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Tidal Energy

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

8. What recent progress has been made on developing tidal energy schemes; and if he will make a statement. (308894)

A lot of progress has been made on developing tidal energy schemes. The Crown Estate leasing round for the Pentland firth is on course, and we expect the Crown Estate to announce the successful bidders by the end of March. There are three feasibility studies for tidal range projects currently under way, for the Severn, the Mersey and the Solway firth. Officials have now received the final report on the screening study for marine energy development in English and Welsh waters, which will inform Ministers’ decisions on whether to proceed with a strategic environmental assessment for English and Welsh waters.

I thank the Minister for that answer. However, given that something as modest as Peel Holdings’ proposal for a tidal lagoon in the Mersey would generate 650 GW of energy a year—much more than wind farms—is it not time the Government got solidly behind such schemes, given our dismal record on renewables? We have had plenty of studies. We now need some action.

I got sufficiently solidly behind that project by visiting it last year and giving it my personal support. Peel Holdings and the North West Development Agency are currently spending £3 million on the feasibility study to which the hon. Gentleman referred, which will conclude this year. I am enthusiastic about its prospects of leading to a suitable scheme that will be meaningful in producing renewable energy from the marine environment.

As my hon. Friend rightly said, any scheme has to be a reasonable one that works. Does he therefore recognise the work of the Energy Technologies Institute, which he visited in my constituency some time ago, in ensuring that the technologies that we introduce are the most efficient and best for the country, and will make a genuine economic impact? What steps is he taking to ensure that some of the private sector partners required to make that £1 billion Energy Technologies Institute work are being involved, and can he assist in ensuring that that happens?

I am solidly behind the Energy Technologies Institute too, having visited it. I congratulate the institute on its decision to invest in research and development, and deployment for marine technologies. My hon. Friend is so right that we are talking about an innovative collaboration between the public and private sectors. A number of key manufacturers in this country are subscribers to the ETI, and I would encourage more to join.

Feasibility studies, consultations, reviews and glossy brochures cannot mask Labour’s total failure over the past decade to develop the huge potential of offshore renewable energy—not just tidal energy, but wind and wave energy, and other forms of harnessing the immense power of the sea. Will the Government now recognise that ambitious Conservative proposals for marine energy parks, supported by a green investment bank and new energy infrastructure offshore, is the way to realise the potential of our seas, rather than the piecemeal, short-term and ineffective approach that has characterised this out-of-touch Labour Government?

I just cannot understand how the hon. Gentleman can be so out of touch. This country leads the world in connected electricity energy from offshore wind, and the recent announcement of the round 3 leases by the Crown Estate makes us by far the largest contributor in the world to that technology. On marine technology—which is what this question was supposed to be about—I do not think the work we have done on the banded renewables obligation, the marine renewables proving fund or the strategic environmental assessment can be dismissed as lightly as the hon. Gentleman suggests.