Biomass Power Generation — [Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:59 pm on 20th March 2013.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock 2:59 pm, 20th March 2013

All I can say is that RWE is planning on making a significant investment, and it has invested in its supply chain. The issue that my hon. Friend raises really will not impact on its ability to run the dedicated biomass facility in Tilbury. I would also point out that timber is not the only commodity that has gone up in price in recent years. I really do not think, therefore, that the issue that my hon. Friend raises will be any impediment to further exploitation of this technology.

I look forward to Tilbury rising again and reopening with new permissions and with a brand-new facility. I hope the Minister will look at coming to visit in due course to see how plans are progressing. I am really pleased that RWE remains committed to Tilbury and that, despite having to close its existing facility, it still wants to invest in power generation on the site.

I know the Minister does not require too much encouragement in this regard, but I would like to highlight how much this issue illustrates what happens when Governments fail to fight our corner in Europe. I can see a situation coming down the track very quickly where we will be forced to buy more and more electricity from France, in particular, because the regulatory system has favoured nuclear over coal. We all want cleaner, greener energy, but we need to keep the lights on, and we need to make sure that people can afford to heat their homes. For our own energy security, therefore, we need to make the most of the potential of biomass as an energy source, given its generating potential, and given how much more of our domestic demand we will be able to supply.

I implore the Minister to make every effort to ensure that rapidly deployable capacity, in the form of biomass conversion, comes on stream as quickly as possible. In that respect, I cannot add much more to what my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty said in his opening remarks.

I want to make a final point about investment. As a country we rely heavily on private capital to achieve the investment in power generation that we need to meet our energy needs after 2015. As my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar said, to achieve that, industry needs long-term certainty to encourage investment, particularly in a world where capital is finite and the market environment very competitive. In addition, we are dealing with energy companies that are global in their reach, and they can easily go and invest their capital elsewhere.

It is telling that coal-fired power stations are being built in Germany, when we have made coal completely uneconomic in this country. When we are dealing with private investors and expecting them to invest billions of pounds so that we can keep our lights on, we must recognise that they are not in it for charity, and we must enable them to facilitate that investment in the best way we can. To put it bluntly, the Department has, hitherto, been not enough about energy and rather too much about climate change. I believe that really has to change, and I know that if anybody will facilitate that change, it is my hon. Friend the Minister.