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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:25 pm on 20th March 2013.

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Photo of Glyn Davies Glyn Davies Conservative, Montgomeryshire 3:25 pm, 20th March 2013

Perhaps I will take even less time.

Whenever I hear that there is to be a debate about energy, I feel an almost irresistible force within me demanding that I rant about the desecration that onshore wind will cause in my constituency. I am sure that you, Mrs Main, and the Minister will be pleased to hear that I do not really want to do that today, although I will say that that power forces me to take a great interest in all other forms of energy, because one cannot be just against things.

I want to raise two constituency concerns about biomass, but that is in the context of my huge support for it in general. The first matter has a great constituency impact and comes into the category of unintended consequences. There are two anaerobic digestion plants in Shropshire that use maize, and they are devastating Montgomeryshire dairy farmers’ ability to access maize land, so their traditional way of farming will have to change. Those farmers have dairy herds and have either rented land to grow the maize, or have bought the crop wholesale to feed their stock. They can no longer afford that, because they are being driven out of the market by plants that burn maize crops in England. When we consider biomass use, we must be careful about the unintended consequences for other important industries. Of course, the ability to feed the nation is a huge part of what must always be Government policy in Britain—indeed, the same thing would apply throughout the world.

My second point relates to a constituent, Mr Clive Pugh, of Bank farm in Mellington, who is a huge enthusiast for biomass. Twenty years ago, he built an anaerobic digestion plant on his farm. It uses waste, and for 20 years it has been profitable and successful, but now he finds that because he has a payment subsidy through renewables obligation certificates, the support he gets is nothing like what it would be under the feed-in tariff regime. There are competitors all over Shropshire, in brand new plants, who probably get 11p or 12p a kilowatt-hour for the energy that they produce. Many of them are producing that energy from products that can be used for other purposes, but Mr Pugh simply uses waste products—and nothing but waste products. That helps the fertility of his land, which does not need so much fertiliser, and it does not even need so much weed killer because the process kills the weeds. However, he is being driven out of business.

When I wrote to the Minister about that, I received the reply that someone such as Mr Pugh really should have asked for his payment regime to be transferred before 2011. However, small business people such as Mr Pugh do not realise that, and now he finds that he is no longer able to transfer—there was a cut-off date. New plants are going ahead elsewhere, and Mr Pugh will be driven out of business, but he is the pioneer. He was the man who established the examples and showed us how the process could work, yet he is the one who will be driven out of business.