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Energy Infrastructure

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 14 March 2017

Just yesterday I was a few miles away from my hon. Friend’s constituency in Carrington, opening a new combined-cycle gas turbine plant. A few weeks before that, I was in Folkestone to see the new interconnectors being built through the channel tunnel. Both schemes remind us of the Government’s commitment to the UK’s energy infrastructure, underscored by a capacity market and contracts for difference. We are also investing £320 million in new heat infrastructure, which underlines the size of our whole commitment.

Base load energy supply is fundamental to delivering our energy needs. Solar and wind power do not provide base load, and there is a pressure not to increase the consumption of hydrocarbons, so does my hon. Friend agree that, in the absence of energy storage capacity, future investment must go to the nuclear industry, especially small modular reactors?

As my hon. Friend knows, we are spending a great deal of time working with developers, with new investment, alongside the plans that are already being executed at Hinkley. Small modular reactors could be part of that conversation. However, there are many possible storage technologies that might come on stream over the next decade or two; undoubtedly, they will also be an important part of the picture.

The country needs 21st century systems such as smart metering. Will the Minister update the House on the progress of the roll-out, and will he have a word with the energy companies to stop them blaming the Government for smart metering being part of the hike in energy prices that is ripping off the consumer?

We are in no doubt at all about the need for energy companies to bear down on prices. As they will be aware, the costs of policy are a relatively small part of those prices.

Tidal energy gives the UK an opportunity to provide a clean and predictable source of renewable energy. It is a sector in which we have world-leading business expertise in the Solent region. Will my hon. Friend consider giving tidal a higher priority in the UK energy strategy so that we can maintain our competitive edge?

My hon. Friend will know that we are looking at tidal energy and related issues closely in the context of our consideration of the Hendry review.

Following on from that question, will the Minister tell the House when a final decision will be made on the Swansea tidal lagoon?

It is fair to say that we have stated that we will come to the House as soon we can and that the matter is presently under consideration.

The Minister mentioned the capacity market. I am sure he will agree that the prime purpose of that market has been to procure new infrastructure capacity. Will he tell me how many new gas-fired power stations have been procured with the £3.4 billion that has been spent so far on the capacity market? What plans does he have to improve that number?

Well, I am all in favour of the self-answering question, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that the last capacity market procured energy at a cost of £7 per kilowatt, which is cheaper than any conceivable alternative.