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Contracts for Difference Scheme

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 19 September 2023

1. What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the contracts for difference scheme in supporting low-carbon electricity generation. (906448)

2. What assessment she has made of the potential implications of the outcome of the contracts for difference allocation round 5 on the future development of floating offshore wind. (906450)

Our contracts for difference scheme is a UK success story, having contracted more than 30 GW of capacity, including 20 GW of offshore wind, since 2014. AR5 delivered a record number of clean energy projects, enough to power the equivalent of 2 million homes, and the Government’s commitment to offshore wind remains unchanged, which is 50 GW by 2030.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her place. The great advantage of the CfD scheme is that with forward planning it has the flexibility to adapt to changing economic conditions. Can she therefore confirm that the Government will be working collaboratively and straightaway with industry to ensure a successful round 6 so that offshore wind can get back on track, and UK consumers and the UK economy can benefit from low-cost, low-carbon energy?

I thank my hon. Friend for his long-standing support in this area and I can confirm that we are wasting no time in engaging the sector in advance of AR6. I personally spoke to offshore wind stakeholders following AR5 and confirmed our commitment. The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero held a roundtable with the sector on 12 September. We are listening to the sector and annual auctions mean we can respond quickly.

I know that as chair of the all-party group on the Celtic sea my hon. Friend is a long-standing supporter of offshore wind. We have announced that AR6 will open in March 2024 and we have published an indicative timetable. We are supporting research and development in floating wind technology via the floating offshore wind demonstration programme, announcing up to £160 million in capital grant funding.

Can we work to the order, as it is a grouped question? The question should not be answered in that way. Selaine Saxby should be asking a direct question.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am keen to understand better what more can be done to assist floating offshore wind in AR6 following what happened in AR5.

I know my hon. Friend is a long-standing supporter of offshore wind. We have announced that AR6 will open in March 2024 and we have published that timetable. We are supporting floating wind technology through different programmes and manufacturing investment schemes too.

We also welcome the Secretary of State to the Dispatch Box. With many renewable projects built on the strength of contracts for difference, but with reports of many not invoking these contracts and instead benefiting from the higher energy prices, can the contracts in principle be invoked later, when prices fall, or could the Government enforce the invoking of the CfD contracts now, at the start of the generation of these projects, rather than their taking the high prices while they can?

The CfD programme has driven prices down over time to enormous effect, by 70% since they started, which is much more than people expected. I would be happy to take the hon. Gentleman’s particular point away but overall this is a successful programme, and our annual auction changes will also make a difference.

Given the unreliable and intermittent nature of both solar and wind-generated energy, we already have more of these projects than the grid can efficiently manage. Does the Secretary of State agree that what we really need is more reliable baseload capacity and that that can only be delivered via fossil fuels or nuclear?

We have a strong focus on energy security, and that means having a just transition to clean energy but also investing in nuclear. The hon. Gentleman may have seen that we have started the capital raise for Sizewell C, and we support the oil and gas industry as a just transition fuel.

I wish the Clerk of the House well in the future, and I warmly welcome the Secretary of State to her new role and congratulate her on her appointment to the Cabinet. I look forward to working together. Let us start with the truth. The offshore wind auction that she inherited was a totally avoidable disaster. It means another lost year for our country and another year of higher bills, and it is because Ministers obstinately refused to listen to warning after warning from industry. RenewableUK estimates that the auction failure will add £2 billion to bills. What is the Secretary of State’s estimate of the cost to families of this fiasco?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming me to my place. I am delighted to serve opposite him and face him at the Dispatch Box.

There are a couple of things I will point out. If we had tried to do what the right hon. Gentleman suggested, we would have delayed the 3.7 GW of clean energy that we secured, which is able to power 2 million homes. If we want to look at what is going to hurt people and their bills, I would point to his disastrous policies, whether it is the ultra low emission zone, which is hitting people who can least afford it, or his borrowing spree, which will raise inflation.

I am afraid the Secretary of State is quite wrong about that, because Ireland adjusted the price and had 3 GW of offshore wind. Let us talk about the way that this Government are jeopardising our energy security. They have delivered—[Interruption.]

Order. Mr Stuart, I know this is the last day before the recess and you are excited to get some freedom, but let’s save it.

This Government have delivered the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. There is a pattern here: they banned onshore wind and raised bills, they slashed energy efficiency and raised bills, and now they have trashed offshore wind, raising bills. That is why we are so exposed. I know that the right hon. Lady did not make those decisions, but now that she is the Secretary of State, she needs to tell us, after 13 years of failure, what is she going to do differently?

Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman about the last 13 years. We have decarbonised faster than any G7 country, while also growing the economy. We have grown renewable energy from 7% of our electricity when Labour left power to 50% now. I am proud of what we have achieved over the last 13 years. We have a proud record when it comes to climate change and a proud record when it comes to renewable energy, and I am proud to defend it.

I welcome the Secretary of State to her new role. I wish I could have welcomed her to her new role on 5 September, when we had the remaining stages of the Energy Bill, but she was not here. I wish I could have welcomed her on 7 September for the urgent question on the auction round 5 strike price, but she was not here for that either, so what has the new Secretary of State been doing in the midst of the chronic energy crisis facing our constituents and allowing her Department to see shovel-ready offshore wind go into abeyance? What has she been doing?

I struggle to see how that was directly related to the question, but let me tell the hon. Gentleman what I have been doing. I was here for the Third Reading of the Energy Bill; perhaps he was not. During this time, I have been moving forward with all the Government’s priorities on energy security and ensuring that we can move to a just, clean transition.

Forgive me if that rendition is not immediately recognisable in offshore wind projects from auction round 5. I hope the Department has learnt some salutary lessons from this mess, but it will be consumers who pick up the bill. Can I ask the Secretary of State for her personal intervention in pumped storage to introduce a cap and floor mechanism, which industry has been clear is absolutely necessary to get this vital baseload energy source into position? Will she intervene personally and get that moving, because it is blowing in the breeze just now?

I am absolutely focused on getting investment into offshore wind. One of the first things I did after AR5 was speak to investors from across the board, to make sure I was listening to their concerns, and there are multiple things they care about. One is having certainty; there was lots of welcoming of the move to annual auctions. The other is connections to the grid. I will be looking at all those things and making sure we can get the investment the sector needs.