Debates between Lord Ravensdale and Baroness Hooper

There have been 1 exchanges between Lord Ravensdale and Baroness Hooper

1 Tue 7th January 2020 Queen’s Speech
Ministry of Defence
2 interactions (1,384 words)

Queen’s Speech

Debate between Lord Ravensdale and Baroness Hooper
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as an engineer in the energy industry and as director of the cross-party group Peers for the Planet. It was most welcome to hear in the gracious Speech the Government’s specific commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. There is a vast canvas of challenges that the Government need to think about to meet that target, so I will focus on a few key issues for our future energy system.

The 2050 energy system scenario of the Committee on Climate Change has two key elements: variable renewables—for example, offshore wind—and low-carbon baseload or firm power. There is a fairly low risk with renewables in that, if we keep on with our current build rate, we will get to where we need to be by 2050. However, there are significant risks with provision of the low-carbon firm power. The Committee on Climate Change recognises that we need firm power, and lots of it, to counter the intermittent nature of renewables and ensure that we have an economically viable overall energy system. There are two options for that firm power: nuclear, or gas turbines with carbon capture and storage—we need both.

I will make three overall points. First, carbon capture and storage is absolutely central to the net-zero scenario of the Committee on Climate Change, which envisages capturing around 176 megatonnes, or million tonnes, per year of carbon dioxide by 2050. That massive number is not even the main issue; it is that our capture capacity today is precisely zero. The technology itself is well understood but there are many uncertainties on cost and systems integration—between extraction, transport and storage of CO2—and the amount of CO2 that can be captured, the capture rate of the technology on a large scale. This is why we urgently need a carbon capture and storage demonstrator project to start deployment of that technology in this decade. Failure to provide CCS could be the single biggest risk in achieving the net-zero target. Can the Minister provide more detail on the scope of the plans to provide a carbon capture and storage cluster in the UK and the timescales involved?

Secondly, on nuclear, the key issue here is pricing and affordability. Government and industry need to do much more to reduce the cost of the technology. The key routes to doing that are looking at the finance model—the regulated asset base funding model that is being investigated is one of those—repeatability, namely producing the same design of plants over and over again and getting the efficiency gains from that; and finally, technological innovation, for example modular build, which we are seeing in the proposals for small modular reactors. All those provide a route to getting to the £60 per-megawatt-hour level which we need for the technology.

I believe new nuclear is essential for zero-carbon emissions by 2050; it is the only mature option for low-carbon firm power generation, and an urgent refresh of plans is required to increase nuclear capacity in the UK. After recent pauses and cancellations, we have only a single new nuclear project under construction in the UK. Can the Minister update the House on the actions the Government will take to increase new nuclear capacity in the UK?

Thirdly, we need to think about management and governance of the energy system as a whole because having the rapid period of change, and added complexity in the system, to achieve zero by 2050 is unprecedented. There have long been calls for an independent energy system architect, whose purpose would be to look at that system as a whole and flexibly deliver the optimum system for zero by 2050. Those arguments were developed in a report of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee back in March 2015. The Government should revisit this really important idea because business as usual will not be sufficient to deliver this incredibly complex system.

Others have made the case much better than I could on why we are pursuing this, particularly in the powerful contributions of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and my noble friend Lady Hayman. Now we need to focus on the how.

Baroness Hooper Portrait Baroness Hooper (Con)
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My Lords, in the short time available in this wide-ranging debate, I wish to focus on Latin America. Last year I had the privilege of attending, as the Government’s special envoy, the inauguration of three new Presidents following fair and free elections in June in El Salvador, in July in Panama and in December in Argentina. President Bukele of El Salvador, at 37 the youngest President in the Americas, faces huge challenges but is determined to ensure that El Salvador should be a country in which people wish to live, remain and invest rather than looking north and emigrating. President Laurentino Cortizo of Panama seeks to increase Panama’s strategic geographical advantages by also ensuring good governance, rule of law, a competitive economy and inequality reduction. President Alberto Fernández of Argentina, in spite of references to sovereignty in the south Atlantic in his inaugural speech, seemed to me a person we can do business with to pursue many of the initiatives currently in place.

All three new Presidents expressed to me their hope and wish to increase and improve relations with the United Kingdom. The good will expressed in those three countries exists throughout Latin America, from Mexico through central America and down to the tip of Patagonia. In part, this is because of the historic support that Great Britain gave some 200 years ago for its independence movements. That support may be not thought of much here but is well remembered throughout the region. In part, it is also because the United Kingdom has always been seen as a solid, stable and dependable country, with values to be relied upon. There is tremendous respect for our institutions; I only hope that recent events have not diminished this view too much. But I also hope that we take advantage of these favourable signals because the opportunities for trade and investment, and for co-operation and partnership in Latin America, are considerable.

In the field of education, for example, it is not just about the teaching of English and the links between universities and other educational institutions. There is also enormous scope for our education supplies industry. On renewable energy, as my noble friend the Minister said in opening and as the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, has just said, we can contribute much from our knowledge and expertise. We can also learn because Brazil, for example, has made huge strides with biomass energy through ethylene being used not only to heat homes but to fly aeroplanes. There is plenty of scope on climate change, with Colombia and Brazil being the most biodiverse countries in the world while Amazonia provides the lungs of the world—that is, not just Brazil but Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. Antarctica also gives us great scope for research and scientific co-operation. The launch of the Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly in London last September to help co-ordinate research is an important step forward. In Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, as another example, the Charles Darwin Foundation is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary with great success.

The late Lord Davidson founded Canning House in 1948 because he understood that the British Empire was coming to an end, and had the foresight to recognise that we had to find a new role in the world. Canning House continues to work to fulfil this role and I am proud to be a former president, and currently a vice-president, of it. George Canning famously said 200 years ago:

“I called the New World into existence, to redress the balance of the Old.”

Those words seem very appropriate for us today.

Latin America is still the new world and it behoves the old world—that is, us in Europe and this country in particular—to see its countries on our priority list, especially when we think of the competition and, in that respect, of China. In spite of the fact that there was no direct reference to Latin America in the Queen’s Speech I hope that my noble friend the Minister, who has a mammoth task in winding up this debate, will be able to give me some reassurance and encouragement that Latin American countries and the region as a whole are firmly in our focus in post-Brexit Britain.