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Low-Carbon Industries

Volume 672: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2020

Supporting low-carbon industries is central to my Department’s mission to deliver our net zero target. We are backing our ambition with action. Since 2012, coal use on the grid has fallen from 40% to less than 3% in 2019, and renewable electricity generation has quadrupled since 2010, with low-carbon electricity providing more than 50% of our total energy needs.

In 2018, investment in acquisitions in the UK’s solar dropped to just £0.3 billion, from £1.6 billion in 2015. Should the Government not be doing more to support renewable power, in the light of the net zero target—which the Secretary of State mentioned—and the closure of the feed-in tariff, especially given that German, Italian and Spanish companies are now investing over six times more than UK companies in low-carbon technologies?

I am delighted that the hon. Lady has raised the issue of solar power, because, as she will know, solar photovoltaics is a UK success story. There has been rapid deployment over the past eight years, and more than 99% of the UK’s solar PV capacity has been deployed since May 2010. The latest figures indicate that we now have more than 1 million solar installations, or 13.4 GW, of capacity installed.

In Cornwall, we have some exciting new emerging industries such as geothermal energy and lithium extraction. How is my right hon. Friend encouraging those industries to produce green energy in the future?

We are putting significant funds behind the renewables sector, and, as my hon. Friend will know, we are committed to increasing our research and development spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. I want the UK to be a science and R&D superpower, and that is what we are engaged in.

The hon. Gentleman may have missed yesterday’s announcement about the fourth contracts for difference allocation round, but if he reads that announcement, he will see the points that we have made. The proposals that we have presented are there to help the UK achieve its 2015 net zero ambition.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support for the onshore wind sector. What support are the Government providing to advance the hydrogen economy and to decarbonise the hard to abate sectors?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Hydrogen can, of course, play a key role in net zero efforts, alongside electricity. My Department is investing in innovation, with up to £121 million supporting a range of projects to explore and develop the potential of low-carbon hydrogen.

One of the UK’s great industrial success stories in recent decades has been the automotive industry. What discussions does the Secretary of State plan to have with the industry to help ensure that the UK is best placed to make the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles?

Within days of taking office, I spoke to our major automotive manufacturers, and I have had meetings with a number of them. However, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We want to encourage electric vehicles, and we are also committed to securing investment for a UK gigafactory. Last year, we announced up to £1 billion of new money to support R&D and supply chains for electric vehicles.