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[Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair] — Clean Energy Investment

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:48 am on 25th November 2015.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 10:48 am, 25th November 2015

Mr Bailey, I am trying to respond to Members’ points. If I give way to each Member on their individual point, I will not be able to respond to them all. I do apologise, but there is no time to give way to lots of Members.

I turn to renewables. We have been very clear that they have an important part to play alongside other technologies in our clean energy mix. I am happy to agree to the request from Mr Hanson that I welcome the decarbonisation impact of renewables. We are of course all delighted at the enormous success of the industry, but that does not mean that subsidies can continue as they were. The costs of renewables have come down significantly, and as they mature it is right that technologies stand on their own two feet. That is why we are taking action on subsidies for onshore wind and solar, technologies that will be cost-competitive through the next decade.

The hon. Members for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) and for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) all mentioned the important issue of fuel poverty, on which there was a debate in this Chamber only yesterday. All Members must recognise that the subsidies for renewable technologies are paid by precisely those people who are struggling with fuel poverty, so excess subsidies simply cannot be afforded.

Take onshore wind, a technology that has deployed very successfully to date—so much so that without action there would be a risk that it would deploy beyond the 11 GW to 13 GW range we set out for 2020, which would have added more to consumer bills. That is what our manifesto commitment set out to address. Even with action, we expect to deliver more than 12 GW by 2020, comfortably within our range and enough to meet our ambition to deliver 30% of the UK’s electricity with renewables by 2020.

Similarly, more than 8 GW of solar is already deployed and even with the cost controls we are proposing, we expect to have around 12 GW in place by 2020. Evidence-gathering on costs and deployment-monitoring suggested that action was needed right across the range in solar, including for below 5 MW. There was a risk of projects being over-compensated and of adding to the overspend that we were already projecting for the levy control framework. We have consulted on proposals to constrain solar further under the renewables obligation and on changes to the feed-in tariff scheme more broadly.

Liz Saville Roberts asked for more liaison with the Welsh Government on how we will meet our EU decarbonisation targets. We speak regularly with the devolved Governments, but I will ensure that those specific points are made. We are looking carefully at the more than 50,000 responses to the feed-in tariff review and will set out our final approach to all schemes by the end of the year.

On the future for renewable electricity, we are continuing to listen to ideas from the renewables sector about how we can best ensure a level playing field for established renewables to compete with other generation technologies. For example, some stakeholders have suggested the concept of a market-stabilising contract for difference. We would certainly welcome further industry views on that. Being tough on subsidies allows us not only to keep downward pressure on consumer bills, but to direct support where it is needed most: among the less established technologies. For example, it is right that we build on our world-leading position on offshore wind, with more than 5 GW already installed and plans for that to double by 2020.

Last week, the Secretary of State gave real certainty to the sector by setting a very clear challenge: continue to reduce costs quickly and we could support up to 10 GW of new offshore wind in the 2020s. If those conditions are met, we will make funding available for three auctions in this Parliament. We will set out more detailed plans in due course, but we plan to hold the first of these auctions, open to less established technologies, by the end of 2016. I acknowledge that the SNP spokesman, Callum McCaig, said that he would like that auction to be sooner rather than later, but I have heard opposing views from industry. Some companies would like the time to get into a position to enter the first auction, so would like it to be delayed. There are always winners and losers.

As well as action on electricity, it is vital that we change how we use heat to warm our homes and buildings, and how it is used for industrial processes. Heat accounts for about 45% of our energy consumption and a third of all carbon emissions, so different approaches need to be tested. There are technologies with great potential—such as district heating, biogas, hydrogen and heat pumps—but it is not yet clear which will work at scale.

We have to develop a long-term plan that will keep down costs for consumers. We will set out our approach next year as part of our strategy to meet our carbon budgets. Martyn Day mentioned the value of the renewable heat incentive, and I entirely agree that it has been a valuable policy. As he knows, we will be setting out our plans later today in the spending review.

Looking further forward to innovation, we need to keep an eye on the horizon for promising future developments. Some of the solutions to the challenges we face may right now be just an idea on a drawing board or not yet even exist. There are technologies with great potential, such as nuclear, offshore wind, demand response and storage. In some areas, the UK is a world player in the development of technologies; in others, the challenges we face will require technical solutions specific to the UK, so we remain committed to supporting innovation.

Department of Energy and Climate Change funding is already helping to develop exciting new technologies with great potential, in areas such as energy storage, low-carbon transport fuels and more efficient lighting. Those and many more examples point to the creation of new industries and new jobs in the UK, so it is right that we remove the barriers to their development. John Mc Nally mentioned the importance of storage, and I completely agree with him that it could transform the intermittency of some renewables.

To conclude, investors need clarity on our strategy for clean energy, and that is what we have now given them. New nuclear, new gas, existing and new renewable technologies will all help us to meet the challenge of decarbonisation in the power sector. We will set out our approach to heat next year as part of our wider strategy on carbon budgets, and we will continue to lead the way on innovation by pioneering the discovery of clean and cheap technologies for the future. We have a plan, and it is to deliver affordable, secure, low-carbon energy for today and for generations well into the future.