Skip to main content

Electricity Generation

Volume 468: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2007

3. What recent discussions he has had with Scottish Ministers on electricity generation in Scotland. (167458)

There have been no such recent discussions, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently met Ofgem to discuss a range of issues.

I note with interest that the Secretary of State recently met Ofgem. The Minister will know that there has been a great deal of concern in Scotland about the discriminatory transmission regime that Ofgem imposed on generators. It is now proposing a double whammy for Scottish generators by also proposing a locational distribution charge for energy generated in Scotland by whatever means it is generated. Will he urge his colleagues at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and other Cabinet colleagues to reject this latest bout of madness from Ofgem?

The current transmission arrangements ensure that Scottish consumers are paying lower utility bills than they were paying previously, but of course transmission charges are irrelevant if the generating capacity is not being built. The Scottish Executive had four planning decisions to make about onshore renewable wind farms, and they rejected three of them. If they turn down three wind farms, they will not have the capacity to transmit energy. Until they can come up with an explanation of how they will plug the gap that will be left when they do away with nuclear power, they have no credibility whatever on the issue.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a huge percentage of electricity generated in Scotland at present is nuclear? Does he agree that it is naive and populist for the Scottish Executive to rule out nuclear as part of the energy mix?

My hon. Friend is right. Across the UK as a whole about 20 per cent. of electricity is generated from nuclear. In Scotland the figure is nearer 40 per cent., so it is incumbent on those who think that there will be no nuclear in future to explain how we will get the base load, how we will keep the lights on, and how we will make sure that Scotland has a sufficient supply of electricity. Only this week a new proposal for a wind farm is being made in my constituency. Guess who is leading the campaign against it? The local Scottish National party.

The Minister will be aware of the immense potential for renewable energy in the Pentland firth. He will also be aware, because I have told him about it, of the work—[Interruption.]

The Minister will be aware of the work being done by the project team. The Minister will also know that the responsibilities to enable that to happen fall between the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Scottish Government. How can he use his best offices to ensure the best outcome for renewable energy in the Pentland firth?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is tremendous potential in the Pentland firth, as I saw for myself not once but twice during the past few months. Here at Westminster, the Government are advancing on three fronts at once with the Planning Bill, an energy Bill and the Climate Change Bill to ensure that we can supply the energy that our country needs without wrecking the planet in the process. Many planning issues are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive. We will work closely with them to guarantee that the best advances can be made in ensuring that the potential of the Pentland firth comes on stream, although onshore wind capacity is far more advanced. They have turned down three out of four planning applications in that area, so how on earth do they hope to plug the gap?

Yesterday, British Energy announced an interest in two sites in Scotland for the next generation of nuclear power stations. Why should both the United Kingdom’s energy policy and its ambition to reduce carbon emissions be held hostage by Scottish nationalists using planning technicalities in a Scottish Parliament? What will the Secretary of State and his colleague do to ensure that the First Minister does not gamble with Britain’s environment on constitutional politics?

The Government are entirely clear that it is for the private sector to come forward with proposals for nuclear power stations and to decide where it would like them located. In terms of consents under the Electricity Act 1989 and planning, these matters have been devolved. The Scottish National party is turning down three quarters of applications for new wind farms, but the Conservative party wants a moratorium on all new wind farms, so it would not be able to plug the gap either.