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Renewable Energy

Volume 732: debated on Wednesday 17 May 2023

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on support for renewable energy in Scotland. (904920)

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on support for renewable energy in Scotland. (904923)

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on support for renewable energy in Scotland. (904925)

12. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on support for renewable energy in Scotland. (904931)

The UK Government remain firmly committed to the renewables industry across the United Kingdom, including the leading role that Scotland can play in delivering energy security and jobs. Over the past year, we have worked closely with the Scottish Government through the offshore wind acceleration taskforce to bring forward the deployment of offshore wind projects in the UK.

It costs an electricity generator almost £7.50 per megawatt-hour to connect to the national grid from the north of Scotland and £4.70 from the south of Scotland. That compares with 50p in England and Wales. Indeed, generators in the south of England are paid to connect to the grid. Does the Minister recognise that these unfair transmission charges—the highest in Europe—penalise investment in Scotland’s renewables sector and, if so, what is he doing about it?

By law, transmission network charging is a matter for Ofgem as the independent regulator. Transmission charges are set to reflect the costs imposed on the grid by generators and demand in different locations. That means that generators in Scotland pay higher charges than counterparts in England and Wales, reflecting the higher levels of transmission investment they drive. Ofgem recognises the importance of transmission charges to the deployment of Scottish renewable generation and the current concerns over the viability and cost reflectivity of charges. That is a key reason why Ofgem announced a programme of transmission charging reforms. I can confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that I recently met the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) to discuss what more the UK Government can do to address the concerns he has highlighted.

While the Scottish Government have announced an additional £7 million to support renewable hydrogen projects, Johnson Matthey, a leading producer of catalytic converters, has warned that the UK Government’s failure to invest in green hydrogen technology risks driving companies abroad. What are the Minister and the Secretary of State doing to persuade their Government to follow Scotland’s example and provide support for investment for companies driving green tech?

This Government fully recognise the opportunity that hydrogen presents as part of our shift in energy focus, and we will continue to work with the sector to deliver that.

Billions of pounds of renewable energy projects are currently stalled because there is no capacity to connect to the national grid. Some companies have been told that it will take 15 years. The Government’s failure to invest in interconnectors and grid capacity is not only hindering investment, but is harming the achievement of net zero. Given this failure, on top of the failures with connection charges and with hydrogen, does it not make a compelling case to transfer responsibility for energy supply and distribution to Scotland, where we can get the job done?

The answer is certainly not independence. The answer is ensuring we are doing all we can to reduce connection timescales as a priority. As well as accelerating the timelines for building new network infrastructure, that is also about the process for new projects to connect to the grid, such as how the connection queue is managed. To address that, we will be publishing a connections action plan in the summer, setting out actions by the Government, Ofgem and network companies to accelerate connections for renewable projects and other energy network providers.

According to the Chancellor, the UK Government’s windfall tax is set to generate £40 billion over six years, and the Minister for Nuclear claimed that taxes on Scotland’s oil and gas sector covered half of the UK energy bill last winter. Until now, however, this Government have failed to support the Acorn carbon capture and storage project in north-east Scotland. Do the Secretary of State and his Minister accept that windfall taxes from Scottish oil and gas should be used not just to pay short-term bills, but to invest in Scotland’s transition to net zero economy?

The energy profits levy strikes the right balance by funding the cost of living support while encouraging investment in order to bolster UK energy security. The levy is helping to hold down people’s energy bills right across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland, by partly funding one of the most generous cost of living packages in the world, worth around £96 billion or £3,300 per household. The hon. Lady shakes her head, but I know the benefits of the package for households in my constituency, across Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom. We want to encourage the reinvestment of the sector’s profits to support the economy, jobs and our energy security, which is why the more investment a firm makes into the UK, the less tax it will pay.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although renewable energy provides a considerable proportion of Scottish and UK power, if we are to hit net zero, nuclear power is and will be required to fulfil a large proportion of the additional power demand? Has my hon. Friend had any discussions with the Scottish Government on building nuclear reactors, especially small reactors, in Scotland?

I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s belief that nuclear plays an important part in the UK’s energy strategy. This UK Government’s “Powering up Britain” strategy is a blueprint for the future of energy in this country. We will diversify, decarbonise and incentivise new energy production by investing in both renewables and the nuclear sector. By setting Britain on course to greater energy independence, “Powering up Britain” will deliver energy security, of which nuclear will be a key part.

Energy storage is vital to managing demand as we switch to green electricity, and pump storage hydro is the most efficient large-scale storage method. Scottish Renewables has called for UK capacity to be more than doubled by investment in six shovel-ready projects across Scotland. Why are this Government refusing to support investment in infrastructure that is critical to future energy security?

I simply do not accept the hon. Lady’s analysis or conclusions. This Government are very much committed to the infrastructure investment that is needed to allow this new technology to evolve. However, the technology highlighted by the hon. Lady presents an opportunity, and we will continue to work with the sector to deliver it.

Pump storage hydro is hardly new technology. It has been around since the ’60s and lasts a long time, but it needs time to get built. Despite planning to take £40 billion in windfall taxes from Scotland’s oil and gas sector, neither this Government nor Labour have committed to invest in Scotland’s carbon capture, pump storage hydro, tidal stream or hydrogen potential, or to reform the situation whereby Scottish generators pay the highest transmission charges in Europe. Is it not clear that Scotland’s immense renewable resources would be better in the hands of the Scottish Government?

Absolutely not. At the Budget, the Chancellor announced £20 billion of funding to store as much carbon and create as many jobs as possible through track 1 and beyond—unprecedented investment in the development of carbon capture, usage and storage. The Government have also announced around £2 billion in investment for CCUS, hydrogen and industrial decarbonisation technologies. We have already confirmed that the Acorn project in the north-east of Scotland seems to meet the track 2 criteria, and we look forward to working with the project to ensure that we get some good news as soon as possible.