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Renewable Energy

Volume 671: debated on Wednesday 12 February 2020

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the renewable energy sector in Scotland. (900709)

8. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the renewable energy sector in Scotland. (900716)

My Department has regular engagement with colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a range of issues relevant to Scotland, including the renewable energy sector.

Scotland has a huge geographical advantage when it comes to wave and tidal energy, with reports suggesting that up to 40,000 jobs could be created in the sector if it had Government support. What work is being done in Government to explore wave and tidal technology?

The hon. Lady is right; we have an advantage with that and with our wind speeds, mountains and hydro schemes. The Government are supporting technology. Wave and tidal technology is being investigated in universities, and we are completely behind that, should it prove to work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) is right about the geographical advantage. What infrastructure work are the Government undertaking—for example, interconnectors and storage—so that the clean green energy that Scotland is able to generate can be shared with the rest of the United Kingdom?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, interconnectors are a devolved matter, but we are looking at upgrading the schemes so that we can transfer our power across the United Kingdom and the advantage that we have in Scotland with renewables and our growing renewable industry can benefit the whole UK.

The Secretary of State will recall that, when EDF was given a licence to develop the wind farm at Neart na Gaoithe, 10 miles off the Fife coast, there was a commitment that 1,000 jobs would be created in making the jackets for the wind turbines. Can he tell the House how many jobs have been created?

No, because I do not know the answer—that is a perfectly straight answer to a straight question. What I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that the sector deal aims to create 27,000 jobs by 2030.

I will tell the Secretary of State how many jobs were created: 1,000—in Indonesia. Is the GMB union right in saying that the transportation of those wind turbines from Indonesia to the Fife coast will be the equivalent of 35 million cars on the road? How does that fit our commitment to greening the economy, and what confidence can people in Scotland have that jobs in a wind farm 10 miles off the Fife coast will be created for people in Scotland, not people in Indonesia?

That is the market economy, and we need to be better at pricing and better at producing our turbines—that is the straight answer. We will discuss this issue and many others at COP 26 in Glasgow later this year, when we discuss the climate emergency, but I do not dispute the fact that bringing turbines from Indonesia is not the answer; we need to find a better way of efficiently delivering them in the UK.

We are 13 minutes in, and I am tempted to ask the Secretary of State—and it is to do with wind, because Saturday was a windy day—about us winning the Calcutta cup. [Interruption.] Come on! You have to be happy with that.

We have had a balance of payments deficit, with lots of wind farms in Scotland being paid not to produce any electricity. Is that likely to take place later this year?

Obviously, I disagree with my hon. Friend on the Calcutta cup; that goes without saying. It was a wet, windy and miserable day at Murrayfield for me.

We are trying to improve the way in which wind works for Scotland. Contracts for difference provide certainty for investors over the longevity and protect consumers. In October 2019, at the last round of contracts for difference, six of the 12 awarded went to projects in Scotland.

Can my right hon. Friend update the House on the untapped capacity for using renewables in Scotland, and how many jobs would be created as a result of enhancing that capability?

There is enormous capability not just with more offshore wind schemes, but with more hydro schemes. As I said earlier, we intend to create 27,000 more jobs through using that untapped capacity.

Offshore wind and contracts for difference entry was cost-free to both the Government and the consumer as the strike price was below the typical wholesale price, but 240 MW of that remains stranded because Ofgem demands that the island of Lewis has at least 369 MW to build an interconnector cable. Another 180 MW could have been consented to, and that would have been cost-free, but they were not consented to due to Government caps. Can we have some joined-up thinking in the Government between the interconnector and the contracts for difference to ensure we are not billowing out fossil fuels when we could instead have 600 MW of wind being produced?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point. One of the things the UK should look at, for future infrastructure and shared prosperity, is building that interconnector.