Skip to main content

Offshore Wind Farms

Volume 528: debated on Thursday 19 May 2011

Offshore wind is currently supported under the renewables obligation, and we have brought forward the banding review to determine future support to realise the full potential of this vital sector. Through electricity market reform, we are working on more enduring support for low-carbon electricity generation and we will publish a White Paper before the summer recess. I chair the Offshore Wind Developers Forum, which is working to identify barriers that need to be addressed.

According to the Government’s figures, by 2020 they expect there to be 14 GW of onshore wind capacity and 13 GW of offshore wind capacity. My constituents and, I suspect, many Members in this House would like there to be far more wind turbines offshore than onshore, because it is windier offshore and offshore wind turbines do not despoil the British countryside.

My hon. Friend has picked up on one of the five or six scenarios that we put forward on how we can meet our 2050 targets. I understand his concerns, but we also have to take account of cost. Offshore wind costs about twice as much as onshore wind. We need to be aware of the interests of consumers, who have to pay the bills.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that the Government should reduce by several gigawatts their target of a 13 GW capacity for offshore wind electricity generation by 2020, precisely because of that expense. Will the Minister assure the House that if that target is abandoned, he will do all he can to ensure that onshore wind farms are not blocked by nimbyism in Tory and Lib Dem-controlled councils?

The hon. Lady raises an issue that is of concern to Members from all parts of the House. There is a realisation about the impact of onshore wind farms. We want there to be more onshore wind farms, but we are determined to ensure that they are built in the most appropriate locations and that there is support for the communities that host them.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the good news that the Danish company, Vestas, has announced its intention to set up a wind turbine factory in my constituency, which will create 2,000 much-needed jobs. However, the project is conditional on a number of factors, including the Government delivering stability in the market, and long-term political and regulatory certainty. What assurances can my hon. Friend give Vestas to help us seal the deal and turn that good news into very good news?

My hon. Friend highlights one of the investment opportunities that is coming through as a result of our approach of wanting a supply chain industry to develop for the offshore wind sector in this country. That news is very encouraging. I reassure Vestas that the area of Sheerness has a dedicated and able work force, an absolute champion in its Member of Parliament, and a supportive Government who want to see this matter move forward.

The Opposition share the Minister’s ambitions on offshore wind, which is no surprise given that it is our policy as well, and on renewables generally. How does he react to the news that renewables investment in the UK plummeted by 70% last year under the coalition Government; that we have dropped from third to 13th in the global rankings for renewables investment; and that a report on the coalition’s green promises shows little or no progress on three quarters of its promises? What now for the greenest Government ever?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the funding mechanism of renewables obligation certificates that we inherited has a cliff edge in 2013, and we have tried to give investors certainty beyond that point. It is clear that in the case of many renewable technologies, people have been unable to build structures because the system was to change in 2013. They did not know what the regime was going to be afterwards. That is why we have brought forward the banding review—to give investors long-term certainty and introduce market reform at the same time.