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Energy Sources

Volume 929: debated on Monday 28 March 1977

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with his Department's approach toward the encouragement of benign and renewable sources of energy, especially solar energy.

Yes, Sir. The research and development programmes announced and planned by my Department are commensurate with the present early stage in the development of these technologies.

How can the hon. Gentleman be satisfied about his Department's efforts when, in the Press release on the new policy which was put out recently, no mention was made of the export potential of solar energy? Surely this is one of the matters that the Department of Energy should be considering as a good export earner for Britain.

This is a comparatively new technology. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there certainly could be export potential here. If he looks at the Press release to which he referred, he will see that we have increased the sums to be spent on research into solar energy. I do not dismiss what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Does the Minister accept that the best guess—it is nothing more—is that by the end of the century benign sources could account for as much as 10 per cent. of our energy needs? Does he accept that the amount currently spent on research on these sources is so small as to be insignificant compared with that spent on nuclear energy?

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is that his figures are about right. Figures varying from 6 per cent. to 8 per cent. and 10 per cent. have been mentioned by about the year 2000. As for the allocation of finance to alternative sources of energy, as much is being spent as needs to be spent at the present time, because the whole technology is to some extent in its infancy. Of course, as the technology improves the Department will consider allocating more finance to alternative sources of energy.