Energy

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:15 am on 17 January 2008.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 9:15, 17 January 2008

Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-1152, in the name of Jim Mather, on energy.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I am pleased to open this debate on the United Kingdom Energy Bill, which was published last week. I look forward to the debate and to being able to set out the Scottish Government's approach towards those parts of the bill that impact upon Scotland, and our energy future more generally.

I start by stating our view on a number of the bill's key aspects. Members will not be surprised if I begin with nuclear power. Our approach is clear: Scotland does not want or need new nuclear power. We are meeting a large part of our energy needs from non-nuclear sources. We have massive potential for exploiting our significant renewables resources, and we are capable of reducing our reliance on fossil fuel energy supplies while making them clean. Our non-nuclear strategy will foster the indigenous growth and export potential of energy, technology, expertise and products.

The Government's view of nuclear power is unequivocal. The UK Government has recognised the strength of that feeling, so the provisions in the UK bill that deal with nuclear decommissioning and waste do not extend to Scotland.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

The minister says that we do not want or need nuclear power. Did not his Government just give permission to increase the lifespan of a nuclear power station in Scotland?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

We did. That asset was bought and paid for by the people of Scotland and it is part of the current energy mix and migration plan for Scotland.

Parliament should know, however, that the UK Government did not let the Scottish Government see the nuclear provisions in the bill until the day that the bill was introduced at Westminster. We have expressed our disappointment that Scottish ministers were not consulted in the normal way as Parliament would expect.

The data prove that Scotland does not need nuclear power. Figures that were published last week by the UK Government show that, in 2006, Scotland supplied the equivalent of 92 per cent of its electricity needs from a mix of fossil fuels, renewables and pumped hydro storage. In that same year, while the total amount of electricity generated in Scotland rose by 10 per cent, the amount of electricity generated from nuclear fell by a quarter, and we exported 25 per cent of our gross consumption. There is, and there will be, no energy gap; today, the Crown Estate has forecast that there will be an additional 5 to 10GW from renewables by 2020.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

As the minister knows, the Crown Estate announced yesterday the outcome of a study on grid connection using a cable down the east side of the UK. What would the minister say about the cost to the developer of that grid connection? Will he ensure that the Government considers that matter and the other studies that are being done, particularly through Highlands and Islands Enterprise? Will he seek to ensure that the cost of such developments to the developer is realistic?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I recognise the member's concerns. In every case, we will sit down with the developers and anyone else who is investing in Scotland to seek to optimise the outcomes for Scotland and for those who wish to invest in Scotland.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I will develop my remarks a bit further.

Parliament should accept that we are already looking at a future beyond nuclear power in Scotland. Those who favour nuclear power and comment upon the variability of other sources need to recognise that nuclear power itself has been unreliable. In 2006, the latest year for which we have official figures, the share of Scottish electricity generated from nuclear power stood at 28 per cent, not the 40 per cent figure that the Scotland Office quoted last week. We know that 2007 has seen similar problems at Hunterston.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I will just finish my point.

There are many reasons why we are opposed to new nuclear power. There are the unanswered questions about the storage and disposal of nuclear waste, and the concerns about security, health and, of course, cost. I could speak at length about the cost, but I will take Iain Gray's intervention.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The 2006 figure that Mr Mather uses is particularly low because of the outage at Hunterston. What proportion of Scotland's electricity generation is provided by nuclear power today?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

It is likely to be higher than the 26 per cent figure, but the issue is the robustness and stability of supply from a mix that is changing and evolving from what we have had in the past.

When the UK Government introduced the Energy Bill, it stated that the industry would be responsible for the costs of building, operating and maintaining new nuclear power stations and for dealing with waste. David Cairns, the Minister of State at the Scotland Office stated that such costs

"mustn't fall on the individual energy consumer, it must be the company that bears that cost".

The UK Government states that the costs should not be borne by the taxpayer and that they should not fall on the consumer. However, the costs have to fall somewhere; both statements cannot be right, and experience tells us that costs will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers in the form of higher energy bills.

As an aside, for a general view on the issue I refer members to the article by Iain McWhirter in last week's Sunday Herald, which highlighted the strategic and economic benefits of developing renewables within Scotland, even from a UK perspective.

Our targets and ambitions for renewables are clear, but we recognise that Scotland's future energy needs cannot be met by renewables alone; we require an energy mix with a range of sources and a clean base-load. We are aware of the need to reduce carbon emissions—our target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 shows the importance that we place on that. The Parliament knows about the priority that we attach to the development of carbon capture and storage technology in Scotland. That technology has the capacity to reduce carbon emissions by 90 per cent.

Scotland is showing the way in several different ways. For example, Scottish Power has announced a feasibility study of clean coal technology at Longannet. The company has also announced its plans to undertake a research project with the University of Edinburgh—the first UK project of its type—to investigate storing greenhouse gases underground in the Firth of Forth.

The Scottish Government has agreed to part fund, alongside industry, a broader university-led study into wider CO2 storage options in Scotland. I hope to announce project partners shortly. We were in favour of the proposed CCS project at Peterhead, but the slow pace of the UK Government—along with its subsequent decision to rule out gas-fired stations such as Peterhead from being eligible for its competition—has damaged that project. However, I hope that other Scottish bids will be made for the competition.

We agree with the UK Government that a dedicated regime for the regulation of carbon storage is required. The UK Energy Bill could provide a common UK framework for storage; that move would be welcomed by the energy industry and would help it to build global competence in a critically important technology here in Scotland.

As members know, the issue is about waste, so control of carbon storage is a devolved matter within Scottish territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles. That brings it within Scotland's jurisdiction, so the Scottish Parliament has to agree to the UK legislating on its behalf. However, the 12-nautical-mile limit is an artificial boundary and we have proposed to the UK Government that Scottish ministers exercise new powers both within and beyond 12 nautical miles. Disappointingly, the UK Government has not agreed. Indeed, the UK Government has excluded Scottish territorial waters from the bill. We regret that and wish for a sensible discussion with UK ministers on the matter. We hope that progress can be made around the further extension of powers, but we are prepared to introduce our own bill if necessary.

I touched on the potential of renewables, but we are moving beyond potential. Renewables output has increased significantly and the installed capacity of renewables is now above that of nuclear power. Looking forward, we have increased the target for generating electricity from renewables sources to meeting 50 per cent of Scottish demand by 2020, with an interim milestone of 31 per cent to be achieved by 2011.

Furthermore, by basing the targets on whole demand, which includes transmission losses, the generation that is required to achieve those targets is greater than under the previous method of calculation. That is in line with international practice and will prove to be a more robust basis for comparison in the future.

We want to develop as wide a range as possible of renewables technologies and to deploy them in a more decentralised system of energy generation, including a significant increase in microgeneration. We will build on the successes of onshore wind and hydro. Biomass energy is making an increasing contribution to the generation of electricity and heat, and I am sure that my colleague Michael Russell will refer to that later.

We are determined to maintain Scotland's global lead in marine energy, so we will continue to work with the industry to remove barriers to the further development of our renewables sector; that includes the need for fundamental reform of the transmission access and charging regime.

The Energy Bill introduces changes to the renewables obligation mechanism. The new system of banding for renewables obligations will allow higher support for emerging technologies. We support those provisions, which will develop an aim that is shared by this Parliament. The fact that the current devolution of renewables obligation powers will be maintained will enable the Scottish Government to provide appropriate levels of support for wave, tidal and biomass developments that are located in Scotland.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am a little disappointed that the minister has made no mention so far of demand reduction, although the motion refers to increased awareness of its benefits. Because of inefficiencies in generation and transmission, reducing demand is one of the most important things that we can do. Is the minister aware that, in evidence on the Scottish Government's draft budget, the Sustainable Development Commission expressed disappointment at the lack of an overall target to reduce demand for energy or electricity consumption? Why is the Government unable to set such targets? Does it intend to consider them in the future?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I had a meeting yesterday with the Energy Saving Trust, so I share the member's concern. I am sure that my colleague Mike Russell will handle that point later. I am keen to move the debate to a new level of maturity so that we have much less complacency and procrastination from those who should be making moves to make better use of energy. The key fact is that driving down costs in that way is good not only for our environment, but for our competitiveness.

We expect to publish in the spring a consultation on renewables obligations, in which we will reserve the right to suggest a different approach to banding from that of the rest of the UK. For example, we consider that providing only two renewables obligation certificates for energy from marine sources is insufficient.

We welcome the widening and maturing of the energy debate in Scotland. We welcome some parts of the UK Energy Bill, such as the provisions on renewables. We recognise the importance of having a regulatory regime for carbon storage and we hope that we can have a sensible discussion with the UK Government on devolving powers beyond 12 nautical miles. In addition, we welcome the UK Government's recognition of the Scottish Parliament's and Scottish Government's powers in relation to nuclear energy. That is fundamentally important. We also recognise and welcome the increasing level of investment in the renewables industry that is accruing from this Government's strong signals to the energy sector.

However, the introduction of the UK Energy Bill highlights how the current devolution settlement inhibits the optimisation of energy policy for Scotland. The way in which the bill is drafted provides proof of that in the overlapping competence between the UK and Scottish Parliaments on offshore carbon storage and renewables. We need full control of all energy powers and associated revenues. In the months to come, as part of the national conversation, we will set out more fully our views on energy powers. In the meantime, we will work to ensure that the UK Energy Bill gives Scotland the powers that it needs and deserves. I trust that today's debate will make two key points and deflate two key fallacies: first, Scotland has no energy gap; secondly, Scotland is not an isolated energy market.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Energy Bill introduced by the UK Government; welcomes the Bill's provisions in relation to promotion of renewable energy which will allow the Scottish Parliament to determine levels of support for emerging technologies; recognises the potential of carbon capture and storage for reducing carbon emissions and supports further dialogue with the UK Government on exercise of powers in relation to regulation of carbon storage; welcomes the Scottish Government's position that new nuclear power stations are not necessary to meet renewable electricity targets or carbon emissions targets and are not wanted in Scotland; welcomes the UK Government's recognition that the Bill's provisions on nuclear decommissioning should not extend to Scotland, and believes that Scotland can have a secure, low-carbon, non-nuclear energy future through a combination of a growing renewables sector exploiting a range of technologies, including marine energy, cleaner energy from fossil fuels, improved energy efficiency resulting from better insulated buildings and increased awareness of the benefits that accrue from behavioural change and demand reduction.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 9:28, 17 January 2008

As some members may recall, at this stage in the previous parliamentary session I had ministerial responsibility for the energy portfolio that Jim Mather now holds. In that role—as I was reminded at yesterday's meeting of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee—I was particularly involved in two Government-industry partnership bodies. I was vice-chair of Pilot, which is the Government-industry task force for UK oil and gas that the Labour Government at Westminster set up some nine years ago. I was also the original ministerial chair of the forum for renewable energy development in Scotland—FREDS—which, as the name suggests, seeks to apply and develop the Pilot model to maximise the economic benefit for Scotland of new renewable energy technologies. Pilot and FREDS are a good place to start today's debate because they highlight the range of energy sources and the huge significance of the energy industries in Scotland, both historically and for our future sustainable economic growth.

Labour's amendment to the motion points out that there are

"ongoing concerns about different sources of energy generation".

The burning of fossil fuels causes perhaps the most widespread concerns, but no serious or responsible mainstream party in Scotland argues that UK policy is wrong in seeking to maximise the production of hydrocarbons from the UK continental shelf. If the oil industry were to leave the North Sea tomorrow, the energy gap that we face would multiply exponentially and the impact on the Scottish economy would be little short of catastrophic, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, many millions in Government revenues, billions of pounds in export earnings and the driver of technical innovation in everything from remote operated vehicles and offshore wind to information technology and keyhole surgery.

If it is impossible to imagine any mainstream party demanding an early end to North Sea oil, it was equally bizarre last week to hear senior members of the Scottish Government—as we have heard again today—appear to dismiss surplus production of electricity as somehow unnecessary, unwanted or irrelevant to Scotland's needs. A fundamental assumption in the setting up of FREDS and in the previous Administration's renewable energy policy was that we wanted to sustain Scotland's role as a surplus producer of energy and an exporter of electricity. In a new era of power production, we wanted to sustain the technical expertise and high-quality jobs that the energy and power sectors have provided to the Scottish economy over many years as well as reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Of course not. In each and every energy sector, clearly there is and must be a balance of argument. However, senior Scottish ministers have argued that, because at a particular point in time more than 90 per cent of energy consumption could be met by coal, oil, gas and renewables, there is no energy gap and therefore no need to think of any other sources. They are guilty not just of using selective statistics for their own ends, but of being fundamentally wrong in their suggestion that Scotland should produce only the energy or electricity that Scotland will consume. They are also guilty of talking down a major Scottish export industry and the jobs that go with it.

Ministers have trumpeted the idea of energy self-sufficiency and have been hugely creative with statistics for the sole purpose—as we heard again in Jim Mather's speech—of being seen to be against nuclear power generation. Their fundamental proposition that only the SNP stands in the way of a new generation of nuclear power could hardly be further from the truth. We all know that there is no queue of multinational energy companies eagerly awaiting the opportunity to build the next generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland. The transmission charging regime, which the SNP also likes to be seen to oppose, effectively incentivises companies—given the scale of capital investment involved—to locate new nuclear power plants closest to the largest markets in the south and midlands of England. The logic and economics of locating close to markets would be difficult for any developer to overcome.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

Will the member allow me to welcome the sensible views of some members on the Labour benches? Sarah Boyack, Malcolm Chisholm and Pauline McNeill have all either signed or lodged motions on nuclear power that SNP members could have written. Does he agree with them that no convincing case has yet been made for a new generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

The next time that Alasdair Allan intervenes on me to welcome comments from members on the Labour benches, it might be appropriate if he welcomed the comments that I have just made rather than jump to a different part of the debate.

The reality of electricity trading and transmission is that Scotland is not self-sufficient in energy in any meaningful sense because it is not a separate market. Scotland is part of a single national network and a single national grid that covers Great Britain as a whole—long may that continue. The British electricity transmission and trading arrangements give Scottish electricity producers access to the larger markets in the south, provide Scottish consumers with a direct price benefit relative to consumers elsewhere and minimise the risks of power cuts anywhere in the country. Those arrangements mean that nuclear electricity does not stop at the border. When we export Scottish electricity to England, we export the product of Torness and Hunterston as well as that of Longannet and of Scottish hydropower. When the UK bridges the energy gap by developing new nuclear power stations in the south of England, Scottish as well as English consumers will continue to take electricity from the grid that those power stations supply.

SNP members' portrayal of themselves as the great opponents of nuclear electricity is simply an illusion. In fact, by opting out of the Energy Bill and a common strategy for nuclear waste and by declining to extend the polluter-pays principle to nuclear power station decommissioning, they are opting out of the real debate, opposing Scottish new-build proposals that no one has made and making no real difference to the level of nuclear electricity generation in these islands in the years to come.

Of course, the opt-outs do not stop there. We heard from Jim Mather that carbon capture and storage offers a potential new technology that the SNP would have us believe it supports. Alex Salmond positively demanded that Scotland should host a pilot project worth potentially billions of pounds in subsidy from the UK Exchequer. Labour at Westminster has put Britain in a position to lead the world in this area. The potential benefits of concentrating on carbon sequestration from coal could be enormous, not just for this country but for all the emerging economies around the world that are currently burning huge quantities of coal.

However, today's SNP motion calls for further dialogue on carbon storage, despite the fact that legislative provision for carbon capture and storage could readily be inserted in the UK Energy Bill. There would then be no need for further dialogue with UK ministers on whether provision should be made for carbon storage in Scotland. If ministers really wanted that technology, they would proceed on the basis of the existing devolution settlement, lodge a legislative consent motion and work with UK ministers to implement in Scotland the same provisions that the UK Government intends to implement elsewhere. If Scottish ministers fail to do that, it will only add to the impression that all their opt-outs have little to do with promoting cleaner energy and a lot to do with breaking up Britain's energy market.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

Does that mean that the member would support extending provision for carbon capture and storage beyond the 12-nautical-mile limit, to take advantage of the oil well capacity that exists there?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I recognise the potential of carbon capture and storage to operate both inshore and further out at sea, depending on the sector in question. However, when the UK is legislating for carbon capture and storage in inshore waters, which is most relevant to carbon capture from coal, it makes no sense for Scotland not to be at the table and part of the process. Ministers should focus on how they will work with UK ministers to make carbon capture and storage happen.

Scotland should not seek to opt out of the British electricity and energy market and should not abandon its leading market position as an exporter of electricity and other forms of energy to the rest of the UK. Instead, we should build on that established strength to become a lead player in renewables and cleaner fuels technology and to earn money and create new high-quality jobs by producing more than we use and selling it in England and beyond. That is why we call today for work towards more ambitious renewables targets in the future, for the development of the full range of new technologies and for Scotland to remain open to as diverse a range of energy sources as our natural assets and scientific knowledge allow.

In our manifesto last year, we called for 50 per cent of electricity to come from renewables by 2020. We welcome adherence to that objective from any quarter, but the experience of the past four years confirms that, in the competitive market in which we operate, simply setting targets is not enough. That is why we set up FREDS. It will take work—work with the industry, building on the success of FREDS—for us to meet our targets. That means partnership with the trade unions, which bring a good deal of expertise to the table, as well as with energy companies large and small. We must work with the Scottish Renewables Forum and with those Scottish industrial companies whose expertise is in fossil fuels. They understand just how hard it will be to bring clean coal technologies to market, but they also have the knowledge to get the job done.

In my time on FREDS, we took the first steps towards realising Scotland's potential in marine renewables and biomass. Much progress has been made in both areas, but there is still a long way to go. We should not assume that that potential will be realised until the technology is proven, nor can we take for granted that the economic benefits will be realised in Scotland. However, it is right that we should work towards both ends, because marine renewables and biomass have great potential.

Labour will support Scottish ministers when they work in the way that I have described and will call them to account when they do not. We will press them to address fuel poverty, to improve energy efficiency and to support microgeneration and combined heat and power. We will not support the SNP when it threatens Scottish jobs or the interests of Scottish consumers by undermining the British energy market, no matter how much it seeks to present that as something other than a political ploy. That is what is at stake today.

I move amendment S3M-1152.2, to leave out from "notes" to end and insert:

"supports the further development of a Scottish energy strategy, in partnership with the UK Government, which delivers a mixed energy supply and a focus on energy efficiency to meet our energy needs, secure sustainable economic growth and tackle climate change; believes that the Scottish Government should work towards more ambitious targets for generating electricity from renewable technologies; believes that Scotland needs the full range of renewables to be developed including biomass, marine and local combined heat and power technologies; believes that the investment in the grid and the costs of transmitting electricity should continue to be shared by consumers across Great Britain; believes that, while there are ongoing concerns about different sources of energy generation, we should not rule out any single energy source, as doing so may risk both the security of our electricity supply and thousands of jobs across Scotland, and calls on Scottish ministers to work in partnership with UK ministers on addressing our future energy needs."

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 9:40, 17 January 2008

We need an energy policy that is long term, sustainable and balanced, with the right energy mix; that guarantees security of supply; that remains competitive; and that ensures the right reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. It is worth noting at the start of the debate that we need an energy policy, not just an electricity policy, of the sort that the Scottish Government set out today. Depending on who one speaks to, between 20 and 25 per cent of our CO 2 emissions come from electricity generation, whereas the rest comes from transport, domestic heating, industrial heating and a number of other sources. If we are to have any chance of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, we cannot focus only on electricity policy. Half of the minister's speech focused only on nuclear electricity policy.

Let us look at the national context. Our oil supplies are decreasing. Our coal power stations and, ultimately, our gas power station are fairly close to the end of their lifespans, to the extent that decisions about them need to be made today. Our nuclear power stations are also reaching the end of their lifespans. At the same time, we want to grow our economy. The Scottish Conservatives, at least, also want us to remain a net exporter of energy. Currently, we export about 20 per cent of the electricity that we generate to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The geopolitical context is that many gas and oil supplies are in unstable and unfriendly countries. Most important, global warming is hanging over the entire world. We must get this right—no ifs, buts or maybes. Based on what we have heard today and on what we heard leading up to the debate from Mr Swinney and Mr Salmond, Scottish Conservative members do not believe that the Scottish Government's approach achieves that. We will not support the Government motion today.

The Labour Party has lodged a robust and sensible amendment that we are happy to back. Our amendment to the Labour amendment strengthens it, making the point that solving our energy issues and meeting our targets needs a broad range of measures and that nothing can be ruled out. The specific point that we want to make—a point made well by David Cameron just last month—is that energy decentralisation can play an important part in enabling us to achieve our goals. It is not the whole solution, just one component of it, but if some people and communities generate their own electricity, they will become far more conscious of how they use it. In addition, many microgenerators offer the opportunity to capture heat, which can then be used for domestic or commercial purposes, reducing many of the inefficiencies and losses from transmission that Patrick Harvie mentioned in his intervention during Jim Mather's speech.

Let us look at what the Government said. It claimed to want a renewables revolution that will turn us into a global renewables powerhouse. Conservative members and, I suspect, every other member of the Parliament support that objective. However, the figures do not match up. Funding in the energy and climate change line of the Scottish Government's draft budget will rise from £19 million a year to £33 million a year. With a mere additional £14 million a year in that line, the Government hopes to achieve a renewables revolution and to make Scotland an energy powerhouse. Of course, such a revolution will not be created by Government spending alone—the private and public sectors will drive it together. However, a Government that claims to be taking the lead with a mere additional £14 million, while at the same time completely ruling out a proven, mature technology such as nuclear power, is simply flapping in the wind.

The Government claims to have bold long-term targets, but it has quietly ditched its manifesto commitment to an annual mandatory emissions reduction target of 3 per cent. The Government used to trumpet that commitment, but it does not talk about it a great deal now.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

What is the total cost of building, running and decommissioning a nuclear power station?

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

I cannot give a precise figure, because every nuclear power station is different. However, compared with the first and second-generation nuclear power stations that we have in this country, the costs of building third-generation nuclear power stations are far lower and they can be built far more quickly. There are good examples of that in France. Instead of a different model being used for every design, designs are transported across, which cuts costs by 30 to 40 per cent. We are comfortable that third-generation nuclear power stations are economic. Once such a facility is up and running, electricity is produced far more cheaply than with other methods. Even according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, nuclear power produces 5 per cent of the carbon emissions of a gas or coal-fired power station.

I have asked Mr Mather, in committee and in the chamber, what the renewables mix will look like, but the Government does not seem to have any concept of it. It reels off a shopping list of ideas, but there is no plan A for what that mix might look like, and not even a plan B for what we will do if it does not work. If renewables do not work, if we do not get them to market quickly enough, or if unforeseen problems arise, and we have completely ruled out nuclear power, we will be left with an energy gap. The Scottish Conservatives are terrified of the energy gap, and we are sick of hearing the disingenuous use of statistics by the Government. We hear that the installed capacity of renewables is already larger than nuclear, but installed capacity is not the important point; what is important is the amount of electricity that is generated that can actually be used. To quote a figure of 92.5 per cent without nuclear, as Mr Swinney did, completely ignores the 20 per cent that we export to other parts of the United Kingdom.

Energy policy is bigger than any one party's ideology. It is bigger than any one Government, and it is bigger than any one generation. We face a most dangerous energy in the form of climate change, which is why we need as many different technologies—mature and fresh—as possible to get results. We need renewables, we need cleaner coal, we need to be more efficient, we need nuclear and we need more decentralisation. There is no one big idea to solve all our problems. We need all our ideas to work.

I move amendment S3M-1152.2.1 to amendment S3M-1152.2, to insert at end:

"calls for more emphasis to be placed on decentralised energy, promoting micro-generation and small providers to give communities greater control of their energy production and increased energy efficiency."

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat 9:47, 17 January 2008

With the publication last week of the United Kingdom Government's Energy Bill, the debate is timely. Looking ahead to the climate change bill in this Parliament, it is a welcome opportunity to set out our respective ideas. The motion and amendments are evidence of the cross-party consensus on many of the key issues. They are evidence too of the accepted need for Scotland to work co-operatively within a UK as well as a European and international framework.

Of course, publication of the UK bill triggered a predictable round of name calling between London and Edinburgh over nuclear power, some of which has been echoed this morning. The Liberal Democrats have made clear our opposition to an energy source that we believe is unwanted, unsafe and uneconomic. UK Labour ministers have now conceded that public and political opinion in Scotland will not tolerate new nuclear power stations in this country. The cabinet secretary was quick to claim credit for that. As Lewis Macdonald pointed out, such self-aggrandisement from the Government is not unusual, except perhaps a little in the case of the usually modest and reasonable Mr Swinney.

As Alasdair Allan conceded, political opposition to new nuclear build does not readily respect party boundaries. Despite Scottish National Party proclamations, I would suggest that the prospect of new nuclear power stations in Scotland has been off the agenda for some time. However, it has allowed for sabre rattling by Administrations north and south of the border. More gratifyingly, it has even allowed the Tories to step out from under the skirts of their SNP coalition partners and flex their unionist muscles again—just a wee stretch, mind—before returning to the folds of the nationalist skirts in time to vote through the budget next month.

Let us be clear. Last week's publication of the UK Energy Bill means that the nuclear boat has sailed—if that is not too alarming a prospect for those already concerned about ship-to-ship transfers. There are more immediate priorities, in relation to which concerted action can help to deliver the low-carbon society we all want. Scottish ministers have been consistent in recognising the significant progress made by the previous Scottish Executive—as outlined by Lewis Macdonald—in promoting and developing Scotland's world-class renewables potential; in stimulating microrenewables; and in beginning to address the fundamental issue of energy efficiency, as raised by Patrick Harvie. The Government has rightly acknowledged that there is a solid and encouraging foundation on which to build. The national planning framework, published last week, can help in that respect, not least in identifying the national importance of grid infrastructure.

The challenge now for ministers is to take that national framework and make it flesh. Identifying the priority projects was relatively straightforward, but finding a way of delivering those priorities—including grid improvements—will be the true test of the Government. Grid improvements are crucial to unlocking Scotland's world-leading potential in marine renewables—a subject close to my heart, to which I will return shortly. However, realising such potential is still a number of years off, notwithstanding the remarkable progress that has been made in Orkney and elsewhere in Scotland over recent years, and will happen only if the confidence of the industry is not undermined in the meantime.

Onshore wind is the proven technology. It remains the best means of providing the bridge to the low-carbon future to which we aspire. Consistency in supporting onshore wind—financially and through timely decisions on consent applications—will be essential. Offshore wind will enjoy an increasing prominence, particularly as issues of maintenance are resolved, but it is simplistic to assume that those developments will simply come to replace onshore projects in the foreseeable future. Both technologies are key to us achieving our renewables ambitions.

That will require leadership—not only industry leadership but political leadership. In opposition, the signals from the SNP were not good. We heard calls for taxes on wind farms. A moratorium was mooted. Some aspiring SNP MSPs were even moved to demand local referenda on wind farm developments—another creative way, presumably, of managing the planning process. Post election, the tone has thankfully changed. Even local referenda have been quietly ditched—a straw in the wind, perhaps, with regard to other referendum plans?

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I am interested to hear myself referred to obliquely by the member. If he is referring to the Western Isles, will he comment on the fact that his party's candidate in the Western Isles was far more militantly opposed to wind farms than I was, calling for an absolute ban on wind farms in the Western Isles and feeling that the SNP was too moderate in its stance?

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I was drawing attention to the fact that the SNP found a neat way of circumventing the planning process by urging local referenda. That has been quietly dropped since the election.

Concerns about intermittency will always be raised in relation to wind—on or offshore. There is perhaps no single magic bullet here, but a range of options are worth considering. The minister has identified a number. For example, Liberal Democrats believe that biomass has considerable potential. As Lewis Macdonald said, FREDS has carried out valuable work in that area and many others, but barriers to fully developing and exploiting Scotland's potential in biomass—both small-scale, local projects of the kind to which Gavin Brown referred, and larger plants that could, in time, come to help address base-load issues—still need to be removed.

Likewise, further investment in developing Scotland's potential for clean coal and carbon capture—both pre and post combustion—is essential. The costs are likely to be considerable, but the potential return could be dramatic. In key markets such as China, such technology and expertise place Scotland in an enviable position to derive significant economic benefit from major environmental breakthroughs. Indeed, Liberal Democrats want more attention to be paid to the issue of storage, which remains a vital enabler in helping Scotland harness our renewables potential.

In the development of marine energy technologies, Scotland enjoys a competitive edge—due in no small part to the efforts of Jim Wallace and Nicol Stephen in government—but as well as resolving the outstanding grid and transmission issues, more impetus must be given to efforts to bring forward the date by which such technologies can start to make a meaningful contribution to our energy mix. Double ROCs would provide a powerful signal, but more capital funding is essential to help scale up pilot initiatives. As our amendment suggests, Liberal Democrats believe that the enterprise networks can continue to play an important facilitating role in that process. We want renewables to remain a priority for Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, both of which must be resourced to meet that challenge.

Our amendment highlights the importance of microrenewables. Progress in that area has been slow, despite significant investment, but the bill proposed by Sarah Boyack offers a sensible way of injecting real momentum into efforts to extend take-up of microrenewables. I know that ministers are cautious about supporting the bill, but I would urge them to rethink.

Of course, as well as microrenewables and energy efficiency, Sarah Boyack's proposed bill addresses fundamental issues of fuel poverty. Tackling fuel poverty will require a broad approach from Government and others. Therefore, it is disappointing that the UK Energy Bill makes no reference to smart metering. The Government should make representations to fast track that technology and ensure that it is rolled out by 2015.

Another area in which the UK Energy Bill seems to fall short is heat. There is growing acceptance of the importance of heat in the energy debate and of the need to decarbonise heat and provide renewable sources of it.

It is difficult to address all aspects of the debate in a little more than seven minutes. More localised generation, combined heat and power and small hydroelectric power all have an important role to play. There is now overwhelming political and scientific consensus on the existence of, risks from and man's contribution to climate change. The Stern report and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have left no room for dispute about the need for action. There remains a genuine and legitimate debate about the hows, but I hope that it does not deflect us from using the levers that are at our disposal to make the changes that evidently need to be made to create a low-carbon economy and society.

I move amendment S3M-1152.1, to insert after "fossil fuels":

"microgeneration and biomass; acknowledges the important role of the enterprise networks in helping to achieve this and the need for renewables to remain a priority for a well-resourced Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and further recognises the central importance of".

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

We come now to open debate. Members will have noticed that I am not at my most autocratic when it comes to timing. We have a little bit of time in hand, but I ask for speeches of around six minutes.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 9:56, 17 January 2008

A third of known global oil reserves have already been exhausted. With fuel consumption accelerating due to rapid economic growth—particularly in India in China—and continued population growth, it is likely that oil and gas reserves will be denuded much faster than was thought only a few years ago. However, I am an optimist. I must be: I joined the SNP in September 1979 after we had lost nine of our 11 MPs in those halcyon days when the Tories had 21 MPs in Scotland. Once, they roamed the land like the buffalo; now they exist as but a small, insignificant herd.

Human ingenuity has few limits, and the future for renewables and new technologies is exciting and varied. We know that many members across the chamber look forward to such a positive future. Confidence in clean, green energy is such that, when Friends of the Earth Scotland polled MSPs after May's election, 72 stated their opposition to commercial nuclear generation, with only 24 in favour. No doubt some of those 72 MSPs are Labour and that is why the word "nuclear" does not appear in the Labour amendment.

I will touch on the new technological opportunities for Scotland, but we should not forget that old technologies can also add tremendously to the mix. Only last week, it was announced that the Glen Doe hydroelectric plant will come on stream later this year, providing enough electricity for some 250,000 Scottish homes. As Patrick Harvie mentioned, some 65 per cent of primary energy is lost during conversion. We must tackle that.

If we are to consider whether we have enough energy for the future, one of the most fundamental issues that we must tackle is how energy is used at present. There are many policy ideas that can be adopted—everything from energy taxes to financial incentives, professional training, labelling, environmental legislation, greenhouse gas emissions trading and international co-ordination of regulations and traded products. Efficiency means getting the same service for less energy. That could be achieved by better insulation, compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use a quarter of the energy of normal bulbs, energy efficient devices, efficient building designs and retrofitting of old buildings with new systems.

Of course, United States power providers are already expected to build another 280 500MW coal-fired plants between 2003 and 2030, and China builds the equivalent of one large coal-fired plant each week. Those plants generate about half the amount of electricity that Hunterston would generate in an average year.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Having mentioned Hunterston, will Kenneth Gibson take the opportunity to tell us how he reacted to the decision to extend the lifespan of the power station and, on a more hypothetical note, how he might react to any future proposal to replace it with a new-generation nuclear power station on the same site?

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I was delighted that Hunterston's lifespan was extended to 2016. In fact, I had hoped that it would be extended to 2017. However, I have made it clear publicly in my local press—unlike, for example, my Labour MP, who shares my views but is reluctant to express them in the local press—that to spend more than a decade building a nuclear plant that will generate electricity for 35 to 40 years, produce waste that will last tens of thousands of years and cost billions of pounds to decommission is not appropriate. I supported the life extension for Hunterston because it allows us to invest in new technologies, consider renewables and bring some of those technologies on stream before Hunterston has to close, as I believe it should.

Carbon capture and storage are used to boost petroleum production in the US by pumping captured carbon into oilfields. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 99 per cent of captured CO2 will remain underground for the next 1,000 years. The integrated gasification combined cycle is more expensive but more effective than coal-steamed electric power and is the least expensive option for carbon capture.

Photovoltaic cells produce some 5,000MW annually around the world. That is only one sixth of 1 per cent of the world's energy use, but production is increasing rapidly and new technology has been able to double efficiency to some 30 per cent. In California, two Stirling engine mirror farms that will also rely on solar power are being built. Those innovative plants should produce as much power as a major power station.

For the past decade, wind turbine energy production has been increasing by 25 per cent a year. Biofuel studies have also demonstrated the ability to gain energy from biomass. Green diesel gasification of organic material is also possible, and there are high hopes for hydrogen, which is important. Once the technology of hydroelectric cells has been fully harnessed, it will be possible to electrolyse hydrogen from water to replace petrol and diesel in engines. That will produce few emissions and allow people to drive their cars into the next century without emissions being an issue.

Fusion is likely to come on stream in the next 30 or 40 years. That will produce massive amounts of power with, essentially, no waste and no radioactivity beyond 1km from where the fusion generator is located.

High-altitude wind is being investigated in the United States, as is space solar power—placing solar panels in space—which will be able to gain eight times more sunlight per cell. Nanotechnology solar cells are likely to be developed in the US within the next five years. They will use billions of tiny dots to create electricity much more efficiently and much more cheaply than is currently the case.

A global supergrid could also be built, using supercooled superconducting wires to transport electricity and hydrogen all over the world. I tell Lewis Macdonald that, when it comes to generation and grids, we want to think not only about Britain but the world.

We know about wave and tidal power, which could provide a fifth of the UK's electricity. There are also biological solutions. We could create organisms that reprocess carbon dioxide into natural gas or produce hydrogen from sunlight using photosynthesis. A large algae farm next to a 1GW power plant can produce 50 million gallons of ethanol a year by reprocessing CO2.

Scotland has plenty of coal, which we need to burn much more cleanly. We have oil and gas for our needs for many generations. As I have pointed out, building energy efficient options can also significantly reduce energy use. For example, energy for transportation can be reduced by improved vehicle design, lower speed limits, traffic management and hydrogen cells. We have a tremendous opportunity, not only through what is happening in our country but by learning from the technologies that are being explored in the United States and elsewhere, to take our country into the green, clean future that we all want.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour 10:04, 17 January 2008

There can be few more important debates than that on the future of energy in this nation, particularly as the United Kingdom is now a net importer of oil and gas for the first time in a generation.

The debate draws out strong emotions, with technology versus technology and process versus process. Advocates have argued their often conflicting cases with an intensity that would bring a blush to the face of a tattooed gangland leader in Los Angeles. It can also be a complicated debate, with the technospeak of product life cycle, proven technology, carbon capture and storage, security of supply and—my personal favourite—avoiding Russian-end supply chain, which I am sure the minister will be able to explain on a flip chart later.

Where, however, is consideration of the energy needs of the ordinary Scottish citizen in Leith, Lerwick or Lossiemouth? The lights might not go out all over Edinburgh, but if we get the energy balance wrong in the next decade, we will be paying over a barrel—or, indeed, over a therm of gas—to countries with the political stability of Burma and the civil liberties record of Zimbabwe.

One of the most fluent and well-argued documents on the subject is the Royal Society of Edinburgh's inquiry into energy. It concluded that the challenge is to meet the growing aspirations of the developing world, not least China and India, while mitigating the impact of global climate change. The UK is now more reliant on imported energy, at a time when the international market is much more competitive. The developed world has a particular responsibility to carry the torch and show leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I mention in passing that I am very pleased that the first act of the incoming Labor Government in Australia was to sign the Kyoto protocol. That should have been done many years ago.

I will cover three points: first, the importance of developing further what I call the father of renewable energy—hydropower; secondly, developing the role of biomass energy; and finally, examining the increased role that microrenewables and decentralised energy systems can play in the future.

As we have already heard this morning, the context of the debate is the Westminster Government's white paper on energy and the Energy Bill. As the introduction to the white paper says, articulately in my view,

"More than two thirds of the world's carbon dioxide emissions come from the way we produce and use energy".

We should focus on three things—some members have already mentioned them. First, we must focus on saving energy, which we sometimes forget about. Secondly, we need to develop cleaner energy. Finally, we should ensure that we can secure reliable energy supplies at competitive prices that are set in the market.

Renewables play an important role, particularly hydropower. As members are well aware, Scotland has a proud record in that regard. Members will need no history lesson from me, but I will mention the important role that hydropower has played in our history. Back in 1896, the first hydropower station was built at Foyers by the British Aluminium Company. Around 1900, a large hydropower station basically was responsible for the development of the village of Kinlochleven. As members will also be aware, Tom Johnston, Labour's Secretary of State for Scotland under Winston Churchill, nationalised hydropower in the 1940s and created a network of dams and transmission towers that provided electricity to poor Highlanders for the first time. Cynics might say that that would never have happened under the current planning regime. However, it is perhaps for others to make that point.

Hydropower is not some bygone relic of a forgotten age. The Glendoe project, near the banks of Loch Ness, will provide the largest hydropower station for half a century. It will provide clean renewable energy that could provide enough light for every household in Glasgow. Hydro is cheap when oil costs around $100 a barrel, and its operating costs are one tenth of those of gas-fired or coal-fired stations. Is it not time for a hydro revolution? Can the minister tell us what work is being undertaken to develop the potential for new sites and developments? If the minister wants a campaign slogan, I suggest "It's Scotland's water".

Scottish Renewables tells me that the potential to increase the capacity of hydropower lies in small-scale projects and run-of-the-river developments. As members will probably know, the Garrad Hassan report for the Scottish Executive in 2001 estimated that there is potential for small-scale developments up to around 30MW. A renewable energy inquiry in 2004 estimated that small-scale projects could provide about 11MW by 2020.

I ask the minister to consider three further points when he sums up. First, could he comment on the development of pump storage technology? Secondly, are there any plans to streamline planning for hydropower, so that local authorities can determine applications under 5MW? Finally, what plans are there to develop more small-scale hydro developments and upgrade them on a strategic basis? Hydropower must, of course, be developed with environmental considerations very much to the fore.

Biomass has an important role to play in energy generation. For example, a new factory has been opened in Ross-shire that will allow wood pelletisation to be developed for domestic combined heat and power. That will stop the importing of wood pellets from abroad, which will mark a step change in that technology.

On microrenewables, WWF has said that our reliance on centralised energy generation is wasteful, given that two thirds of the energy that is generated is lost in the form of heat and through long-distance transmission. Microrenewables have an increasing role to play. In Wick, for example, hot water from the Old Pulteney distillery is piped to homes, businesses and Caithness general hospital. Microrenewables also play an important role in innovation, particularly in rural areas, where they provide partial energy self-sufficiency. I congratulate Sarah Boyack on her energy efficiency and microgeneration bill proposal. Microrenewables provide local power schemes that are under community control, which can contribute to marginal economies.

We need to work smarter, not necessarily harder. Strathclyde University has programmed a computer that can switch off household fridges during the peak period of the "Coronation Street" tea break, which can ensure that we have intelligent and responsive homes.

We all know that the task is great, but Scotland has the opportunities and skills to achieve it, not in a self-serving way but as a partner in the UK. With appropriate development and the right technologies at a sustainable scale, and using the proven skills of our Scottish workforce, we can take a lead in Europe and beyond, and we can contribute to meeting our global climate change responsibilities.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 10:12, 17 January 2008

The energy debate centres on the production of electricity and the conservation of energy, which must be central to how we tackle the challenges that we face. Controlling demand for electricity and saving energy go hand in hand. The context is the climate change consultation and the bill that we will deal with. The whole issue of energy must be considered in addressing the imperative to deal with climate change. The development of a Scottish energy strategy is central to the Scottish Government's approach to meeting our climate change targets, which should be more ambitious. That will be fleshed out this year.

Maintaining early momentum towards creating clean energy is a key part of that approach. If that is to be achieved, development of the current renewables industries that use onshore technologies must continue, and offshore technologies must also be developed. I am glad to note that WWF is right on message with the Scottish Government in recognising those principles.

We used to ask the previous Administration about energy saving. If we consider how much money is invested in a nuclear power station—let us say a couple of billion pounds—what bang do we get for our buck if we spend the same amount on energy-saving measures? That is the sort of question that we must consider now, and I hope that we can start to quantify the answer in this year of the climate change consultation.

Clean energy development is an essential partner to that. We have got a competitive edge, and a base from which to work, which will allow Scotland to ensure that the advantages that we have started to gain are fully realised. Why throw that away by relying on an energy strategy from London that deals with security of supply in terms of what happens in Kazakhstan or elsewhere? The security of supply that we can provide—infinitely—comes from the waters and the air, and the waves and the tides around our own shores. They are so close to us; only someone who is totally myopic could not see that. That is the difference between the Government's strategy and the Opposition's, particularly Labour members and their Tory friends, who are skirting round the central issue.

I will concentrate on one particular potential—the Pentland potential. Liam McArthur spoke about the Orkney input into the development of marine renewables. We need an all-Scotland focus on the Caithness and Orkney area. We have academic input from the environmental research institute in Caithness; we have the industrial base from subcontractors and from Dounreay's technology; we have test sites and the excellent work of the European Marine Energy Centre; and we have Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which should be working as an infrastructure developer, although questions arise about how much it is doing that and how the Government can ensure that it takes a more strategic role.

In considering the renewables potential in Orkney and Caithness, which will feature in a conference in Edinburgh on 6 February, we must consider energy for home consumption and for export. We have the potential to fulfil our power needs and to make money from a clean and green source of power. However, we must ensure that we are not inhibited by bodies such as the Crown Estate, which, according to the most recent press releases, is thinking about an interconnector that goes only to Norfolk. Such inhibitors to development must be removed.

The Crown Estate has an arbitrary approach to taking money from harbours. It is a superfluous body, and it is a tax-gatherer on the seas for the Treasury that gives nothing concrete back to Scotland. That inhibitor must be removed. For example, Scrabster harbour, which is the nearest mainland base to the west Shetland basin and which could be an oil base for the future, pays £36,000-plus a year to the Crown Estate. The harbour trust has stated:

"There is no apparent benefit to the trust nor the local community from these payments as we are not aware of any reinvestment in our area by the Crown Estate".

We must remove the Crown Estate, which is a development inhibitor that stems from London. For example, when the Forestry Commission set up a Scottish body, the Crown Estate pulled out of Scotland—it is a London-based tax gatherer on the seas.

A second inhibitor is the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, with its scandal of charging 30 times what is charged in Denmark to hook up to transmission lines. Figures gathered by HIE at the time of the previous Caithness conference on energy show that that approach inhibits the potential of our secure and clean renewables. That inhibitor must be changed and removed, but I see nothing in the Energy Bill in London that will do that.

A third inhibitor is the nuclear legacy. Taxpayers' money was used to build the nuclear power stations of the past and that investment continues—every year, £157 million is spent on decommissioning Dounreay. If public and private partners invested the same amount in renewable energy development, we would begin to see the kind of moneys that are required to develop the potential of green power here. However, that has not yet been realised because, under devolution, London takes most of the powers and lets us have a small number. We need a Scottish energy strategy that targets money to ensure that the aspirations in the national planning framework are met. We need to channel cash resources from the Scottish Government and private partners.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

Regardless of where anybody stands on nuclear power, decommissioning has to happen, so where would the member get the £157 million a year to invest in clean technology?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

We will get it through the partners in the Pentland potential projects that I mentioned—which include the industry and academics—and through Government backing and the potential for investment capital bodies to realise that the projects have a secure future. We will get the money from the public and private partners.

We have the potential for infinite clean energy. Investment should not be siphoned off south to create a nuclear energy base; instead, it must be harnessed for Scotland's needs in a Scottish energy policy. I support the Government motion.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour 10:19, 17 January 2008

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this energy debate. Energy policy, covering gas and electricity, is one of the big challenges of the 21 st century. It is essential that we produce a secure energy policy that keeps the lights on, reduces consumption and carbon emissions, and tackles fuel poverty. In that light, it is important that we have a balanced energy policy. Currently, the balance for electricity generation includes renewable sources, gas, coal and nuclear. That mix is important to protect us against future shortages and changes in market conditions. When the new electricity trading arrangements were introduced in September 2001, the price per megawatt hour fell below £20. Over time, market conditions changed and the price rose towards £40. If we had put all our investment into one source of energy, that source would have fallen short and we would not have been protected against those market conditions.

It is important that we do not end up as an electricity importer, as has happened with gas. Currently, we are an exporter, which is an economic asset that we must protect. To be honest, some of the SNP analysis in the past week has fallen a bit short. Alex Salmond trumpeted the fact that the nuclear share of electricity generation fell from 38 to 22 per cent from 2005 to 2006, and he spoke about, in effect, being nuclear free in 2007. He also downplayed the importance of exports. However, he did not speak about the fact that Hunterston was offline for much of that time, nor did he make much play of the fact that coal generation has increased from 25 to 33 per cent, or that gas generation has increased from 19 to 22 per cent. Cockenzie power station had to be run at full capacity to meet the shortfall. The fact is that Torness produces 8 terawatt hours of energy, which is a significant contribution to electricity generation. No sprinkling of energy fairy dust by the minister can simply replace that in the future.

It is important that we have a strong and stable base-load, and a mixed energy policy would contribute to that. As coal currently accounts for a third of electricity generation, it is important, as the minister said, to pilot and prioritise the production of clean coal, as Scottish Power has done at Longannet.

Energy and electricity generation are crucial to economic growth. The SNP Administration has a target to grow the Scottish economy by the same rate as the UK economy by 2011. If we are to do that, we must continue to export 20 per cent of the electricity that we generate.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Given that the member makes a strong argument for nuclear, is he disappointed that the Westminster Labour Government has decided that it will not have any nuclear plants in Scotland?

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I have said that the current mix of renewables, gas, coal and nuclear serves us well and that we should not rule out any options in future. We must consider what is required to meet Scotland's energy needs. It is easy to say that we all want renewables, but the fact is that wind farms are only 33 per cent reliable. On Friday, I was in Stornoway in Alasdair Allan's constituency, where, unusually for January, it was not a very windy day, so some of the wind farms were not generating as much energy as normal. All those factors must be taken into account in generating our future energy policy.

If we are to get more energy from renewable sources, we need to get that energy on to the grid. Getting such grid connections will require a speeding up of the planning process.

I am disappointed that the SNP motion does not mention fuel poverty. We have to make great strides towards tackling fuel poverty, and rising energy costs are a threat to that. A 5 per cent increase in energy costs can put 30,000 households into fuel poverty. If the npower increase is replicated throughout Scotland, 90,000 households could be put into fuel poverty. If the SNP is serious about eradicating fuel poverty by 2016, it must back up its warm words with strong actions. It is therefore disappointing that the SNP has not supported Sarah Boyack's proposed energy efficiency and microgeneration bill. Some of the measures in that bill would go a long way towards tackling fuel poverty.

In my constituency, Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association has been installing solar panels, which Sarah Boyack came to see in August. We spoke to householders who showed us how their fuel bills had been reduced by the installation of the solar panels. That practical example shows how we can do a lot to tackle fuel poverty.

Issues to do with pre-payment meters should be addressed. People on pre-payment meters are paying an average of £137 more than people who pay by direct debit and an average of £214 more than people who pay online. Specifically, Scottish Power's practices have to be questioned, because the company is back-charging customers in Scotland but not in the rest of the UK. I would like to hear what the minister is doing to press Scottish Power to end that practice.

Patrick Harvie and others have mentioned energy demand and the need to reduce consumption. Smart meters could be considered in that regard. Liam McArthur said that smart meters are not mentioned in the UK Energy Bill, but the onus is on the energy companies to introduce such meters. There would be advantages both to the companies and to consumers.

Energy is a major challenge in the 21st century. We will need an energy policy that tackles the environmental challenges, contributes to economic growth and eradicates fuel poverty.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat 10:28, 17 January 2008

There are compelling reasons for ensuring that we have a coherent and comprehensive energy strategy for the UK, including the need to tackle climate change, the ever-increasing demand for energy, higher prices, and the decline in oil and gas resources. We need the right energy strategy for the UK and we need a Scottish Government that is willing to employ its own powers to best advantage.

The recent Royal Society of Edinburgh inquiry into energy concluded that

"Scotland cannot operate in isolation on energy. It is part of the global energy market. It will have to work within the powers reserved to the UK government ... The Scottish Executive will need to work in harmony with the UK".

Working in harmony with the UK Government is not something that the SNP has yet perfected. Can we hope that it is prepared to give it a go on such an important matter?

The right strategy will have to be effective in tackling climate change, but it will also have to promote sustainable economic growth, deliver security of supplies through a diversity of supply, and eradicate fuel poverty. I am disappointed that the UK bill is silent on fuel poverty.

I believe that the UK Government is wrong to press forward with a new generation of nuclear power. Nuclear power remains unwanted, unsafe and uneconomic. The market is rigged in favour of the nuclear industry. Billions of pounds of public money have gone into research and development for nuclear energy, compared with the tiny amounts that have gone into research for other forms of energy. There is a real risk that focusing on new nuclear plants will undermine attempts to find a cleaner, greener, more sustainable and secure solution. We should be concentrating our efforts on renewables and greater energy conservation.

Urgent action is needed now at Westminster, here in Holyrood and throughout the country at local authority level. We must unite to ensure that cleaner energy sources have a competitive edge. I would like to see a step change in funding for research and development in and the demonstration of renewables and low-carbon technology.

We have seen what can happen when Governments put their minds to it. The previous Scottish Administration transformed the prospects of renewables in Scotland. I want that good work to be built on. Our manifesto proposals—which were independently assessed as being the greenest—were ambitious. We support investment in renewables, demand reduction, energy efficiency, decentralised energy and microgeneration. We need look no further than Denmark and the Netherlands for good examples of using energy production to energise regional economies and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

I would like to take a few moments to highlight north-east Scotland's contribution. Forty years of experience in oil and gas has built Aberdeen into one of the most influential, innovative and proactive energy cities in the world. Many leading international energy companies are headquartered there, and there are around 900 energy-related businesses, agencies, government bodies and research institutes in Aberdeen city and shire. A total of 16 per cent of the region's employment is in the energy business. There is a massive bank of knowledge and expertise, which is just as important as the oil reserves that we still have. The north-east is rich in natural resources—forests, wind and wave. Harness those resources with that knowledge and the north-east will continue to be the powerhouse not only of Scotland's economy but of our future energy needs.

The north-east understands the need for action and the potential economic advantages that investment in energy research and production can bring. Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group was established six years ago. That private-public partnership was set up to identify and promote renewable energy opportunities for businesses in Aberdeen city and shire. It has around 100 members drawn from energy businesses, research institutes, oil service companies, professional consultants, economic development agencies and local authorities. That collective diversity extends into every source of renewable energy—onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal, biomass, fuel cell, photovoltaic and geothermal. Incidentally, the group was set up using money from the previous Administration's cities growth fund—funding that is no longer available for such initiatives. Support must continue to be provided to such initiatives. It is clear that government at all levels can be the catalyst for change by creating a supportive environment and developing markets.

What action can we take in Scotland? The SNP has not yet taken forward an energy efficiency strategy. The previous Executive drew up a draft energy strategy with a comprehensive package of measures, but the SNP Government is refusing either to publish it or to come up with one of its own. The Government should act quickly to remedy that.

We need more efficient financial instruments to support the move away from a reliance on fossil fuels. For example, the biomass industry has been disappointed that, until now, renewables obligation certificates have not covered the production of heat. I understand that things are changing, but there is not yet a commitment to the provision of heat ROCs. I hope that that will be resolved soon. It would help to encourage sensible and sustainable solutions for generating heat in off-gas areas.

I want the SNP Government to commit to a second round of the biomass support scheme. The first round, which was introduced by the previous Government, was a great success. The grants that were given generated an investment of around £6 million in the north-east alone, without counting the jobs that were created and the safeguarding of existing businesses such as sawmills. The multiplier was around three times the grant funding.

As many have said, we need to promote sensible microgeneration. That must involve a review of the planning processes. At present, small schemes for a single turbine can be subjected to the same scrutiny as megawatt wind farms, which discourages people from trying to make changes.

Liberal Democrats are ambitious for Scotland. The previous Administration transformed the prospects of renewable energy. The new SNP Administration is giving mixed messages and lacks clarity, which is risking confidence in Scotland's renewables industry. The key to success will be continuing the close partnership of Government, industry and academia that is represented by FREDS—the forum for renewable energy development in Scotland. I ask the minister to confirm his commitment to that forum.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party 10:34, 17 January 2008

Today the SNP has presented a positive vision for Scotland's energy future, but at the same time it has saved future generations from the error of going back down the nuclear path. Absolutely central to the SNP vision is the need for us all to reduce our energy usage at home. The domestic sector is responsible for about one third of the UK's carbon emissions. Not only is reducing home energy consumption vital for hitting climate change targets, it makes sound financial sense, particularly at a time when 65,000 Scots are living in fuel poverty. I acknowledge Mr Kelly's disappointment that that is not mentioned in the SNP motion. Perhaps he is equally disappointed that it is not mentioned in the Labour Party amendment, either.

Citizens advice bureaux reported a soaring number of inquiries about utility bills last year, as 37 per cent more people sought assistance because they were frustrated and confused by their bills. The Westminster Government needs to do more to address the worsening problem of fuel poverty in an energy-rich nation.

One of the measures with the biggest potential to reduce household energy bills and decrease our carbon emissions is the rolling out of smart meters. People cannot monitor their energy use effectively by reading meaningless numbers off dusty old meters that are hidden under the stairs. It is time to reduce the use of that archaic and inefficient system and to include the use of smart meters, which would allow better communication between electricity suppliers and customers if they were rolled out throughout the country.

Scottish and Southern Energy is sponsoring trials of smart metering and estimates that smart meters could be rolled out to about 95 per cent of UK households by 2015 if the political mechanisms were put in place. As Liam McArthur said, it is therefore extremely disappointing that there is no mention of smart meters in the UK Government's Energy Bill, which is yet another missed opportunity. If we do not get the enabling legislation in place now, we will fall further and further behind.

Many other measures can be taken at household level to conserve energy and build a greener Scotland. Now that we have an SNP Government, we can start to play catch-up with our more enlightened European neighbours. Although reducing overall energy consumption is key, the SNP will also look imaginatively at how we generate the energy that we need. That is why I am delighted that the SNP Government tripled the budget for the Scottish community and householder renewables initiative, which offers grants, advice and project support to assist the development of new community and household renewables in Scotland.

In addition to investing in microgeneration, the Scottish Government will invest in the research, development and infrastructure that is necessary to connect a variety of renewables projects to the national grid. By the time that new nuclear is on board in England, Scotland will already be leading the way with energy efficiency and renewables solutions.

We are already at the cutting edge in research and development in relation to renewables technologies. Much Edinburgh-based research has been included in that. For example, the ocean engineering group at Heriot-Watt University is looking at key engineering and economic issues that affect marine renewable energy systems, which could be a significant contributor to our energy resource if investment is made in the industry. It has been estimated that marine energy converters could provide as much as 25 per cent of the UK's energy requirements, so the potential is staggering.

Another major Edinburgh success story is Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, which is based in Leith and which supplied the world's first commercial wave energy project and is now supplying four Pelamis generators to the proposed Orcadian wave farm project, which has already been mentioned.

Although exciting renewables projects are being developed, another part of Scotland's energy solution has to be increased efficiency in the use of existing sources and a move towards decentralised energy. Outdated and centralised coal power plants waste two thirds of the energy that they produce.

In Edinburgh there are examples of the pioneering use of combined heat and power technology, from which we can take heart. The University of Edinburgh has gained an international reputation for its proactive approach to environmental sustainability. It has invested £12 million over four years to replace ageing steam systems with combined heat and power systems that now serve three of its five campuses, which is generating £1 million in savings for the university each year and reducing its carbon emissions by more than 4,000 tonnes per year.

Scotland is at an energy crossroads and, thanks to this SNP Government, it is choosing the right path. Scotland is right to reject nuclear and can and should look to our European neighbours, such as Denmark and Sweden, for clean energy solutions. The Danes live and work in one of the most efficient systems we know. Wind power meets about a fifth of Denmark's energy needs and the Avedøre multifuel power station runs with up to 92 per cent efficiency. The community of Malmö in Sweden is heated and powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

The solution to our future energy requirements is clear. Scotland does not need nuclear. We will not look to Finland's new nuclear project, which is now running two years behind schedule and £0.5 billion over budget. The Finnish MP Oras Tynkkynen—I apologise if my pronunciation was wrong—said recently:

"The nuclear industry in Finland is arguing that you can have the cake and eat it too, that you can invest in more nuclear power capacity and at the same time invest in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, but I think the empirical evidence so far is to the contrary. We have made the choice, we have chosen the nuclear path and that has meant that we have neglected sustainable alternatives like energy efficiency and renewable energy resources."

That is not a mistake that the SNP Government will make.

Greenpeace has described using nuclear energy as an answer to climate change as

"like taking up smoking to help control your weight—a dangerous distraction."

I have shared hustings with many of the Labour Party's front-bench spokesmen, including Sarah Boyack, who has said that she is against nuclear power. I call on them to take part in the debate, to say what their positions are on nuclear energy and to come out, as they have done in the past, to support the SNP in working to give Scotland a greener, cleaner future.

Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour 10:41, 17 January 2008

In 1961, John F Kennedy announced a far-sighted programme that would see man walk on the moon within the decade. President Kennedy made it clear that to look into the future, we had to see scientific progress take place

"in an age of both knowledge and ignorance."

So much of a visionary was Kennedy that he might even have anticipated the SNP Government's energy policy, given that, in the debate in Texas in 1961, he said:

"The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds."

The Government tells us in its motion that it

"believes that Scotland can have a secure, low-carbon, non-nuclear energy future."

We may well be able to have that in future, but at the moment, much more research and development in renewables is required before anyone can make such a bold statement with absolute certainty. It is no more than an aspiration.

However, this Government is no stranger to making promises that it knows it cannot guarantee to deliver. Perhaps if we harness the energy from its cheek power we could end the search for more renewable sources now.

Undoubtedly, science helps us to move on. A decade after Kennedy's speech in 1961, Greenpeace was founded as a result of concerns about the development of nuclear power generation. Thirty years on, its founder Patrick Moore is now telling the environmental movement that it needs to update its views as nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet. He is not saying that it is the answer but that it may be part of the solution. He says that because scientific knowledge has increased, raising questions for those who have closed their minds to a future role for nuclear power generation.

The Government might not wish to acknowledge it, but nuclear power is a large-scale, cost-effective energy source that is proven to reduce carbon emissions, and we know that it has the ability to satisfy a growing demand for power. It is absolutely right that we should talk about reducing demand for power, but we do not know that that will be achieved. While such uncertainties remain, we have to look at all possibilities to deal with the future demands that we are going to face.

I am happy to join illustrious environmentalists such as Moore in arguing that one way of reducing fossil fuel emissions from electricity production while ensuring that future demand is met securely could be through a balanced programme of renewable energy sources, which could include nuclear power.

Patrick Moore is not alone in changing his mind on this subject. The British atmospheric scientist, James Lovelock, now believes that nuclear energy could help us to avoid catastrophic climate change. Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, says that the environmental movement must embrace nuclear energy to wean ourselves off fossil fuel.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Does Mr McMahon not accept that three quarters of the members in the chamber, including many of his colleagues on the Labour benches, do not accept his point of view? That has been recognised by the Westminster Government, which has said that it will not have any more nuclear plants in Scotland. The debate has moved on. A decision has been made that there will not be any new nuclear plants in Scotland. Does the member not think that he should move on to talk about the other technologies that we should be bringing into Scotland, given the decision that has been made?

Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour

Mr Gibson misses the point that I am making. The British Government has not said that it believes that there should be no new nuclear energy plants; it has recognised the views that have been expressed in this Parliament and the fact that the Scottish Government does not want nuclear power. That is not to say that UK Government agrees with the Scottish Government, and it has devised the UK Energy Bill to address the concerns that I am speaking about, which include all aspects of renewables sources. My point is that key environmentalists have said that we should not close our minds, and I am asking Mr Gibson not to close his either.

Let me give another example. The late Bishop Hugh Montefiore, founder and director of Friends of the Earth, was forced to resign from that group's board for writing a pro-nuclear article in a church newsletter after having looked at the scientific evidence. All the people whom I have mentioned have recognised that all options must be explored, for good economic and technological reasons.

Not all forms of new renewables technology have been shown to have anything beyond the potential to be economically feasible on a large scale. Equally, no current storage technology exists on the scale required.

Carbon capture has been mentioned repeatedly this morning, and the basis for looking at carbon capture and sequestration were outlined by my colleague Lewis Macdonald. However, carbon capture is no more than a prototype technology at best, and there are no guarantees that a gas pumped under the sea at several times ambient pressure will not leak. Will the minister tell us what environmental assessments the Government has done to quantify the possibility of such leaks happening and their impact?

We can all give good examples of where new technology is being used to take us forward in positive and commendable ways. In my constituency, Argent Energy established a biodiesel plant, which has rightly won awards for its innovative technology. However, the reality is that the plant draws its source from the abattoir and rendering plant next door, which lacks the capacity to deal with the demand for the by-products that allow the biodiesel to be produced. It has just had its licence from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency withdrawn because of the odour emissions that it creates in the local community. There is a downside to almost every technology—there are pluses and minuses, and we should consider them all in the round.

President Kennedy was right: knowledge of renewables is increasing, but much remains for us to learn before we know for sure what will be required to meet Scotland's future energy needs.

Until we do, nuclear power has to be considered as a viable and reliable future technology. It is as simple as that.

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party 10:47, 17 January 2008

We must consider the context of today's debate, which is that almost every environmentalist throughout the globe accepts that our planet is at risk from global warming. That is, every environmentalist except for the one we just heard about—Patrick Moore—who does not accept that global warming is happening. If he is the one person who members use to justify nuclear power stations, the argument speaks for itself.

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

No.

It will not surprise members that I will highlight some of the contributions made to Scotland's energy needs by Dundee. I remind members of the twin 2MW turbines that are generating about one third of the energy needed by the Michelin tyre factory in Dundee. As two of the largest urban wind turbines in the world, they are a positive reminder of what can be achieved when there is a will. I encourage members to find time to visit Dundee to see the turbines for themselves.

As well as helping to reduce Dundee's carbon footprint, the turbines have shown how the technology has improved to such an extent that many fears, such as fears of noise pollution, are no longer relevant—even when we are talking about large turbines very close to housing.

I am sure that members will also be aware that Dundee is the sunniest city in Scotland—that is a fact. With a south-facing aspect, Dundee is in a position to make the most from solar energy, although it is a technology that is appropriate for other parts of Scotland as well. Solar energy—specifically solar water heating—is the most mature renewable energy, with the shortest payback time, that people can install in their homes. It is ideally suited to many urban settings and can be retrofitted to existing homes. However, in spite of a well-proven technology that can be shown to be financially advantageous to many, we are still harnessing only a tiny fraction of our solar potential in our cities and rural communities.

Traditionally, solar installations in Scotland have been exclusive to a very small, environmentally conscious, relatively affluent minority, but we have moved on in recent years. The majority of solar installations in Dundee have been in social housing, with housing associations and the council including solar renewables projects as part of new-build housing and reroofing projects. That has had an impact in tackling fuel poverty in some of the poorest areas in Dundee, and I congratulate all those who were involved in making it happen. I know that Sarah Boyack was instrumental in the previous Executive, and I give her credit for the work that she did.

The housing associations and councils did not carry out solar energy projects just because Sarah Boyack and environmentalists said that it was a good idea. They installed the systems after rigorous cost analysis indicated that the schemes were financially beneficial as well as environmentally sound. We have made considerable progress in Dundee, and we are making progress throughout Scotland, but we are still tapping only a tiny proportion of our solar potential.

The main problem with solar energy is its seasonality and dependence on the time of day, so I want to talk briefly about another form of solar energy, which is my main source of heating—wood.

Wood is stored solar energy, and the burning of it is carbon neutral. The problem that I faced in choosing to use wood instead of gas for my space heating was that Dundee is a smokeless zone. The legislation has failed to keep up with technology. I am pleased that considerable progress has been made on that front, and I again acknowledge the work of Sarah Boyack during the previous parliamentary session. However, it cannot be right that our legislation still makes it easier to burn mineral fuel oil than use a clean-burn carbon-neutral wood fuel.

As has been mentioned by many members, Scotland has huge renewable energy potential. Each year, new developments are ensuring that Scotland moves closer to claiming the title of Europe's renewables powerhouse. One such innovation is creating biofuel from seaweed. The Scottish Association for Marine Science is currently working on converting kelp into methane and ethanol to provide clean green energy to power everything from cars to central heating systems.

The SAMS marine laboratory near Oban is at the forefront of the emerging marine biology industry in Scotland, with 60 doctors of science researching both global warming and potential sources for renewable biofuel energies. Some members may be sceptical, but using seaweed for energy is a viable option, and as long as it is not taken from the beaches around Scotland's nuclear power stations, it is a very clean fuel. In Japan, scientists are currently working on a biomass fermentation system that uses seaweed to produce fuel for generating electricity, and work to create the world's first power plant to run off seaweed has begun.

There are several advantages to using seaweed as a source of fuel. First is the growth speed: seaweed can grow from a few centimetres to a few metres in a season. With Scotland home to the majority of large kelp in the UK, we have huge potential to produce methane and ethanol for use as a biofuel. Another advantage of using seaweed is that it does not use land for biocrops—it involves harvesting from the shores and seas. Great concerns have been voiced that cultivating some soils can result in the release of carbon, meaning that the overall carbon balance of the fuel may not be neutral. That is especially significant in the carbon-rich soils to be found in north and west Scotland. Again, that problem is avoided by the use of seaweed.

Members will be aware of the issues surrounding palm oil and the associated deforestation. The use of seaweed has the potential to ensure that we are not reliant on imports to meet our biofuel targets, and I look forward to seeing the results of the SAMS research in the months to come.

I have touched on just a few of the areas in which Scotland is embracing renewables, and it is clear for all to see—with the exception perhaps of some Labour and Conservative members—that Scotland is on the way to becoming Europe's renewables powerhouse and that nuclear energy is a thing of the past.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour 10:54, 17 January 2008

I speak in support of the amendment in the name of my colleague Lewis Macdonald. The title of the SNP's motion is false. Instead of saying that they are talking about energy policy, SNP members should come clean and admit that the debate is just another challenge to Westminster, to which we have heard several references. The SNP wants to inflict another piece of constitutional chaos on the people of Scotland. It flies in the face of the recommendation of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, among others, that the SNP should get real and start talking to everybody about energy use, as we have heard.

Mr Mather is supposed to be Scotland's energy minister and to be responsible for ensuring that Scotland's people, industries and commerce are supplied with the power that they need to maintain a 21st century lifestyle, yet as soon as the UK energy policy was announced, he was on his feet to say:

"Scotland does not want or need new nuclear power. We have massive potential for alternative clean, green energy."

He repeated that today, so at least he is consistent on that.

Mr Mather also said:

"In 2006, overall electricity generation in Scotland increased by nearly a tenth, while electricity generated from nuclear power ... decreased by a quarter."

I respect him, so I regret to say that his position is hypocritical at best and totally dishonest at worst, for he is the same minister who signed the extension to the licence to allow Hunterston nuclear power station to continue to operate beyond 2011.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

How does the member define disrespect?

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

That is touché for when I called Mr Mather the David Brent of Scottish politics.

Mr Mather is happy to accept the fact that nuclear generation still provides for a significant share of Scotland's power needs and will do for several years, while he pontificates about alternative sources of energy supply, many of which are still unproven and some of which are not even operational. Our energy minister is also happy to accept electricity that comes up the grid from our neighbours over the border in England, when he knows full well that it might have been generated from a nuclear source.

The minister also knows that the Scottish Trades Union Congress and others have questioned statements by him and his Government officials about the current generation statistics. Members will know that this is trade union week in the Parliament. The STUC's contribution to the debate is welcomed by me, but perhaps not by the SNP.

The STUC has said that the figures that the Scottish Executive has released for installed capacity are "somewhat misleading". The minister's department claims that installed capacity for renewables is 2,731MW and that it has outstripped installed capacity for nuclear, which is 2,400MW. The STUC says that that is "meaningless", as what counts is available capacity, as Gavin Brown said.

Mr Brown and I are members of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, which will hold an inquiry later this year into Scotland's energy needs. In preparation for that inquiry, we held a fascinating round-table discussion with key players from the energy industry last year. I recommend to Mr Mather the Official Report of that meeting, which took place on 19 September. One witness questioned how electricity companies could guarantee a supply of electricity to Scotland after 2011—he spoke before the minister's decision to grant Hunterston an extension. He said that if Hunterston went off stream at that time, unless very quick action was taken to

"develop a big renewable resource that we can switch on,"

Scotland

"will be quite close to not having enough electricity at peak load".—[Official Report, Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, 19 September 2007; c 108.]

That scenario would be made worse if Cockenzie or Longannet power station was being renovated at the same time. Our witness asked what guarantee there was of peak-load delivery from 2011 to 2015 and onwards. We know part of the answer, because Hunterston's working life is to be extended—thank goodness for nuclear, Mr Mather.

Our witnesses were concerned that too much reliance was being put on renewables. The SNP has set ambitious targets for renewable energy generation. That is fine and I support that, but it is only continuing the work that my colleague Sarah Boyack drove forward.

The SNP is not telling us its overall energy policy, where investment in renewables will be made or how much will be invested. Mr Mather is really tilting at windmills—he is the Don Quixote of Scottish energy, and he has a donkey, too.

To put things in perspective—I know how much the minister likes statistics—I point out that 37 per cent of Scotland's electricity comes from nuclear sources. To replace that would take 110 acres of wind farms—the equivalent of 10 Isles of Bute. If that supply were replaced by coal power, 2 million tonnes of extra carbon would be generated. That would be the equivalent of a 50 per cent increase in Scotland's traffic and certainly would do nothing to reduce our CO2 emissions.

Labour members believe that Scotland needs a mixed energy supply. The experts who came to the committee's round-table discussion by and large agreed with that view—perhaps the minister should listen to this bit; he might learn something. We also want renewables to be expanded to generate 50 per cent of Scotland's electricity. SNP members talk up renewables but oppose wind farm developments in their own constituencies. The debate on Lewis is a case in point—I see the member for that area arriving just in time.

Does the minister recognise the high-quality jobs that the electricity generation industry provides? Does he believe that we should still produce surplus energy to export? Does he know the difference between installed capacity and available capacity? How does he envisage replacing the stable base load from nuclear power with intermittent supplies from renewables?

What is the minister doing to explore the vast potential of carbon capture from coal? Perhaps he should ask Jim McColl, who is a member of the Government's Council of Economic Advisers and the boss of Clyde Blowers and Weir Pumps, about that. His company sells clean-coal technology to China but sells none here.

What will the minister do to overcome opposition in his own ranks from members who claim to support wind power but who then campaign against wind farms in their areas?

Finally, the minister should recognise the variety of views on the issue. The SNP does not speak for Scotland on the matter. Under the heading "Scots Shun Bid to Remove the Nuclear Option", a poll in the Scottish Daily Express earlier this week said that as many as 70 per cent of those who were questioned supported a mix of supply that included nuclear power. It will disappoint Shirley-Anne Somerville to learn that, among SNP voters, a majority of two to one was in favour of nuclear. That number includes one George Kerevan, an economist and columnist in another newspaper—The Scotsman—who happens to be the SNP's Westminster candidate for Edinburgh East.

Minister, the unions do not support your motion, the business community does not support your motion and even your own candidates do not support your motion. It is time for you to head homeward and think again.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I point out to the member that it is not my motion, but the Government's motion.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 11:02, 17 January 2008

I hesitate to say this, especially as I am standing next to Mr Russell, who is an author of note, but I wrote a pamphlet several years ago that was entitled "Scotland: A Renewable Energy Powerhouse", or something of that ilk. It was received with critical acclaim—or at least with criticism. I take Joe FitzPatrick's point that it is important to recognise how Scotland can gain in this international world and I will deal with that in a few minutes.

Mr FitzPatrick showed commendable bravery in saying that the sun shines only in Dundee. There is no doubt that he will go far in this place. David Whitton introduced what I suppose we must call the Whitton doctrine of respect, to which we will all listen carefully in the coming years.

If we can agree on a few matters following the debate, they are that we need to keep the lights on, as Gavin Brown said, that we need to tackle the cost of power to Scotland's households and that we need to recognise the national and international requirements that are placed on the Parliament by documents such as the Stern report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports and the many scientific reports that are produced here in Scotland and in the wider sphere.

It is a little unfair for SNP members to claim that only they stopped new nuclear facilities. No new nuclear development happened in the past eight years, so it is a bit unfair to criticise Labour members such as Sarah Boyack. It is probably because of people such as her that some nuclear development did not happen. She has created a debate in her party and she deserves a little credit for that bravery. All our parties benefit from those in them who question the basis on which we advocate energy or other policy.

Conservative and Labour members were a little coy about extolling the virtues of nuclear power—I will return to the energy mix in a moment. Parties, professionals and scientists who articulate those points have a responsibility to tackle the issues that many members across parties have raised this morning, such as the independently projected clean-up cost of existing nuclear power capability of some £70 billion.

There is an appalling record of cost overruns on nuclear technology new builds. No British nuclear plant has ever come in on time or on budget. Indeed, the industry seems to run as much on optimism as on uranium. The billions of pounds of taxpayers' money that are spent on nuclear research and development should be compared with what is spent on other energy production methods. Furthermore, it is not true that nuclear energy is carbon free. The whole life cycle of nuclear plants and the emissions from uranium mining construction and decommissioning should be considered.

Members who extol the virtues of nuclear technology have not mentioned nuclear waste. There is no satisfactory long-term solution for dealing with nuclear waste. According to a UK Environment Agency report to UK ministers, the current plans are "overly optimistic" Last week, the independent nuclear consultation working group reported just before the UK Government made its announcement on new nuclear power that there is

"no proven technical solution for the long-term management of radioactive wastes."

Those are serious issues that must be addressed by those who extol the virtues of nuclear technology. The Sustainable Development Commission, which is much quoted in the chamber by members of all political parties, has said:

"there is no justification for bringing forward plans for a new nuclear programme at this time".

I want to deal with other points that members have made. Patrick Harvie was right about the need for an energy reduction target. He and I also agree about the argument that some people put forward for aiming to make nuclear energy a great export industry for Scotland—the Conservatives in particular have spoken about that. The Liberal Democrats do not support that contention. We think that there are many ways of marketing Scotland in the international sphere, not least as a world centre for life sciences and as a country with globally competitive universities. We should not market Scotland as a great exporter of nuclear energy. Such an approach would not suit us.

Lewis Macdonald and Alison McInnes made a correct point about the oil and gas industry. It is a driver of technical innovation—Lewis Macdonald was right about that—but surely there must be a new role for the PILOT programme and FREDS and other Government and industry bodies when that industry turns its focus towards developing renewables, and engineering solutions and its intellectual firepower are brought to bear on the new technologies. When that happens, we will see a real take-off in renewables technologies in Scotland.

I agree with the arguments about nuclear energy that Mr Mather made in his opening speech, but I was disappointed that he did not have any prior knowledge of the UK Energy Bill, as we are sometimes told that the relationship between the UK Government and the Scottish Government is excellent—indeed, Mr Lochhead said that yesterday in the fisheries statement. A little consistency on that would be beneficial. However, Mr Mather was right about territorial waters. I suspect that the argument is not only about energy, but also about the marine bill that we will no doubt consider in the coming weeks and months.

I turn to the strong arguments that, to be fair, members across the chamber have made about the importance of renewables. No one has argued that wind power is the only option; rather, most members who care deeply about the matter have argued that there should be a mix of renewables and that there is a mix within the renewables industry. It is simplistic to say that the energy mix can be renewables, nuclear, and coal and gas—there is a mix within renewables. We are not yet there with the commercialisation of many renewables, but they can be commercialised. Back in 2004, Jim Wallace opened the European Marine Energy Centre, to which my colleague Liam McArthur, and Rob Gibson, referred. Commercialisation was one of the aims of that innovative and world-leading centre. Jim Wallace also launched the green jobs strategy, which I commend to the current ministers. Given that time has passed, it no doubt needs to be reconsidered, but it provides the right basis for moving forward.

Other members—Kenny Gibson in particular—talked about hydrogen. I agree with what Mr Gibson said about it. The Pure Energy Centre on Unst exports intellectual capital on energy policy around the world. Many of us see the potential for hydrogen—again, as part of that mix—to be developed and to help meet Scotland's future energy needs.

David Stewart put forward an excellent argument for hydropower. He and I are concerned that the Glendoe project may be the last hydropower project on such a scale. I hope that it is not, and encourage ministers to consider ways in which the large-scale provision of hydropower can continue. I know that there are environmental concerns, which the Minister for Environment, Mr Russell, must tackle with Government and non-governmental bodies, but David Stewart made a serious argument, which I agree with.

As 80 per cent of Scotland's energy demand is not delivered by the electricity grid we need to think in that context. Possibly, as others have argued, the black gold of yesterday can become the green gold of tomorrow.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 11:10, 17 January 2008

I rise to support, unreservedly and unashamedly, Labour's amendment to the motion and to seek support for the Conservative amendment to that amendment, which will add something to it.

We must clearly set out the lines of the debate before we can make good sense of it. Politicians are often accused of simply arguing for argument's sake, and it must be said that, if anything, the debate has demonstrated the broad consensus on energy policy in the chamber. Members of all parties have said a great deal in which I can find great common interest.

Of course, we understand that there is a need to save energy in Scotland and that energy efficiency is a key target. Cleaner energy is also needed. In industrial terms, Scotland was once one of the dirty men of Europe. We ought to be proud that we are quickly changing our image.

The need to ensure that energy is affordable has been mentioned. Fuel poverty remains a major problem in Scotland. I am not talking about only domestic fuel poverty—we should also consider our economic efficiency. Affordable energy is important in developing industry and providing the jobs that further the aims of our broader economic development policies. Reliable and affordable energy is a key priority.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Did the member support the last Conservative Government's introduction of VAT on fuel?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I did not support that at the time and I regret that it was introduced. I hope that that is an unequivocal answer.

I have talked about what members have in common, and hope that anyone who is watching the debate will not make the mistake of thinking that we are at one another's throats over energy policy when I talk about what divides us. There are simply one or two key areas in which views that have been expressed in the chamber, particularly on the Government front benches, call into question the SNP's commitment to some of the broad principles that we all hold dear.

I share Jim Mather's enthusiasm for renewable energy. It is important that we develop the renewable energy industry in Scotland, as renewable energy may be one of the things that our economy relies on in the future. However, his opening speech raised one or two important questions in my mind. I put those questions to him in the hope that we get clear and unequivocal answers at the end of the debate. He told us that we do not need nuclear energy, but he and members of his party have enthusiastically greeted the extension of Hunterston B's lifespan, which is evidence that Scotland appears to need nuclear energy in the short term and perhaps the medium term at least.

What does Jim Mather mean when he compares installed capacity with potential production? I want him to address directly an idea that has been raised by previous speakers. When he says that the installed capacity of renewables in Scotland now exceeds nuclear capacity, surely he must realise that, on an on-going basis, the energy produced by renewables is unlikely to exceed much more than 35 or 40 per cent of its installed capacity. The energy produced by nuclear power stations—when they are running, which is most of the time—is much nearer to 100 per cent of their installed capacity. Before he tells me that there have been shutdowns at our nuclear plants, I remind him that there was also a major shutdown last year at the Longannet coal-fired plant. That can happen to other power plants, not only to nuclear power plants.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Can the member tell us how long world supplies of uranium will allow existing nuclear power stations to run? Is it five years, 10 years or two years?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

It is much longer than that. Our nuclear industry can survive for a very long period on the un-reprocessed fuel that already exists in the United Kingdom. The fuelling of nuclear power stations is not an issue.

Two things in Jim Mather's speech confused me slightly and worried me rather more. The first of those was the SNP's broad commitment to the concept of a separate Scottish renewables obligation, producing a separate Scottish renewables obligation certificate. What worries me about that is the fact that any changes that destabilised the regime that has encouraged the development of our existing renewables industry would have the potential to cause a major shift in investment. The last thing that we want in Scotland is an undermining of the existing renewables industry.

The second thing that worries me slightly is the fact that that may be combined with attempts to change significantly the transmission charge system, as Jim Mather mentioned. If an increasing level of energy production in Scotland, attracting the support of Scottish renewables obligation certificates, is combined with changes in the transmission charge system, there is a danger that, if the minister gets it wrong, Scotland's electricity may become the most expensive anywhere in the world and the transmission charge system may ensure that that expense is dumped entirely on the Scottish consumer. If the minister gets it wrong, there will be a grave risk to our economy in the future.

There are a couple of points that I need to address quickly, relating to nuclear power. First, I am not here to argue for the construction of new nuclear power stations in Scotland as, sadly, that argument may now have been lost; however, nuclear energy still has the potential to provide the cheapest electricity. The reason for that is simple. Perhaps coal and gas plant can produce cheaper electricity than nuclear plant on the basis of the whole-life cost figures of plant today; however, if the cost of carbon capture is added to those, the whole-life cost of nuclear plant could yet make it the cheapest source of electricity.

Secondly, the Scottish Government has made a commitment that there will be no new nuclear power stations in Scotland; however, I put it to the chamber that that position is fundamentally dishonest. Every part of the policy that the Government has put forward is wholly reliant on having a good neighbour to the south and a connection to the national grid that can supply us with electricity on the days when the wind does not blow and the waves do not rise. That dependence ensures that Scotland is wholly dependent on the United Kingdom's future investment in nuclear technology and means that the Government's position is hypocritical and dishonest.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 11:19, 17 January 2008

I agree with the other winding-up speakers that this has been a very good debate, in which we have managed to explore our differences. More of that would be good for the Parliament, as would more debates of the tone of this morning's discussion. The debate has also been good in identifying some of the areas in which there is a strong basis, across all parties, for determining the future direction in which we should take our country.

We have come an incredibly long way since the early days of the Scottish Parliament. In year one, if I had told Donald Dewar that, eight years on, his legacy would be agreement pretty much across the chamber that we could deliver 50 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2020, I am not sure that he would have appointed me—I am not sure that that would have been a believable position just eight years ago. Let us remember how far we have come and use that to move forward.

As members will know—a couple of speakers observed it today—I am not a member of the nuclear fan club. Nuclear power is not cheap; it is rather expensive. It requires very secure waste management, regardless of whether that is deep disposal or disposal above ground, and it needs it for a long time. Furthermore, such facilities cannot be built quickly. I stand by the views that I have expressed previously in the Parliament.

Nevertheless, as my Labour colleagues have made clear, the future of our energy policy is regularly and seriously debated within our party, along with our trade union colleagues and our local communities. Therefore, we come to the debate not parading soundbites, but with a background of serious consideration and the range of views that Parliament has heard this morning. We are a mature political party that understands the challenge of addressing the issues that have been raised by the IPCC and in the Stern report. There are core principles on which we all agree, which we made clear in our election manifesto, and we have signed up to them in our amendment today.

We need a Scottish energy policy that is crafted to meet Scotland's needs and that maximises our opportunities, and we must start from the principle that we need to use energy more efficiently. Regardless of members' preferred energy mix for Scotland, we need to accept that the more energy that we consume and waste, the more difficult are the choices that we set for ourselves and for future generations. With our commitment to social justice, we are passionate about tackling fuel poverty, hence our commitment to the free central heating programme for pensioners and the warm deal. I ask, therefore, when the SNP will be in a position to give us its plans on energy efficiency in detail and when it will move to extend the provision to include the retro-fitting of systems such as solar panels for heating water.

I acknowledge Joe FitzPatrick's enthusiasm for solar-powered water heating. He is correct in saying that it makes economic sense, taking into account of the life cycle of such energy systems. I have seen them operating in people's homes throughout the country. They save money for people who are on low incomes and they reduce people's carbon emissions. James Kelly was right to point out the difference that such systems make to people's comfort and quality of life—and their fuel bills plummet.

The Labour Party believes that we need to act. We believe that we could be the renewables powerhouse of Europe. We are proud of our achievements in the first eight years of the Parliament through working in partnership to deliver 20 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2010, a target that will be upped to 40 per cent by 2020. Given the rate of progress over the past eight years, our election manifesto committed us to working to raise that figure to 50 per cent by 2020. We do not regard that as a given, but we believe that with hard work and support for the renewables industry such a figure is absolutely deliverable. That is why the planning guidelines that we issued last March promoted the use of CHP and onsite renewables and increased the pressure on developers to deliver throughout Scotland with a level playing field. Those planning guidelines must be promoted by the SNP Government.

We set in place the building blocks for the mass expansion of biomass. David Stewart talked about the progress that has been made in the Highlands and Islands, where the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company is leading developments. He also rightly highlighted our support for future hydropower developments, with the major opportunities being for small-scale hydropower facilities. In addition, our manifesto focused on the need for more community-owned and community-developed renewables, seeing a role for the co-operative movement in benefiting communities. We have left a strong legacy that we believe the SNP must build on now.

We recognise the need for action to reduce the carbon footprint of the rest of our energy supply. In particular, we support the move to cleaner coal. We have technology in Scotland that we should be exporting to the rest of the world. That would be good for all our economies and for the planet.

We must ensure that the debate is about more than just picking a fight with the UK Government, either on principles or on practical politics. The debate on Scotland's future energy cannot be reduced to a bun fight on nuclear power. There is hypocrisy at the heart of the SNP motion. The Government's principled position does not rule out using nuclear power now, and it does not rule out extending the life of existing nuclear plant—we note its pragmatic welcome for the extension of the life of Hunterston B. However, most hypocritical of all—we heard this from Jim Mather this morning—the Government does not rule out using energy from existing or new nuclear power stations in England through the UK grid. We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and the agreement throughout Europe is that we need a Europe-wide grid to which all our countries would input energy and from we would all benefit through the security of supply.

As if that was not enough, I do not think that we are exactly being knocked over in the rush of companies wanting to build new nuclear power stations in Scotland. They are not encouraged by the transmission charges and, as we said before the election, there is absolutely no question of the UK Labour Government wanting to force Scotland into building new nuclear power stations. The SNP knows well that the devolution settlement gives the Scottish Government control over planning decisions. It is not good enough for the SNP to create a false fight over nuclear energy, and it is not good enough for it just to talk the talk on energy efficiency and renewables; it must do more to meet the target, for which there is broad support, of producing 50 per cent of our energy from renewables by 2020.

I am keen to hear from Mike Russell in his summing up what target the SNP intends to set for renewable heat, which is one of the big opportunities that must be grasped. We cannot just talk about electricity; we have to move the agenda on to renewable heat and I know that Mike Russell is keen on biomass. Liam McArthur also made the point forcibly that we have to move on from electricity to renewable heat.

The Labour Party is committed to making it possible for people to heat and power their homes with renewables. One of the first things that we would have done would have been to take money off people's council tax if they installed microgeneration or energy efficiency measures. Until we change the law in Scotland, we will be the only part of the UK where people do not get financial benefit for doing their bit to tackle climate change in their homes, which is one of the fastest ways to drive down CO2 emissions and tackle fuel poverty.

Is there a date yet for the consultation on permitted development rights for microgeneration? We are falling behind England and Wales—last year's elections have not delayed Rhodri Morgan's Government in Wales. Where is the Scottish Government's energy efficiency strategy? We left it to progress that strategy. What new, radical measures will it include?

We desperately need to make our existing housing stock more energy efficient. Some 80 per cent of current housing stock will be in existence in

2050. Improving its energy efficiency has to be a radical priority. It is not just housing, either; public sector buildings must lead the way in driving down our CO2 emissions and producing renewable energy. A commitment to procure buildings from the top quartile of energy efficiency would instantly drive up standards in the property market.

In the previous parliamentary session, we lobbied across the chamber for faster action to make sure that public procurement included microgeneration and biomass boilers as standard. Time and again, John Swinney argued that the Executive should act, so that Perth and Kinross Council could include biomass boilers that use wood fuel in the Breadalbane academy project in Aberfeldy. Imagine my disappointment—disbelief actually—that one of the first acts of the new SNP-Liberal Democrat council in Edinburgh was to cancel the biomass boilers for the five new high schools and two primaries approved by the outgoing Labour council after a lot of work. New care homes in our city have benefited from carbon-neutral heating systems. The wood fuel for the schools was to come from Dalkeith—there could not be a more sustainable or better local energy synergy. I hope that the SNP Government will go back to the City of Edinburgh Council and have more discussions with it.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Does the member realise that the decision about the biomass boilers was taken because of safety concerns about the boilers? Surely it is correct to delay installation rather than putting unsafe measures into schools in Edinburgh.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

That is a smokescreen, if I can use that term. Biomass boilers have been used safely across the globe. We in this chamber have spent years demanding that the highest possible standards are implemented in urban as well as rural areas. There has been cross-party support for that, so it is not good enough to come to the chamber with such a view today.

We need a little less hot air from the nationalists, a little less of the "nuclear war of words", as the Daily Mail put it on Friday. The SNP Government has talked the talk on renewables; it now has to deliver. Alison McInnes made that point and I agree with her absolutely, although it will be a bit of a challenge for a party that has demanded more renewables as long as they are not wind farms in its constituencies.

Before the elections, the SNP campaigned for a statutory annual 3 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, but that was quickly dumped. All of us in this chamber must ensure that the SNP's commitment to renewables and energy efficiency does not also get sidelined.

We need progress; we need the SNP to produce a strategy for energy in Scotland and to work co-operatively with the UK Government to deliver it. We must ensure that if opportunities arise from the new UK Energy Bill, we seize them and do not miss the boat. There is appetite from environmental groups, communities, local authorities, trade unions and business communities to play their part. Ministers just need to get on with it.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 11:29, 17 January 2008

I start as Sarah Boyack did by welcoming the tone of the debate which, unfortunately, she did not keep going throughout her speech. However, the tone of the debate has been, by and large, very positive.

I am pleased to support my friend Mr Mather in closing this debate on the UK Energy Bill. We have had a useful discussion about both the specifics of the bill and wider energy aspects and we have identified not just a Government with clear ambition and the means to achieve it but the areas on which there is great agreement across the chamber.

An area about which we have heard too little in the debate is the environment. We develop our energy policy in the context not just of providing energy supply but of our five strategic objectives, particularly the greener Scotland objective. That includes not just a reduction in carbon emissions, which some members mentioned, but the consideration of the impact of energy developments on landscapes and habitats—indeed, Scottish planning policy 6, which we endorsed specifically, and our decisions on individual projects have made, and will make, that entirely clear.

I will list some of the key points in the debate and then pay attention to two or three of the significant contributions this morning. The nuclear provisions in the UK Energy Bill that deal with nuclear decommissioning and waste do not extend to Scotland. We are very pleased that the UK Government has recognised the strength of feeling about nuclear power. We welcome that, but we would of course say that that is due to the benefit of having an SNP Government in Scotland standing up for Scotland's best interests. However, in the interests of consensus and in view of the unusual experience of working so closely with the Liberal Democrats—we will support their amendment—I note that some people in previous Administrations have also been strongly against nuclear power and have played their part, whatever part that was.

The UK bill could provide a common UK framework for a number of energy developments, a key example of which is carbon storage—a move that would be welcomed by the energy industry. We have proposed to the UK Government that Scottish ministers exercise new powers in that regard, both within and beyond the 12-mile limit. It is interesting that there is a clear read-across on that matter to our position on marine policy, which is supported in many parts of the chamber. I hope that our position on carbon capture and storage will be supported too. It is disappointing that, so far, the UK Government has not agreed with us. We regret that. We want to continue a productive dialogue and we hope that we can negotiate on the matter. We make it clear, as we have to, that we are prepared to introduce our own bill if we deem it necessary.

We broadly support the bill's proposals on renewables and the proposed system of banding for renewables obligation certificates to allow higher support for emerging technologies. We are pleased to see that current executive devolution of the renewables obligation powers will be maintained, which will enable the Scottish Government to provide the appropriate levels of support for wave, tidal and biomass developments that are located in Scotland. I will return to the subject of biomass, which has not been given enough attention in the debate. We will consult more fully on the renewables obligation in the spring and we reserve the right, as we must, to suggest a different approach to banding from that of the UK. For example, we already consider that two ROCs for marine energy is insufficient.

We heard a number of speeches on ROCs and other issues this morning. I was surprised by Lewis Macdonald's speech because he accused the Government of lacking ambition. The one thing that this Government never lacks is ambition. We continue in our ambition to export energy. Indeed, we made a manifesto commitment to pursue the North Sea grid to export the huge potential of marine energy. In undertaking our grid studies, we worked closely with the Crown Estate, whose study is reported in The Scotsman today. We recognise the need to export, so that remains in our energy mix.

I was even more surprised by Gavin Brown's speech. It was the strongest plea for a managed economy that I have ever heard from a Tory spokesperson. He seemed to think that only the state could provide resources for energy generation. I am sure that he did this unintentionally, but he misled the chamber about the resources that are available from Government. Of course, those resources are only part of the matter—there is not just the £33 million a year that he dismissed out of hand, even though it is an increase of something like 60 per cent on the money that was offered by the previous Administration. There is not just an energy budget; there is support through the renewables obligation, about which we have been speaking, for which the consumer pays. There is support through the work of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. There is access to UK funding. In fact, there is a range of resources that support renewable energy, rather than the limited picture that Mr Brown gave.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

I resent the allegation that I misled the chamber. The figure that I gave earlier is attached to a single line in the draft budget for energy and climate change. There is also a single line for Scottish Enterprise, with nothing to show that it contributes to renewable energy.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I am sure that somebody with much greater expertise in energy than I have—I am merely an environment spokesperson—would know the detail of those budgets and be able to talk about them. Of course, I am sure that Mr Brown did not mislead the chamber deliberately, but he certainly misled the chamber.

I want to say something positive about Sarah Boyack's speech and her long-standing commitment to the issue. We acknowledge the importance of her proposed energy efficiency and microgeneration bill. As she knows, discussions are going on and there is a keenness to implement measures, but I ask her to be generous with us. It took eight years for nothing to happen under her party's Administration; we are only eight months into the new Administration and we are making substantial progress.

Other Labour speeches can be described as the tale of two Daves. Dave Stewart made a tremendously strong contribution. I welcome his role as Labour spokesperson on the environment. He got right to the heart of the matter and asked important questions, for example about hydro power. We will answer those questions and I am sure that we can have a dialogue about them. He raised issues about biomass that I also want to discuss.

The speech from Dave Whitton was scaremongering and negative. Its tone was contrary to the tone of the debate. It exposed the hollowness of the Labour case for nuclear power, because it was built on two issues of fear. It generated fear of an energy gap, which does not exist, and it generated fear that Scotland is isolated in the energy market, which it is not. When those props are removed there is no case for nuclear.

I would like to talk about other speeches, but I can mention only one or two. Kenny Gibson made a tremendous speech, which fully justified his subscription to the New Scientist in that it contained information of which we were all completely unaware. I am grateful to Joe FitzPatrick for giving me a new slogan. As members know, I am a retired spin doctor but, were I still in office, I would seize on the slogan "It's Scotland's seaweed" and exploit it as strongly as possible.

I emphasise what my friend Mr Mather said at the beginning of the debate: Scotland does not want or need nuclear power. My friend Mr Tavish Scott made the point even more clearly when he said that nuclear power is neither clean nor green. The people of Scotland understand that—it is the Labour Party that is out of touch on the issue.

There are many reasons why people should oppose nuclear power, such as issues to do with storage and disposal of nuclear waste, the legacy to future generations, concerns about security and health and, of course, cost, as consumers are faced with higher bills. The fallacy of cheap nuclear energy has been fed to the people of Scotland since the 1950s. It remains a fallacy.

Presiding Officer—I was about to say, "Deputy Presiding Officer", but I see that there has been a seamless change—one point will serve to emphasise the difficulty with nuclear power. The clean-up of the Chapelcross works in Dumfriesshire will cost £1.37 billion and the site will not be available for reuse until 2128 at the earliest—in 120 years' time. I put that in context: in 1888, 120 years ago, the Scottish Labour Party made its first commitment to devolution, in the Mid-Lanark by-election, but we waited 111 years for devolution to be delivered. That demonstrates that 120 years is a long time, but that is the period for which nothing on the Chapelcross site can be used. In that regard, nuclear energy is not the cleanest form of energy but the most extreme polluting form of energy.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

Will the minister join me in arguing for early site clearance at Chapelcross, which would not only ensure that the site was available much sooner but retain the expertise that exists in the labour force on the site?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Of course I will work with the member on such issues, although I understand that probably it is technically not possible to reduce radiation at the site more quickly.

I mention an area that has not received adequate attention in the debate. I am sure that keen observers of the Government's work will have read the report of the wood fuel task force, which was delivered to me last week. I pay tribute to the task force's members. If members have not read the report, I will be happy to provide it for them—Sarah Boyack has read it, of course. Wood biomass can make an enormous contribution. This year we are using around 0.75 million green tonnes to produce energy from wood but, in the light of the task force's work, we can probably increase the amount to around 8.5 million green tonnes within 15 years. There is huge potential, even in such a limited sector, provided that we use ideas, recognise the importance of the energy source and work on it.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am afraid that the minister is in his final minute.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

We have ambitious targets for wood and renewables and we have ambitious targets for Scotland.

We are already looking at a future beyond nuclear power—that is the concluding message of the debate. Nuclear power is of no relevance to Scotland. That debate is over and the Westminster Government has recognised that it is over. Now we have to invest our energy, enthusiasm and intelligence in ensuring that Scotland's energy supply is a world leader in being clean and renewable. It is fortunate that the Government is capable of doing that. I am sure that the people of Scotland are glad of that.