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Offshore Wind Sector

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2018

Offshore wind has been a fantastic UK success story. Costs have halved and jobs have been created. In my hon. Friend’s constituency, the port of Lowestoft has been a construction base for the Galloper project. It will shortly become the base for East Anglia ONE’s 25-year operations and maintenance work. We want to build on that success. Our clean growth strategy said that we could see a further 10 GW of new capacity in the 2020s. There is the opportunity for additional deployment if that is cost-effective.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer and I will be at the opening of the East Anglia One operations and maintenance base on Friday in Lowestoft. Offshore wind, as he said, is bringing significant benefits to coastal communities, though to realise its full potential there is the need to ensure that local people and businesses have every opportunity to take part in the success story. Can he confirm that this will be the Government’s No. 1 priority in the forthcoming sector deal?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I hope that the event later in the week goes well; I am sure it will. He is absolutely right that part of the industrial strategy, in particular the local industrial strategies, is to make sure that the benefits of these investments are available to the local workforce, and I know that he will work very closely with new Anglia local enterprise partnership to ensure that that is the case.

Britain needs about £22 billion a year of investment in clean energy to meet our legally binding EU renewables targets, but my Committee heard that, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, investment has collapsed over the past two years. Given that the Brexit White Paper says that the Government believe that there is no need for a common rulebook on environmental or climate change rules, what confidence can investors in offshore or onshore wind have that the Government will support low-carbon energy if we leave?

We are very clear in our support for that in the clean growth strategy and, as the hon. Lady can see, in the level of investment that is being made right across the country. It was very clear in the White Paper that followed the Chequers meeting that we had made a commitment to the highest of environmental standards.

I recently visited the Rampion offshore wind farm, which is a stunning achievement, supplying enough power for a third of Sussex’s needs. Is the Secretary of State also looking at how to expand existing wind farms as well as just building new ones, particularly if it can be done in a way that does not have a visual impact from land?

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. There is the opportunity, through the auctions that have been so successful, for expansions to come forward and be proposed, but he should also be aware that, given the leadership that we have in this area, we are also leading in replacing blades and turbines when they come to the ends of their life. That is a very important source of jobs that will be available to the exports markets around the world as well.

Offshore wind has an excellent strike price of £57.50 per megawatt-hour, yet this Government’s dogma will see consumers locked into paying £20 to £40 more per megawatt-hour for new nuclear. If that was not enough of a hit on family budgets, it has been reported that the Government will use the public purse to let Hitachi off the hook for the cost of any safety breaches at its Wylfa nuclear plant. Is it not time that this Tory Government ended their obsession with outdated, expensive and risky nuclear and put the public and consumers first?

It is always necessary to have a diverse source of energy supplies, and nuclear has made and does make a big contribution to that: about 20% of our current electricity comes from nuclear. That is very important for households and businesses, including in Scotland. Every new project has to be assessed as value for money for the taxpayer and consumers and that will continue to be a criterion that will be rigorously imposed.