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Sustainable Energy

Volume 585: debated on Thursday 4 September 2014

3. What his Department’s policy is on promoting sustainable energy sources; what estimate he has made of future UK generating capacity from such sources; and if he will make a statement. (905175)

We have a range of measures in place to promote sustainable energy sources, including reforms to the electricity market to support nuclear, renewables and carbon capture and storage. The percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources has doubled from 7% in 2010 to 14% at the end of last year.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his answer, but it demonstrates that renewables are not the only way and something we can depend on for electricity supply. I note that generation from nuclear power went down slightly in the first quarter of this year, from 18% to 17.7%. What action is he taking to ensure that nuclear energy expands in the years to come?

The whole Department is supporting and driving the first new generation nuclear power stations, which are extremely important for our energy security and the energy mix. Of course a mix is the best way to deliver energy. Renewables are important and are now a material part of our energy supply, but nuclear is zero-carbon energy, too, so we are working hard to land the new generation of nuclear power stations.

Is it still Government policy to support energy from waste incineration? There are problems in my constituency, where the biggest incinerator, run by Viridor, is causing problems of emissions, odours and noise. Will he ask his officials to have a look at the situation in Runcorn to see what is going wrong there?

There are opportunities in energy from waste, not least because it deals with two problems at once, but we have to make sure we get the details right. I will be happy to look at the case the hon. Gentleman raises.

The record growth, the record deployment, the record investment in renewables under this coalition Government are hugely to their credit, but there is more that we can do. Solar is a particularly exciting opportunity, as my right hon. Friend says, and we are about to smash through 4 GW of solar deployed under this Government, but we need to do more to unlock the potential of roofs, particularly commercial and industrial roof space. Will he pledge to work with my hon. Friends to continue to tear down the barriers to deployment?

Here I am trumpeting this Government’s successes in deployment of renewable investment, and there is the man who led the charge. I pay huge tribute to the work my right hon. Friend did—he did an absolutely terrific job. Thanks to his work, 1 million people now live with solar panels on their roof. I think solar is one of the big opportunities. As the price falls and it becomes competitive—potentially grid competitive—in the short to medium term, solar is a big opportunity, even in cloudy old England.

Following on from the exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), what assessment has the Minister made of the impact of a brake on wind farm development on land on our burgeoning wind farm manufacturing industry and on companies such as West Coast Energy in my constituency, which create hundreds of jobs specialising in that growth area of the economy?

The doubling of investment in renewables under this Government has undoubtedly helped those people, as it has helped many other people to get jobs, which is one of the reasons we are seeing record jobs in this country as part of our long-term economic plan.

The people of north and west Wiltshire strongly support renewable energy, but we are besieged by hundreds of planning applications from London-based commercial operations for solar farms, not on roofs of factories or brownfield sites, but on greenfield sites across the county. Will my right hon. Friend reiterate the strong message that our right hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) previously sent out, which is a strong presumption against the use of agricultural land and a strong presumption in favour of industrial roofs and other places?

There are opportunities for solar, where appropriately sited, in many different places on roofs and on land. In fact, land can be combined with agricultural use and solar. One other advantage of solar is that it can effectively be masked from being seen from elsewhere because it is low-rise rather than high-rise. This has to be done sensitively. There is no point in destroying our green and pleasant land in order to save the global environment. We have to tackle security of supply and climate change in a way that also protects the local environment.