HC Deb 15 July 1991 vol 195 cc6-7
8. Mr. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many independent electricity generation projects have been announced since the passage of the Electricity Act 1989.

Mr. Wakeham

Under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 I have given consent for four independent power stations to be constructed. They are at Coryton, Deeside, Keadby and Wilton, Cleveland.

Mr. Butler

Is not this excellent news for consumers? Can my right hon. Friend give a guarantee that we shall not return to a monolithic monopoly supply, which would be the case if we followed the advice of Opposition Members?

Mr. Wakeham

I have considerable expectations that we shall not return to such a system. Competition in generation is good for not only consumers but the environment. It should be very much encouraged.

Dr. Kim Howells

Does the Secretary of State agree that the dominance of National Power, PowerGen and Nuclear Electric precludes any real competition in electricity generation? Does he further agree that the monopolistic powers which have been handed to PowerGen and National Power in particular threaten to destroy Europe's most efficient coal industry, as those powers have all but destroyed the coal industry of south Wales and wasted a great national asset?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept that for a moment. First, competition in generation will be widespread. Apart from the four projects that I have announced, four other projects were applied for and received planning permission before the 1989 Act came into force. We have been advised about several other projects which, at this stage, are confidential. Secondly, I do not believe that the coal industry will be ruined, as the hon. Gentleman made out, as a result of the privatisation of the electricity generating industry. The industry has a significant and important future in the provision of coal for generation in Britain. If it continues to improve its productivity as it has done in recent years, it will stand to have a larger share of the market.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Will my right hon. Friend give some idea of not merely the number of projects but those which, in his estimation, are likely to materialise? Will he also tell us how many projects out of the total number are gas turbine projects and how many are coal? Are not they all gas turbine?

Mr. Wakeham

With the best will in the world, as the applications have to come to me and I have to consider them and decide whether to give planning approval, it would be unwise for me to speculate about which projects are good runners and which are not.