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Renewable Energy Generation

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2021

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on supporting renewable energy generation in Scotland. (904684)

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on supporting renewable energy generation in Scotland. (904685)

I regularly discuss issues of importance to Scotland with Ministers, including support for Scotland’s renewable energy sector. Our recently published net zero strategy will leverage up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030 across the entire UK.

Edinburgh based Nova Innovation is a success story in the tidal energy sector. There are plans for tidal energy schemes across the UK, including in the Liverpool city region, with the Mersey tidal barrage. Thanks in large part to the Labour party and the industry, £20 million is now available in the contracts for difference scheme, after years when there was nothing. Will the Minister commit to long-term support for the tidal energy industry, which has so much potential in Scotland, for my constituents in Merseyside and across the UK?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point to contracts for difference, the fourth round of which was announced at the beginning of this week and is bigger than the other three rounds put together. Scotland has punched above her weight, securing 21% of the capacity in the previous rounds, and stands well placed—not just in tidal, but right across the spectrum of renewable energy. We are funding this in the short and long term.

The British Government have not backed the Acorn carbon capture and storage cluster, which is vital to Scotland’s path to net zero, but are maintaining support for the Cambo oilfield, which would dig up more fossil fuels for years to come. Does the Minister agree that the priority should always be supporting renewable energy generation, not fossil fuels?

The hon. Gentleman paints a misleading picture of the support that we are giving. I have just outlined to the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) the long-term support that we are providing to the renewables sector. It is wrong to say that we are not backing Acorn. There was a competitive round for two carbon capture and storage schemes. Acorn was a good project; it is a reserved project. We continue to work with it to ensure that it has a fighting chance of securing the next tranche of the carbon capture and storage schemes.

I welcome the remarks made by my hon. Friend with regard to Acorn in my constituency, which is still very much on the table, despite protestations from Opposition Members. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government also provide the oil and gas industry with vital support for the energy transition through the North sea transition deal?

I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I pay tribute to the tireless work that he does to champion the energy sector, both as a Minister and as a local Member. He is absolutely right; yes, we need to transition to renewable, but we have to be aware of the fact that we will need oil and gas during that transition period—not just for energy, but for the all the other purposes for which fossil fuels are required, such as the production of medicine.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The post-COP26 message is that Governments have little time to act on climate change. As the Secretary of State is aware, the Acorn carbon capture and storage project has not been given the go-ahead by the UK Government, but it could create 15,000 highly skilled jobs in Scotland and demonstrate that a just transition is feasible. The shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray), wrote to the First Minister to encourage her to find a joint solution, but the reply contained more reasons not to work together and grievances than finding a solution for the project. Rather than the UK and Scottish Governments trading insults, will the Secretary of State back the Acorn project by finding a joint funding solution with the Scottish Government?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position. I look forward to our debates in the weeks and months ahead. I can advise her that she should probably not be too surprised when letters from the Scottish Government are full of grievances—that is par for the course. On Acorn, we do support the scheme. There was a competitive bidding round, where it placed third. It is a reserved project, and we are working with it to ensure that it stands a good chance in the next tranche of the carbon capture and storage scheme.

Alongside renewable energy, we need to accept our current energy mix with the energy transition. Does the Minister therefore share my anger at the Scottish Government’s complete dismissal of the Cambo oilfield, at the expense of oil and gas workers in Scotland and across the country?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said a minute ago, we cannot just switch off oil and gas immediately. We want a transition, and this Government are investing significantly, with £160 million in floating wind farms, £20 million for tidal stream and the £285 million next round of contracts for difference, but it is important that we do not lose our domestic oil and gas supply not only for energy, but for the whole range of purposes, including medicine and other vital products.