example, Stirling Council has prepared a design brief for sustainable office development and residential dwellings and it is clear that specific guidance from the minister would encourage a more comprehensive approach to sustainable design, construction and operation, whatever a building's function.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I certainly commend Stirling Council for its work. Indeed, another good example of that approach is the rebuilding and refurbishment of Morgan Academy in Dundee. When I visited the school, I saw how a number of innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency measures had been incorporated into that work.

I take this opportunity to remind the chamber that, in March, we launched a £20 million fund to encourage local authorities, health boards and Scottish Water to introduce self-sustaining energy efficiency measures that would allow them to invest some of the savings that they make in further measures and to free up money for front-line services.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

How has the minister attempted to dispel the indiscriminate criticisms by those who oppose wind farms, which are obscuring the potential for introducing small local wind power schemes for groups of rural and urban homes? After all, recent debates in the chamber have shown that there is a strong consensus on the matter.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I am delighted to take this opportunity to promote the idea that wind energy is very clean. It is important that we take every opportunity—as we all do in our respective ways—to link debates on renewable energy with debates on climate change. After all, using such energy reduces carbon emissions. That connection is not always made and I welcome the opportunity to make it today.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

The minister will be aware of widespread concerns in Perthshire about the proliferation of large-scale wind farm developments. Does he agree that more should be done to encourage the kind of small-scale developments that Robert Brown referred to in preference to the large-scale wind farms that are being built in rural Scotland with all the attendant impacts on the environment and landscape?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I am certainly aware of the controversies in Perthshire and other places. Perhaps we have seen the construction of so many onshore wind farms because that technology is more proven than many other renewable energy technologies. However, we should not put all our eggs in the onshore wind farm basket. Our approach to the development of renewable energy must cover a range of measures, including the small-scale domestic use of wind turbines and the important and exciting developments in marine energy, not least the opening of the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. The forum for renewable energy development in Scotland is about to receive a report on biomass. It is important that we consider a wide and diverse range of measures to promote renewable energy.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I welcome the minister's positive answers to these questions. In the initial question, Robert Brown asked about the promotion of domestic urban wind turbines. Does the minister acknowledge that we are in a win-win situation, because renewable energy brings climate change benefits and manufacturing and construction jobs? His department will have a role in promoting mini wind vanes in urban areas through the green jobs strategy.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I endorse what Sarah Boyack has said. A number of companies in Scotland now make small wind turbines for use in domestic and business premises and we would want to encourage those companies. Next Friday, the Minister for Environment and Rural Development and I will address a conference in Glasgow, which is the final part of our consultation on the green jobs strategy. Sarah Boyack is right to remind us that this is indeed a win-win situation. We can do positive things for our environment and create jobs at the same time.