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Renewable Energy

Volume 592: debated on Thursday 5 February 2015

2. What estimate he has made of the proportion of electricity demand that will be met by renewable energy in 2015 compared with 2010. (907443)

So it is true: this is the greenest Government ever. Will my right hon. Friend tell us what proportion of that electricity is generated by onshore wind? Can he confirm that onshore wind is the most mature, least expensive, and most efficient form of renewable energy, and is actually pretty popular?

A high proportion of electricity is from onshore wind, but there is also solar—one million people now live in households with solar panels on their roofs—and offshore wind, which plays an important role. We will continue to have a strong energy mix, with a strong performance from renewables, to ensure that we deliver on our pledge, which we are committed to and are fulfilling, to be the greenest Government ever.

The Minister knows that some Liberal Democrat voices in the Government are keen on this being a green Government, but the fact is that there are climate change deniers in his own party in other Departments. Every time wind power is brought in, it is knocked down by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Minister knows there is a subversive element in the Government who hate anything to do with renewable energy.

The hon. Gentleman is normally quite sensible, and I normally agree with him, but subversive elements are certainly not part of the current Government, as we can tell from our record. The proportion of electricity generated from renewables has doubled under this Government. We are committed to ensuring that renewables play a big part of the mix in the most cost-effective way that they can.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating Wiltshire council, which has already achieved its 2020 renewables target through a whole variety of means? Does he agree that that achievement ought to be a substantive consideration when the Planning Inspectorate decides on further applications for solar on greenfield sites?

I know my hon. Friend has a concern about solar panels being put in inappropriate places. There are appropriate places for solar to go, especially on roofs and in brownfield sites. That is, of course, a matter for a strong planning system, in which those local decisions are rightly made, but that does not take away from the fact that we have so much more renewable energy than we did just five short years ago.

On the subject of the energy mix, which the Minister referred to, is he aware that we would not be discussing this question of wind power had not the Tories shut more than 100 pits after 1984? There are three of them left. We had a big march in Kellingley on Saturday, and more than 500 people from Thoresby and Hatfield turned up demanding the state aid that he has promised for several weeks at that Dispatch Box. Will he now state emphatically that he will apply for state aid to keep those three pits open, so that they can exhaust their reserves and enable those 3,000 miners to keep their jobs? That’s energy mix—get on with it.

I admire the hon. Gentleman’s ability to get a question on coal into one on the Order Paper about renewables. I come from coal mining stock, and I have delivered support to the three remaining deep pits so far to make sure they stay open on a commercial basis, and to ensure, as far as possible within the constraints of affordability and value for money, the continuation of this mining. There is nobody who has done more than me in the past six months to make this happen. I will continue to work with all parties, including the National Union of Mineworkers, to get there.

To change the question slightly, one area in which there could be improvement is in encouraging industry to move from electricity to more renewable sources for heat and energy. Is the target of 20% being met, and what discussions has the Minister had with his equivalent in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Arlene Foster, to ensure that these targets are met across the whole United Kingdom?

If I may say so, that was a rather better question than the previous one. This is an important issue. We are working with our colleagues in Northern Ireland at an official level and throughout the Government to deliver on the commitments made, and it is important that we continue to do so.