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Renewable Energy

Volume 762: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the cost (£/tCO2e) of greenhouse gas emissions abatement in the most recent year for which there is data from each of wind offshore, wind onshore and solar, taking into account the additional electricity system costs appropriate to each technology.

My Lords, based on support provided through the renewables obligation, the estimated abatement cost in 2014 was £65 per tonne of carbon dioxide for onshore wind, £121 for offshore wind and £110 for solar PV.

I thank my noble friend for that reply and declare my interests in energy as listed in the register. Does he agree that the Ed Miliband/Chris Huhne energy policy that he inherited has been extremely effective at taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich but much less effective at decarbonisation—and particularly at decarbonisation in an affordable way? The numbers he gave for the abatement costs per tonne of carbon dioxide from those three technologies are higher than the numbers given for the total cost of climate change—the so-called social cost of carbon—as estimated by all economists, including even the noble Lord, Lord Stern. Would my noble friend guarantee to investigate these numbers to see whether we are getting value for money as consumers through these subsidies?

My Lords, it is fair to say that there is a decline in the cost of renewable generation technologies. The steepest decline is in solar PV. On my noble friend’s point about the fact that the last leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, had a policy on energy that was not in the interests of the country, I am pleased to say that one of the first actions of the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was to write to the energy companies to say that we look forward to seeing a reduction in bills consequent on the fact that the last leader of the Opposition is not now Prime Minister.

My Lords, by what date do the Government expect renewables to be cost-competitive so that hard-working families and businesses will no longer have to subsidise wealthy landlords and other green investors?

My Lords, it is not merely a question of cost. If it were the case that renewables were the cheapest form of electricity, we would not face the same challenge on climate change that we do. As I indicated, it is true that the cost of renewables is coming down. Meanwhile, it is the policy of the Government to focus on energy that is affordable, secure and clean.

My Lords, will the Government compensate the increasing number of British people forced into fuel poverty by the man-made climate change policy if climate change turns out not to have been man-made at all?

I suspect that the noble Lord may be in a minority of one in his view of the position on climate change. Obviously, we are very pleased that the fuel poverty statistics are on a downward trend and that fewer people are in fuel poverty this year than last year.

My Lords, thanks to the Government’s Energy Act in the last Parliament, virtually every element of our energy system is now subject to a subsidy, and we are currently paying to keep old, unabated coal stations open and paying to shut them. Is that not the real scandal, since all of this coal is now imported?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that by 2025 electricity generation from unabated coal will represent only 1% of our generation.

My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the Swansea tidal lagoon has had planning permission, and we are now looking at the position of tidal power in relation to contracts for difference. It certainly represents an exciting possibility and one that has a lot of support—but I had better say no more than that as I made the planning decision.

My Lords, on a simple point of clarification, would the Minister confirm that these numbers are calculated from the actual delivered power and not the gross generating capability of these sources?

My Lords, a bear of small brain such as myself will have to get back to the noble Lord on that point, as I am uncertain.

Order. This is one of these occasions when it is necessary for the House to recognise that there are a range of conventions. One is that each party in the House gets at least one go in a Question. There is also the respect that we pay to former Leaders of the House who are also trying to get in and ask a question. So I am going to sit down—bearing in mind that we have two minutes left and there is a former Leader trying to ask a question, and a Member of the Lib Dem Benches, and the Lib Dems have not yet asked a question—and leave it to the House to decide.

My Lords, I am grateful to the former Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The Committee on Climate Change report on the cost-effective path to 2050 indicated that nuclear and onshore wind are likely to have broadly comparable costs to new, unabated gas. Given the fact that the predominance of the situation in Scotland has been affected by the recent government decision, should not the Government be open to amendments to the energy Bill that could be coming forward to make sure that there is a distinct case for Scotland, so that support for Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy is put on a comparable level as support for Chinese investors and the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom?

My Lords, when the energy Bill comes before us—it will come to this House first—we will have an opportunity to look the questions that the noble Lord raises.

My Lords, the Minister said in answer to the Question today that unabated coal would account for 1% of electricity by 2025. On the last occasion, last week, when this was raised, he said in one column of Hansard what he said today, while in another column of Hansard he said that it would account not for 1% of electricity supply but for 1% of emissions. Both cannot be right, and I would be grateful if he could tell us which is.

My Lords, following a conversation with the noble Lord yesterday, I went back and checked. That is why the version that I gave today was the correct version.

My Lords, has the Minister considered the option, if we are going to take away subsidies from some energy sources, that we should take them away from all energy sources, including nuclear?

My Lords, nuclear is a vital part of the mix. We do not get through this energy situation without an important contribution from nuclear energy, not least because many of the renewables, such as wind and solar, are intermittent.