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Energy Supplies

Volume 525: debated on Thursday 24 March 2011

3. What recent steps he has taken to ensure security of energy supplies in response to the political situation in the middle east. (48540)

The UK has diverse sources of oil and gas, including our own substantial North sea production. Political unrest in the middle east has not led to any oil or gas shortages so far. My Department has been in close contact with the International Energy Agency and International Energy Forum partners, and Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries members. Saudi Arabia has said it will make up any shortfall through increased oil production. The IEA has confirmed its readiness to use emergency stocks, if required.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. Microgeneration is a key part of our future energy security. What impact does my right hon. Friend expect his Department’s decisions on feed-in tariffs to have on the number of home owners able to generate their own electricity?

I expect the decisions we are taking on feed-in tariffs to ensure a steady and sustained growth in the industry, which will protect householders, who are completely unaffected by the review, in respect of any amount below 50 kW. As the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) pointed out, that amounts to two tennis courts and it is absolutely unaffected. We therefore expect that the number of households generating their own electricity will rise.

The Secretary of State surely knows that solar is a very important part of future energy security in our country. The recent decision to backtrack on solar means that community groups that were going to make a real contribution now feel deserted. Their banks have deserted them, so this sort of solar initiative will no longer go ahead.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has taken up this issue. Let me be clear that the decisions we took were designed to ensure sustainable and strong growth in the solar industry. That is absolutely key. We are precisely trying to avoid boom and bust in this sector. If it had gone on growing, the large-scale plants would have gobbled up all the money available for small-scale plants. That would have meant slamming on the brakes, after which there would have been a much greater threat to the industry. We are going to have sustainable growth, which is as it should be.

May I put it to the Minister that in the current dangerous and complex circumstances the most important key to the preservation of oil supplies is that Bahrain should remain in friendly hands, and that from the British point of view it is strategically far more important than Libya?

The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting and important point. Bahrain is a long-standing friend of this country. We have watched with interest over the years as it has increasingly experimented with becoming a more open society, and it is very regrettable that that process is where it is. I note what my hon. Friend has said, and we are watching the situation closely.