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Energy: National Policy Statements

Volume 714: debated on Monday 9 November 2009


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement about the energy national policy statements and our proposals on clean coal.

“In the summer, we published the low-carbon transition plan, which explained how we would meet our commitments to carbon reduction for 2020 and beyond. New infrastructure is being provided for the coming years, with 20 gigawatts under construction or consented—more than that which will close by 2018. However, to meet our low-carbon energy challenge, and due to the intermittency of wind, we will need significantly more generating capacity in the longer term. Over the next 15 years to 2025, one-third of that larger future generating capacity must be consented and built. Given this challenge, the imperative of reform in the planning system is clear.

The current system is characterised by duplication, with several bodies responsible for different aspects of consent, overlapping responsibilities of politicians and independent decision-makers, and delay. Today, to guide the decision-making of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission, we are setting out for consultation six draft policy statements on energy, most importantly those for the trinity of fuels of our low-carbon future: renewables, nuclear and clean fossil fuels. We need them all in the long term because the challenge of the low-carbon transition is so significant.

We need renewables: they are a home-grown and plentiful source of supply, already powering 2 million homes in the UK. Nuclear is a proven, reliable source of low-carbon energy and an important base load in the system. Fossil fuels, with carbon capture and storage, will enable flexible peak load response. Last year we saw offshore wind generation increase by two-thirds and onshore wind generation by one-quarter, but we need to significantly increase the rate of progress to meet our objective of 30 per cent of our electricity coming from renewables by 2020.

The national policy statement on renewables covers onshore renewables over 50 megawatts and offshore wind over 100 megawatts. Other onshore decisions remain with local authorities. The policy statement seeks to strike the right balance between achieving national objectives and avoiding adverse impacts on the local environment and biodiversity. While the Government set out the framework in the national policy statements, each application will be decided on by the independent IPC. The IPC will have to take account of regional and local plans, drawn up by local authorities, and developers will have to ensure that they have consulted locally before any application is made, with local authorities submitting local impact reports. The Infrastructure Planning Commission will make its decisions on the basis of a clear timetable of a year from the acceptance of an application to a decision. This system is right for energy security—by meeting our commitments on renewables, we can limit the need for gas imports, holding them at 2010 levels for the rest of the decade. It is also the right thing to do for our environment, because there is no bigger threat to our countryside than climate change.

Even on our ambitious targets for renewables, however, there will be a need, on the estimates that we are publishing today, for additional non-renewable power—we need to use all available low-carbon sources. That is why we were right last year to end the moratorium on new nuclear in this country. In response, energy companies have announced intentions to build 16 gigawatts of new nuclear power.

In the spring, we invited comments on the 11 sites that had been nominated for new nuclear power stations, all on or near existing nuclear sites. I can tell the House that 10 of the 11 sites have been judged as potentially suitable and included in the draft policy statement. The next step will be consultation in the 10 selected sites as well as nationally. The consultation proposes that the 11th site, Dungeness, should not be included in this national policy statement. This is because the Government do not believe, following advice from Natural England and others, that a new nuclear power station can be built there without having an adverse effect on the integrity of the internationally unique ecosystem.

Under the habitats directive, we are obliged to consider alternative nuclear sites. An independent study has suggested that three—Kingsnorth, Druridge Bay and Owston Ferry—are ‘worthy of further consideration’. We have concluded, however, that all of them have serious impediments and none is credible for deployment by the end of 2025, the period of the policy statement; nor do we believe that they are necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Therefore, we have excluded all of them from being potential sites in the draft policy statement.

On waste management, the Government are satisfied that, on the basis of the science and international experience, effective arrangements to manage and dispose of the waste from new nuclear power stations can be put in place. In addition, today we are opening consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs. New nuclear is right for energy security and climate change and will be good for jobs, too, creating up to 9,000 jobs to build and operate power stations at each site and helping leading companies to access the international market.

As well as renewables and nuclear, the third part of our low-carbon future is clean fossil fuels. There is no solution to the problem of climate change either at home or abroad without a solution to the problem of coal—cheap and reliable, but the most polluting fuel. Already from the European budget, €180 million has provisionally been offered to assist Hatfield power station to fit CCS. I can confirm that we have received bids from E.ON and Scottish Power for the next stage of the current CCS competition for a post-combustion power station.

Early next year, we will allocate the up to £90 million set aside for the next bid or bids that will go forward to the detailed design and engineering stage. Our aim is for carbon capture and storage to be ready to be deployed 100 per cent on all new coal-fired power stations by 2020. We are determined to ensure that, with the right combination of regulation and incentives, we make this happen. So I can confirm that, under our new framework published today, there will be no new coal-fired power stations without CCS.

With immediate effect, to gain development consent all new coal plant will have to show that it will demonstrate CCS from the outset on around 400 megawatts of total output. Our plans are based on up to four projects between now and 2020, including up to two post-combustion projects and up to two pre-combustion projects. The pre-combustion demonstration projects are expected to have 100 per cent CCS on their coal capacity from day one. The post-combustion projects will be expected to retrofit CCS to 100 per cent of their capacity within five years of 2020, enforced by the Environment Agency, with a review to confirm this by 2018. If we conclude at that time that CCS will not be proven, we believe that further regulatory measures will be required to restrict emissions from these plants, such as an emissions performance standard.

Even with the right regulation, though, if we leave the funding of CCS simply to private companies, it will not happen in time. To make CCS financially viable, our proposed energy Bill contains powers to introduce the levy announced in the Budget by the Chancellor to support demonstration. Responding to points made in the consultation, the levy will also be available to support the move to 100 per cent retrofit of CCS. Taken together, these policies are the most environmentally ambitious set of coal conditions of any country in the world and they provide the opportunity for Britain to create thousands of jobs in carbon capture and storage throughout our country.

On coal, nuclear and renewables, the aim of the NPS is clear: consistent with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, we need to be on course for the long-term goal of near-zero carbon emissions from power. Alongside the overall policy statement and those for nuclear, renewables, fossil fuels and gas storage, we are also publishing the policy statement for electricity networks. Together, these documents represent a framework for the future of our energy supplies.

In every area—onshore and offshore wind and other renewables, nuclear and clean fossil fuels—there will be people who wish to oppose specific planning applications. Their voice must be heard in the process. The planning process must ensure that we consent the right projects in the right sites. But while, of course, we need a process that can turn down specific applications, saying no everywhere would not be in the national interest. As a country, we need nuclear, renewables and clean coal for our energy future. They are necessary for security of supply, tackling climate change and the future of our economy. That is why we are reforming the planning system and publishing our statements today. I urge all sides of the House to unite behind these proposals and I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement with such startling enthusiasm when what we have just heard is the declaration of a national emergency for our energy security. The question that the Minister should answer is: why did this Labour Government leave it so late to act?

The Statement is made necessary by the Government’s admission in July that they expect power cuts in 2017. The cause of this national emergency is obvious: for over 12 years, 15 successive Energy Ministers—a new one every nine months— behaved like the ostrich and stuck their head in the sand rather than face up to the action that was needed to address our energy black hole. Did the Government know that most of our nuclear power stations would reach the end of their planned life before 2017? Was anyone in this Administration informed that North Sea oil and gas production would peak and fall away? Did anyone tell the Government that our most polluting coal-fired power stations were about to close? Every one of the measures contained in this Statement should have been brought forward 10 years ago when the Government had their chance to secure the investments that are so desperately needed to keep the lights on, keep prices down and cut carbon emissions. Why leave it so late?

On the planning statements themselves, we support the Government. We agree that it is right to create a fast-track planning process for large infrastructure projects, with a dedicated secretariat and time-limited decisions. Does the Minister agree, however, that the final decision should be taken not by an unelected, unaccountable official but by a Minister accountable to Parliament?

Nuclear must be part of a diverse energy mix, provided that it is commercially viable, but does the Minister accept that it is now too late for new nuclear to come on stream fast enough to replace our current capacity before it shuts down and that this will increase our dependence on gas imports until at least 2020?

On coal, will the Minister confirm that the large combustion plant directive will close a third of our coal capacity but, since it was agreed by the Government in 2001, not a single carbon capture and storage plant has been authorised to replace it? Is 2014 still the date by which any entry in the Government’s CCS competition must be up and running, or will the Minister confirm what the industry tells us—that it has had to be put back yet again?

On renewables, Britain has the lowest proportion of energy from renewable sources of any EU country apart from Malta and Luxembourg. As the Secretary of State intends again to entertain his colleagues in another place by blaming the gaping hole in our energy supply on rural district councils rather than on the void in energy policy, why the Government have not proposed reforms in their Statement to allow communities to benefit from wind farms is beyond me.

Britain’s consumers and businesses will pay through the nose for the last-minute scramble that the Secretary of State has announced today to cope with the blackouts that he predicted in July. Maybe the Minister will explain, clearly and simply, why the Government have allowed us to get into this state. Perhaps he will accompany his response with an apology to the British people for 12 years of negligence, for which we are now paying the price.

My Lords, I must apologise for being slightly late. Business always collapses in an annoying fashion when you have a gin and tonic in the Peers’ Guest Room.

One of the things that slowed me down on my way was the large number of great tomes that have come out, which I find rather bizarre. The Statement seems to have two purposes: the first is to print a large number of documents that we have to read in great haste, and the second, of course, is to give the go-ahead to the nuclear sites. Much of the Statement is about nuclear new-build, and the Government are keen to give the go-ahead to the 10 new sites. These documents had to be published to meet the legal requirement before the sites can be approved but, from the tone of the Statement, you would not put your money on being an opponent of any of those sites being built. It gives the impression that any opposition will be completely pointless.

I am not a BANANA—that is a great expression that I heard recently, Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone—but we will need to look at a mixed bag. Of course we on these Benches do not believe that nuclear is the option.

I have two questions, which I have raised on numerous occasions. I am speaking on the Front Bench because my noble friend Lord Teverson could not be here today, but in my former capacity I usually made this point, and now I have the opportunity to make it again: nowhere does the document mention where geological storage of the waste has been considered, and that problem does not seem to have been addressed. The second important issue is that, although the sites have been approved, we still have no indication of what type of reactor we are looking at. It would be interesting if a planning decision were being taken without the type of reactor that was to be approved having been settled on.

Other aspects of the policy statements are to be welcomed. There are obvious implications for climate change from the use of coal, but we have long argued that the implementation of carbon capture and storage is vital and so we welcome the statements. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, pointed out, carbon capture and storage is still on the drawing board. I noted with interest use of the expression “carbon capture ready” rather than “it will be in place before build”. When a new energy Bill comes forward, will the Government look at the rather unfortunate implication of the Crown Estate having a legal obligation to make as much money as possible out of the sea bed? It will add considerably to the cost of any carbon capture and storage, and it seems rather strange that the Government should be giving with one hand and taking with the other.

Much energy is being spent on nuclear, but the thin document on networks infrastructure is not as comprehensive as it could be. Infrastructure needs to be addressed far more closely, because it seems to fall outside the remit of many of the White Papers that have gone forward. There is a real issue here: most infrastructure is more than 30 years old and will need to be replaced. Do the Government have a figure for the replacement of the high-level line infrastructure?

The document on renewable energy, although I was speed-reading it, looks extremely good and will be helpful, although it seems that the size that a wind farm needs to be to fall within the remit is great, especially for onshore wind. That would be particularly unfortunate. I am a great advocate of wind turbines. Some are soon to be built very close to me and I am rather looking forward to it, which makes me unusual, it seems—in this House, anyway. The level at which the policy kicks in is extremely high.

Among the other renewables in the document, there seems to be a glaring omission. Although the burning of biomass and incineration are mentioned, anaerobic digestion is not. I must declare a pecuniary interest: I am the chairman of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, a worthy body—under the new rules, one is allowed to speak about one’s interest if it has a wider context, which this does. Anaerobic digestion is, we believe, capable of producing 20 per cent of our domestic gas. If 1,000 plants were built, which most of the experts believe is possible, it would account for a build of £5 billion, most of it coming from the private sector, and deal with energy security. It is unfortunate that it has been left out of the document. Why are the Government not focusing a great deal more on this important subject?

I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their welcome for the general thrust of the policy statements published today. I do not accept the noble Baroness’s analysis of the Government’s approach to energy policy, nor her rather alarmist statement about potential blackouts later in this decade. The Government have taken a strong strategic role. The fact that we are here today with the draft national policy statements is an indicator of that. The fact that we have led the way in terms of grid reform, that we have given the green light to new nuclear and clean coal, and that we have challenging targets for renewables is clear evidence of a Government who have got energy policy right and will drive it forward with determination over the years ahead.

I remind the noble Baroness that it was her own leader who talked about nuclear as being a last resort.

My Lords, it was not that long ago. If the party opposite is going to make criticism of this Government’s decision on nuclear, it needs to look at its own record as well.

On whether we have enough electricity generation, as the Statement said, great progress is being made. Two gigawatts of capacity has been constructed this year; another eight gigawatts is under construction; another 10.5 gigawatts has been consented to. Of course, we cannot be complacent, but a lot of good work is being undertaken.

The noble Baroness welcomed the overall thrust of the changes being made to the planning system, but she was concerned that Ministers would not take the final decisions in relation to individual applications. That is quite deliberate; we have seen it appropriate to have a separation whereby Ministers make decisions in relation to the national policy statements after scrutiny by Parliament—it is right for Ministers to make the policy—but where individual planning decisions are made by an independent body. That separation is likely to lead to greater public confidence.

On coal, we are still in a position to be a world leader. We still hope that the 2014 demonstration deadline will be achievable; two bids are in the process for the first competition; I have taken part in a number of international discussions about CCS; and there is a determination to see a considerable number of scaled-up projects developed. There is no possibility of meeting the emission reduction targets which we have set and which we hope through Copenhagen will be set internationally without the development of CCS. I agree that it is important that we should be a leader.

On renewables, it is true that we started from a low base, but we have made great progress in recent years. Electricity generation through renewables reached more than 5 per cent in 2008; we want to build on that. However, clear concern has been expressed about the record of local authorities, particularly those represented by the noble Baroness’s own party, in refusing many applications. The NPSs are obviously concerned with nationally significant infrastructure projects, but they set the parameters within which local planning decisions will be made. It is very important to bear that in mind.

I welcome the general comments of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I readily admit that there are a considerable number of documents which will need to be considered very carefully. He focused particularly on the nuclear NPS and implied that, because we decided that we should do a lot of the assessment work around individual sites to present in the NPS, it means that decisions are a fait accompli. I must resist that interpretation. It is laid down that each application has to go through due process. I am confident that the IPC will go through all the processes that need to be gone through. We believe that the inquisitorial, as opposed to the adversarial, approach will allow local people rather better involvement in decisions than under the old system. I was reminded of the public inquiry that occurred in relation to Sizewell B, which I understand took more than 300 days of public hearings, only 30 or so of which were concerned with local issues. I reassure the noble Lord that the process will be vigorous. We can expect stakeholders and interested parties to look carefully at the way in which the whole process is undertaken. It is important to reflect that if local people have objections they will be allowed to express them much more coherently, transparently and easily than in the past.

On CCS, the noble Lord made an interesting comment about the Crown Estate. It is probably beyond my remit to discuss the terms under which the Crown Estate must produce income. However, I always welcome debate and transparency about the doings of the Crown Estate and I would not discourage him from allowing us to debate those matters in due course. Of course, he will be aware of the Crown Estate’s very important role at the moment in terms of the licensing regime for wave and tidal power, which is very important indeed.

On waste management, the noble Lord probably missed the point from the Statement that we are satisfied that on the basis of the science and international experience, effective arrangements to manage and dispose of the waste from new nuclear power stations can be put in place. On the issue of reactor designs, we have today opened consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs and clearly we will invite comments on that.

In relation to geological disposal facilities, of course we have had expressions of interest from local communities in Cumbria. The process was described as to how we would take this forward in the White Paper Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS), and I am satisfied that we are making progress in the way we ought to do so.

As far as the electricity infrastructure is concerned, the NPS does refer to the Electricity Network Strategy Group report, Our Electricity Transmission Network: A Vision for 2020, regarding increases in generation and changes in direction. I would refer him to that.

As far as anaerobic digestion is concerned, the noble Lord knows that I, too, have a considerable interest in that. It does have great potential. Whether we can go as far as his estimate is another matter. I am grateful that he gave me a little notice of this, because I am advised that anaerobic digestion is covered in section 2.57, which refers to biomass and waste combustion. It refers specifically to biogas, sewage, sludge and animal manure. These are all technologies associated with anaerobic digestion. I hope the noble Lord is reassured.

I declare an interest as the patron of Trade Unions for Safe Nuclear Energy. This has kept the flag flying for nuclear for the past 20 years since Chernobyl and we are now seeing pretty firm dates for increases in the nuclear share.

On the question of consultation, I welcome the French involvement. However, I point out, perhaps tongue in cheek, that when we recently met some French energy experts from parliament, they had a joint committee deciding on nuclear sites. We asked them what the procedure was and how much consultation there was with people who would be affected in the localities. The chairman of the French delegation said, “That is an interesting question, but let me tell you that when one is draining a swamp, one does not consult the frogs”.

We do have consultation built into the Statement, and I shall read the sentence:

“The Infrastructure Planning Commission will make its decisions on the basis of a clear timetable”.

It would be nice to see, on a bi-partisan basis from the Opposition Front Benches, a little more strategic agreement up front that we will need all the political leadership we can get on this.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend’s comments and obviously the work that he has been doing over the years. I believe that nuclear generation has a great contribution to make to this country in the future, and I am delighted that we can see a renaissance in the nuclear industry as a result of the decision to give the green light to new nuclear. As far as consultation is concerned, in a sense we have a consultation on the national policy statement, but also there will be a site-specific consultation that will take place during this consultation period. That will then come to be considered and there will also be parliamentary scrutiny.

I believe it is right for there to be proper consultation and it is right for people to make their views known. Since the announcement of the Government’s decision on nuclear, I have been pleased by the general response which I think has been as positive as one could expect. I agree that it is important that we move forward with as much consensus as possible.

My Lords, I welcome much that is in the Statement; I agree entirely with my noble friend on the Front Bench that it is probably 10 years too late. However, I find it quite astonishing that the Secretary of State has said, and indeed the Minister has repeated it today:

“That is why we were right last year to end the moratorium on new nuclear in this country”.

They had been pressed year after year by people from all walks of life, not just the trades unions, though they were very active as the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, has said, but by Members of both Houses, that they were taking a very serious risk in turning their backs on nuclear. The phrase used then was “keeping the nuclear option open”. That they can now seek to take credit for deciding to move forward with nuclear actually passes understanding, and I would have thought that there might have been some greater sense of shame that so much time on this has been wasted.

I have a couple of questions for the noble Lord. He referred in the Statement to the announcement that:

“Today we are opening consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs”.

I had been given to understand that in fact there was going to be a justification statement made today, alongside the six documents which the Government have published. As I understand the matter, the justification is required under the 1996 Euratom BSS Directive 96/29, and is implemented in regulations made in this country, the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004. Is this document that the Government have referred to in their Statement that justification, or is it yet another preparatory stage before there can be justification?

I am asking this question—and I am sure Ministers have been warned of this by their officials—because the legal challenge that they are likely to face from some of the diehard anti-nuclear brigade is going to centre on this justification document. I should be grateful if the Minister could say something about that.

There is one other point, not related directly to energy. I have just one of the six documents here, which clearly states:

“Presented to the House of Commons pursuant to Section 5(9)(b) of the Planning Act 2008”.

Section 5(9) of the Planning Act says:

“The Secretary of State must—

(a) arrange for the publication of a national policy statement, and

(b) lay a national policy statement before Parliament”.

Why do they put “House of Commons” in these documents? In fact, the Planning Act contains in Section 9 a provision indicating that this House will have as much say in the discussion of the applications and the advice to the IPC as the other place. What is the purpose of being deliberately provocative towards Members of this House by putting the words “House of Commons” in these documents? They are pandering to those in the other place who have always disliked this House. I find it very shaming that Ministers should yield to that sort of temptation.

My Lords, I am a long-standing admirer of the noble Lord, and he put his points with his usual forthrightness. I do not agree with his analysis or the implication that the Government have delayed making key decisions on energy. However, he knows that I share his view of the importance of nuclear energy. We now have a great opportunity to go forward with a great deal of confidence and look forward to a hugely positive impact in jobs, skills and investment in the nuclear sector.

The justification is in the consultation that we have issued. The noble Lord is right that regulatory justification is a process required under the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004. I understand his frustration; he thinks that, because it is a consultation, it will delay the statement of justification. However, we are doing this for the very reason that he mentioned—the potential for this to be looked at very carefully by all sorts of stakeholder interests. We must ensure that we get it right, which is why we think it better to have a consultation first before we make the formal statement.

On what is contained in these documents, where it says that it is presented to the “House of Commons”, the noble Lord has me bang to rights. He is quite right; the Planning Act is clear that it is a statement that should be made to Parliament. A mistake has been made and, as Minister, I accept responsibility. I apologise to the House. My understanding is that we are printing new sheets to be pasted in to the documents to make sure that that is clear. I assure him that it was a mistake and not a deliberate effort to undermine the role of this House in these matters. I fully expect that there will be an opportunity for us to debate, perhaps at some length, the national policy statements as part of parliamentary scrutiny. I have no hesitation in apologising to the House.

My Lords, if the structure that the Government have introduced of national policy statements, which are to attract the bulk of the debate, leaving the IPC to do a rather narrow job, is to be successful, consultation must itself be successful. I see no detail—obviously I have not had the chance to spend very long on it—about how that consultation of the citizen is to be carried out. I am provoked by the misprint only to ask the Minister whether he does not believe that the NPS justifies long and detailed scrutiny and not simply a debate. More importantly, what is the process for consulting people outside this building? Planning policies in the past have regularly set out in detail the process of consultation. Although it is referred to in debate, there seems to be no indication of how the consultation is to be taken forward and how people are to respond to it. What we have heard is a Statement from the Dispatch Box this afternoon that the Government will drive forward their policy with determination.

My Lords, clearly the noble Baroness is absolutely right that in a new planning system that makes much of the need for members of the public to have a proper input into decisions, we should have a good consultation on the national policy statements, and we certainly seek to do that.

There will be parliamentary scrutiny. I mentioned the word “debate”;. it is entirely a matter for the House to decide how it wishes to scrutinise the national policy statements. In the Commons it is likely to be through a Select Committee, which one would expect to produce a report to which the Government would have regard, and the committee can recommend a debate in the House. In this House, it is very much a matter for the House to decide.

We are holding five events in different parts of the country to encourage the public and communities to respond to the consultation; we have commissioned an organisation called Planning Aid to publish leaflets setting out background information; and we are making it easy for people to respond on the website. I assure the noble Baroness that we want the consultation to be successful and that the Government will consider very carefully the responses made. However, we should not underestimate that a very important part of this process is parliamentary scrutiny, which is very much in the hands of Parliament.

I thank the Minister for his Statement. In my capacity as chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, I was getting rather impatient because of the delays. However, I well understand the need for the delays. This is an area in which we might well see vexatious litigation emerging as a major barrier to progress.

The comprehensive character of the Statement and its balanced nature, including not only nuclear but renewables and the potential—albeit somewhat long-term—for coal, is to be welcomed. It is flexible and pragmatic on nuclear sites, but our friend in the other House, Malcolm Wicks, the former Energy Minister, has indicated that we would have not only replacement nuclear generation capability but also an increase to something of the order of 40 per cent of the generating capability of this country accounted for by nuclear. This Statement gives reassurance to those looking for a degree of confidence that they can invest in the future, and to do so in the knowledge that it will not be subject to delay and long interruption.

I make one final point: this will be a very expensive programme of capital investment. We would like to think that disadvantaged sections of the community are not exposed to higher energy prices than necessary.. Uncertainty, as we have seen with gas supplies and gas prices, means that the cost to individual domestic consumers, particularly those in poorly insulated houses, becomes unacceptable. So we must have the lights on, but on at a cost that the public and industry together can afford.

My Lords, I well understand the frustration of many in the industry about the length of time that it has taken to produce the national policy statements. He is right: we have to make sure that they are correct. It is better producing them now than in the summer.

On the question of how much nuclear generation there should be, the noble Lord will know that the Government do not believe that they should set a target. However, in setting out the energy need, the national policy statement has some helpful indicators. It is made clear that the nuclear sector should be free to contribute as much as possible of the 25 gigawatts of non-renewable energy required by 2025. That is not a target; it is simply stating that, on the best estimates we have at the moment, in 2025 we will require about 25 gigawatts of non-renewable energy. It is then up to the nuclear developers to see how much they will go for. It is noticeable that, as of today, the energy companies intend to produce 16 gigawatts of nuclear energy, but there is no reason why their current intentions should be a limit on what might occur in the future.

My noble friend is surely right about high energy prices. There will be a cost, but we must ensure that through energy efficiency we can reduce some of that cost. We also have to make sure that it is not at the expense of those who suffer from fuel poverty.

My Lords, I apologise to the Minister for missing the first minute of his Statement. Like the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I was caught metaphorically speaking with my trousers down elsewhere.

I welcome the Statement. It is a good thing that at last we have one; .at last we have some movement. Having said that, we need to keep a rational perspective about nuclear energy, which I entirely agree we need and will have to put in place. The noble Lord, Lord Flowers, who we sadly no longer see in his place nowadays, remarked to me well over 10 years ago that, in the final analysis, mankind had only one source of energy and that was nuclear. We had a choice between having a power station here or 98 million miles away, and he knew which one he preferred. He was prescient.

I wish that the Government were paying more attention even now to 2050. We need to remember that most of the massive plant that is likely to be constructed as a result of this Statement today is likely to still be living and working in 2050. We are gambling with the 2050 target, particularly in relation to coal-fired generation. We are gambling that carbon capture and storage will work and that it will capture 100 per cent of the carbon. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that it will do that because, if it does not, it will put an even greater question over the whole subject. We are also gambling that it will be economically competitive. There is a real possibility that that will not be the case. I could go on for another two or three minutes but I see that our time is up. I will give the Minister a chance to reply.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his interesting intervention. We seem to have a collection of trousers down and gin and tonics. Where is the noble Lord, Lord Rix, when you need him?

The noble Lord makes an interesting point about nuclear power. We have reflected in the Statement what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State refers to as the trinity of nuclear, renewables and clean fossil fuels. Clearly, to ensure energy security, we need to have a diversity of both supply and generation, and we need to have it in a drive towards a low carbon future. The mix that we are proposing will enable us to do that.

On coal, I said earlier that if we are not able to develop CCS, there is absolutely no way that this country and many countries of the world, including China and India, can meet the kind of targets that have been set for 2050. That reinforces the importance of CCS and why we should adopt a leadership role in this country. Of course, there is a safeguard in the Statement. If as a result of the independent evaluation it transpires that CCS has not worked in the way that we wished it to work, we will have to return to the issue of what to do about existing coal-powered stations and their emissions. That will clearly be a subject for review towards the end of this century. I, for one, remain optimistic about CCS and its potential for this country.