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Energy: Large Combustion Plant Directive

Volume 720: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their intentions as regards the large combustion plant directive and the generating plants concerned.

My Lords, I am grateful for that frank Answer. However, can the Minister confirm that, under the provisions of that directive, 25 per cent of the UK’s generating capacity is due to close down by 2015? Would it not be preferable for the United Kingdom’s energy policy to be made by the Government and the Parliament in this country rather than contract it out to the European Commission?

My Lords, I cannot confirm the noble Lord’s figure; I would not accept that it will be as high as 25 per cent by 2015. I accept that a number of plants are so dirty in their emissions that they will have to close in due course, but I can confirm that other generating capacity is coming on stream in time to replace those that will close.

Absolutely. Does my noble friend agree that by the directive we reduce important pollution—sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides—and that that is a good thing? When will the coalition Government bring forward the emission performance standards for power stations, which will also rid us of some of our carbon dioxide?

My Lords, I can confirm exactly what my noble friend said: by the directive, we will be reducing by quite large amounts the sulphur dioxide, the nitrogen oxides and the dust emissions which can be harmful to both human health and the environment. That can only be a good thing. As I said in answer to the first supplementary question, we also hope to have other capacity on stream to deal with the plants that are closing.

My Lords, the party of the noble Lord who asked the Question is of course opposed to binding EU targets on renewables, biofuels and other EU environmental initiatives, but is it not the case that, when emissions affect a number of countries simultaneously, European and international action is both welcome and indispensable? Is it not also the case that, given the recent vote in the European Parliament, while stricter emissions standards are favoured, the situation of individual member states will be more greatly taken into account in future?

My Lords, I can agree on that. Where emissions from one country affect other countries and the whole world, that should be dealt with internationally. That is why it is quite right that the EU should deal with them, especially those that are damaging to human health, which is the case with those dealt with by the large combustion plant directive. The noble Baroness then referred to the recent vote by the European Parliament on the industrial emissions directive. Again, we will take that forward, and it will replace the large combustion plant directive in 2016. That will further tighten the requirements, but those are matters that we have agreed, and we have introduced certain flexibilities that will make life easier for a lot of those plants until the end of 2023.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell me how much of our generating requirement over the next five years will be fulfilled by buying electricity from France?

My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot give that figure to my noble friend off-the-cuff; I will certainly write to him. If the French have spare capacity from their nuclear power stations, I do not see anything wrong with buying in capacity from them to deal with shortfalls that we may have.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us what will be the method of generation for the plants that will need to be constructed and brought on stream by 2015?

My Lords, I imagine that most of them will be gas, but there will also be a certain amount of renewable, particularly wind. However, there will also be renewable from other sources, such as biomass, which the noble Baroness opposite referred to. In due course, as we have large stocks of coal, and by means of clean coal procedure—the further derogations that we have until 2023 will allow us to develop this further—coal could also play a part.

My Lords, have the Government any reason to disagree with the respected think tank Open Europe’s estimate that the EU climate change policy will put at least 1 million British people into fuel poverty? Do they have any reason to disagree with Mr Derek Birkett, a former grid controller, as reported in yesterday’s Daily Express, who has estimated that the calamity about to be visited upon the British people through the climate change policy of the European Union—the science for which has completely collapsed—will amount to at least the cost of the banking crisis?

My Lords, this is not just about climate change. It is also about human health, which is why it is important that we see a reduction in the particular gases that we talked about earlier—nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides—and, for that matter, dust emissions. On his further point about how many people are allegedly going to be put out of work, if we had not secured the changes to the industrial emissions directive, we would have seen an increase in electricity prices of some 8 per cent. As a result of the changes that we have secured, which I talked about earlier and which go up to 2023, those rises will be only about 3 per cent. I do not think that that is bad, and I do not think that it will lead to any loss of jobs.

Will the Minister undertake to give us a health warning if ever the Government were tempted to formulate their European policy on the basis of the opinions of Open Europe and the Daily Express?

My Lords, I did not say unemployed; I said fuel poverty. One million people will be put into fuel poverty.

My Lords, I believe I answered that question by making it quite clear that electricity prices are not going to rise as much as the noble Lord and his alarmist friends suggested.