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Electricity Transmission Network

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2009

4. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of levels of funding for the electricity transmission network in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. (292281)

The regulation and funding of networks in the UK is a matter first and foremost for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Ofgem. Delivering the necessary reinforcements by 2015 will require up to an estimated £4.7 billion of new investment onshore, in addition to current refurbishment and expansion plans requiring some £4 billion to £5 billion, which have already been approved by Ofgem.

I thank the Minister for her answer. She will be aware that £1.4 billion is required to upgrade the transmission system. In addition, new renewables and technology are coming on line. Is she confident that this target can be reached by 2015, given that the Beauly-Denny transmission link is still outstanding from 2000 and has been held up by the current Scottish Government?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for his long-standing interest in energy issues for the benefit of Scotland. He is right to say that the decision on the Beauly-Denny line is still to be made. That is a responsibility of the Scottish Government, but I hope and expect that a decision will be made this year. The time for dithering is over; it is time for real decisions. That is why Ofgem has already approved £43 million of pre-construction contracts, as part of the £4.7 billion investment, and is working seriously with the industry to ensure that we have the right environment to encourage that investment.

Has the Minister had discussions with the Energy Secretary about the punitive charging regime for the construction—the upgrade—during that period of the Scottish-English interconnector? I ask that because there is great concern that the regime will be punitive for Scottish generators.

I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that I have had discussions with the Energy Minister regarding transmission charging in Scotland. We do not believe that the transmission charging regime in any way discriminates against Scotland. I welcome the fact that Scottish Power has recently announced proposals for up to five new wind farms in Scotland—that is a good indication that a lot of people want to invest in Scotland. We are reviewing transmission access, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, and we want to ensure that renewable energy gets the proper priority that it deserves.

The Minister will be aware that there is a proposal for a new coal power station at Hunterston. Will that be allowed to go ahead without carbon capture being in place?

I can confirm that any new plant will be required to incorporate carbon capture. As my hon. Friend will be aware, any planning consents in relation to new power plants in Scotland are a matter for the Scottish Government.