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Low-carbon Technologies

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 16 September 2010

5. What recent discussions he has had on the Government’s strategy for promoting low-carbon technologies. (15497)

On 27 July, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State delivered the first annual energy statement to Parliament, which set out the Government’s strategic energy policy. Catalysing private sector investment in new low-carbon technologies is a crucial part of our strategy. My most recent discussions in the sector, specifically in the area of new technology, took place last Wednesday and were with the chief executive of the Energy Technologies Institute.

I thank the Minister for that response. We all want to catalyse the private sector, and he will know of the potential for tens of thousands of jobs in the wind turbine manufacturing sector. However, he will also know that European ports are wooing British and other manufacturers to settle in them, particularly as a result of the uncertainty over the offshore wind infrastructure competition. Can he guarantee us that that competition will be opened, in order to provide manufacturers with the certainty that there is a future for locating their base here in Britain, not in European ports?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the new coalition is absolutely committed to making sure that we capture far more of the manufacturing supply chain associated with the expansion of offshore wind power than was the miserable case under the previous Government, when 90% or more of this was manufactured overseas. I cannot comment on any specific spending programmes ahead of the comprehensive spending review, but I can assure him that offshore wind power and capturing the opportunity right the way down the supply chain is at the heart of our policies.

I welcome the review of the four clean coal demonstrator sites, particularly the focus on retro-fitting. Will the Government give proper and full consideration to the proposal for carbon capture and storage put forward by Kingsnorth, in my constituency? Will it be possible to allow that to go ahead with the fitting of CCS to only one of the four turbines, rather than the two previously suggested, to bring things down to the level of gas?

I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in this vital technology. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we are absolutely committed to driving forward CCS. I can inform him that it is one of the two schemes that are in that particular competition.

The Secretary of State this morning said that he was strongly committed to renewable heat, but last week the independent Committee on Climate Change wrote to him to say that uncertainty about the renewable heat incentive means that “projects are not progressing”. Yesterday, in evidence to the Select Committee, he said that he had simply forgotten the renewable heat incentive when drawing up the coalition agreement. Does the Minister not realise that certainty about the renewable heat incentive is essential in meeting the need for the creation of jobs and investment in industry and, indeed, is crucial in reducing the deficit?

I have to say that when we came into office this Government were not only shocked by the state of the public finances but appalled at the lack of preparation for the renewable heat incentive, which left a great deal of work to be done by the new Administration. We will not be able to make an announcement about the RHI until we have had the comprehensive spending review, but I can assure the right hon. Lady that renewable heat is very important to this Government and that we will continue to support the industry.

As this is my last appearance at the Dispatch Box, perhaps I can share a secret with the hon. Gentleman. That is, of course, that the Treasury will always be opposed to mechanisms such as the renewable heat incentive. Will he and his colleagues tell us this morning that they are fighting tooth and nail to get the incentive introduced as planned next April? We convinced the Treasury that that made sense for jobs, for investment and for growth—will he do the same?

I am extremely sad to hear that the right hon. Lady will be taking early retirement, and I am sure that she will find herself pressed back into service, whoever the leader of her party is. Renewable heat is vital to our agenda and I can assure her that that commitment runs right through the Department and is just as strong as when she was there, if not stronger.