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Energy Mix

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2019

22. What steps he is taking to ensure that renewable technologies form part of the energy mix. (909886)

The UK is leading the world in decarbonising our energy supplies while driving down the cost of clean power. The proportion of our electricity coming from renewables has increased fourfold since 2010, and the cost of clean power is falling fast. The price of offshore wind has fallen by 50% in the last couple of years.

The Secretary of State has just recognised that there is considerable support for renewable energy throughout the country. My local community in High Peak have always been committed to that. “Archie”, the Archimedes’ screw in New Mills, is the first community-owned hydroelectric project. However, the Government are preventing people from becoming involved in renewable energy projects by removing the feed-in tariff and refusing to remove planning blocks on onshore wind, while forcing councils to plan positively for fracking. Will the Secretary of State recommend the scrapping of that policy, and instead require councils to plan positively for renewables?

I think the hon. Lady should recognise the huge progress that has been made, which is beyond what anyone would have expected 10 years ago when the Climate Change Act 2008 was passed. I commend her constituents for their contribution in respect of renewable power. However, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth has said, the right mechanism must be applied to the right technology. It is better to finance technologies in the early stages of development through innovation funding than to pretend that they can make a significant contribution to the grid.

A renewables mix is hugely important in securing our long-term energy supply, so will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss some of the contradictory barriers in place for solar power, for example, because there are limited technologies that are able to bid for support through the contracts for difference scheme?

I will indeed meet my hon. Friend, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth will join that conversation. We have a good record in bringing on a range of new technologies and I am very happy to make sure there are no barriers to that.

There will now be a 9 GW cut in future installed capacity by 2030 as a result of Toshiba and Hitachi ending their plans to build three new nuclear power stations. The Secretary of State has also cancelled plans to build tidal lagoons possibly providing about that amount of additional capacity, has banned onshore wind and has run down new solar installations. He has severely limited the auction for new offshore wind to only £60 million of a possible £557 million. Does the Secretary of State agree that on present policies it looks like there will be a substantial capacity gap in power production against likely 2030 demand? Does he have any plan to deal with that? Does he have any plans to revive the lost nuclear power proposals? Does he share the Opposition’s view that, among other things, we will need at least 50 GW of installed offshore wind to help close the gap and meet our climate change commitments?

Quite the opposite is true. One of the reasons why it has proved impossible to finance privately some of these nuclear power stations is that the cost of renewables was falling and the availability was increasing so rapidly that they are being muscled out of the system. The forecast electricity margin for this year is now over 11%, the highest for five years. To put this into context for the hon. Gentleman, the contribution that the Wylfa nuclear power station—3 GW—would have made was procured in a single contract for difference auction for offshore wind. That shows the abundance that we have, rather than the shortage.