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Green Energy Technologies

Volume 557: debated on Thursday 31 January 2013

It is estimated that replacing and upgrading our electricity infrastructure over the next decade will require approximately £110 billion of capital investment. That will provide investment opportunities for a mix of low-carbon technologies, with all the exciting prospects that brings.

I thank the Minister of State for that answer, not least because so many firms in my constituency are clearly interested in green technologies. Does he agree that the Government have taken measures to demonstrate clarity and consistency of policy, and that that should give comfort to investors, particularly bankers, in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises?

I think it was John Ruskin who said that when we build we must think that we build for ever, and the Government are determined to build a framework of certainty that will allow investment in a range of generating technologies to guarantee our energy security. Our ambitions are no less than that.

If things are going so well, will the Minister tell the House why 17 companies are taking his Department to court for billions of pounds of compensation because of cuts to feed-in tariffs, why 80% of the solar industry has collapsed over the past year in respect of installations, and why companies in my constituency are screaming at me about the Government’s failure to develop solar industries?

The right hon. Gentleman was a distinguished Home Office Minister under the previous Government, so he will know that when the Government take on major challenges, such as the one I have described, it is not, of course, an easy road to tread. The Government’s determination to reform our electricity market and introduce the changes necessary to guarantee our energy security is, by any comparison—certainly in comparison with the Government of whom he was a part—profound, valued and welcomed by the vast majority in the industry.

One technology that could make a huge difference in this area is anaerobic digestion. I have had discussions with companies in the field, and despite interest from the green investment bank they report that they are still having difficulty in accessing finance. What more can the Minister do to help with that problem?

It is critical that both the cost and availability of capital underpin the investment I have described, and that is particularly true, as the hon. Gentleman says, for small and medium-sized enterprises. We are working on that with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills—my former Department—but given that he has raised the matter in this way, I will look at it again and report back directly to him.

We heard the Minister talk about the certainty and clarity of the new arrangements and contracts for difference, but those of us serving on the Energy Bill Committee have in recent weeks heard evidence from ScottishPower, the Royal Bank of Scotland, RenewableUK and others, about the importance of the three-year transitional period. This morning we have the opportunity to vote for a Labour amendment to the Energy Bill that would ensure that if there is any delay, that three-year period of transition will remain. Will the Minister confirm whether he will be voting for that amendment, and if not, why not?

I never confirm what I am going to do about amendments until I have heard the arguments, and as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, it would be premature for me to consider his amendment in the House at this time and not in Committee. On the specifics of the issue, we have allowed an overlap between the renewables obligation and the new arrangements, specifically and particularly because we want businesses to be able to adapt to the new system.