VoteClimate: Alan Whitehead MP: Climate-Related Speeches In Parliament

Alan Whitehead MP: Climate-Related Speeches In Parliament

Alan Whitehead is the Labour MP for Southampton, Test.

We have identified 30 Parliamentary Votes Related to Climate since 2010 in which Alan Whitehead could have voted.

Alan Whitehead is rated Very Good for votes supporting action on climate. (Rating Methodology)

  • In favour of action on climate: 28
  • Against: 1
  • Did not vote: 1

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Alan Whitehead's Speeches In Parliament Related to Climate

We've found 161 Parliamentary debates in which Alan Whitehead has spoken about climate-related matters.

Here are the relevant sections of their speeches.

  • 19 Mar 2024: Draft Strategy and Policy Statement for Energy Policy in Great Britain


    The power to designate a strategy and policy statement, as the Minister has set out, has been in place since the passing of the Energy Act 2013. That Act envisaged, among other things, that a strategy and policy statement would be an essential tool in aligning the actions of Government and of Government agencies and bodies, such as Ofgem, and ensuring that they were marching in lockstep as far as the development of strategic priorities was concerned. Indeed, this strategy and policy statement is very important in making sure that, with the designation of a net zero mandate for Ofgem, which took place in the recent Energy Act 2023, the alignment is complete with the issue of the strategy and policy statement. However, I point out that these strategy and policy statements are supposed to last for five years and to be reviewed at the end of a five-year period—or, significantly, should an election take place in the meantime.


  • 5 Mar 2024: Fuel Poverty

    1. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero on tackling the health impacts of fuel poverty. ( 901795 )


  • 20 Feb 2024: Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill


    It is customary on Third Reading to start with thanks, and I would like to thank two groups of people. First, I thank the civil servants who held their noses to write this pile of rubbish for the House’s consideration. Secondly, I thank the Government for introducing the Bill, because as a number of people will know, it has led directly to the election of a new Labour Member of Parliament for Kingswood, following the resignation of the former Government climate tsar, who wrote the net zero report and had this to say about the Bill:

    The Bill, as I have said, will achieve none of its stated aims, but it is far from consequence-free. The consequence is that it makes a mockery of our country’s commitments to take serious and responsible action on climate change. That is exactly the point the former right hon. Member for Kingswood, Chris Skidmore, made in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister. That point should not be a partisan point. Indeed, it has not been a partisan point, because a number of Members on all sides of the House, including a number of Conservative Members, can see the direction in which this short-sighted Prime Minister and Government are going, and want no part of it.

    Some Members are trying to make changes to the Bill. As I have said, one has resigned, and a number are working hard to turn around the direction of this Government in resiling from our country’s climate change commitments—commitments they so recently signed up to, at the recent COP—on moving away from oil and gas. Regrettably, the Prime Minister and the Government, including this Minister, are not having any part of that. I am particularly disappointed that the Minister is not having any part of it, because of his long and honourable commitment to these matters on the international stage over such a long time.

    The right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma), the man who led this country’s climate negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow, has called the Bill “smoke and mirrors”, and a “distraction” that will

    The right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Prime Minister—she signed this country’s net zero commitment into law and understood, as the current Prime Minister sadly does not, the value of cross-party consensus on the science of climate change—has said that she takes a different view from the Government on oil and gas licences, and that they will not provide for our energy security. Away from this Chamber, every credible independent expert has taken a dim view of the Bill. Lord Stern, one of the UK’s foremost experts on climate change, whose work has shaped how the world understands the costs of inaction, has called the Bill a “deeply damaging mistake”.

    The final argument that the Government have made in favour of the Bill is that it is somehow, as we have begun to unwrap, a climate-positive piece of legislation. This argument rests on a series of partial and deliberately gameable tests, as we discussed in Committee, with skewed conditions that look only at a narrow band of emissions, ignoring methane for example; that look only at production emissions, ignoring the impact of actually burning the fuels we are extracting; and that look only at liquefied natural gas, ignoring the fact that the majority of our imports are pipeline-delivered. It includes no test whatsoever for oil, which makes up the majority of remaining reserves. That is why I have sympathy for the civil servants who wrote the Bill, who had to squeeze various things into it such as ignoring gas that was coming into pipeline, only having tests against liquefied gas and ignoring the methane emissions in the various versions of the arrangements in place for measuring emissions from production. I was very disappointed that the Minister gave no reaction at all this afternoon to that particular point on methane.

    The data simply does not exist, as I think I set out. It does not exist and we cannot make a comparison if the data does not exist. We are world-leading in having that data; others do not have it. On the methane comparison, we are already below the internationally set goal; we have very low methane emissions in the North sea. On the comparison with LNG— which is the buffer fuel, which is why it is the true comparator, rather than Norwegian gas, which the hon. Gentleman is failing to admit—methane is emitted as it is shipped, so the methane story would make it even worse for LNG versus domestically produced fuel. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would put that into his argument.

    The argument that the marginal unit of gas must always be LNG is simply not correct, because the Bill makes no provision whatsoever for the shape of UK gas demand at the point at which the gas is extracted and used. It effectively assumes that our national demand for gas will remain unchanged in perpetuity. When we are in a crisis caused by our reliance on fossil fuels and committed to a net zero transition, that assumption is patently wrong.

    I hesitate to intervene again, but to suggest that this Bill has the assumption that our gas demand remains the same is absolute nonsense. Of course it is coming right down. We are on a net zero pathway. We are leading the world in that and our demand is falling fast; it is just that our production will fall even faster. The hon. Gentleman should not mislead the House, and I am sure he would not want to do so.

    I think I have already indicated that gas production is predicted to fall by 95% by 2050. The addition of one or two licences will not make any difference at all to that precipitous fall in practice, as it will be four days more of gas over the period. That is the basis for why we say that the Government’s commitment to net zero transition while producing large amounts of additional gas and oil is patently wrong. We should be sprinting towards clean energy. We should be investing in renewables, rather than banning them, as the Conservatives have done with onshore wind. We should be saving the country billions by moving to decarbonise power systems by 2030 and making far greater efforts to insulate homes and reduce gas demand there.

    On climate change, on energy security, on jobs and on bills, this Bill has nothing to offer but false promises that frankly insult the public’s intelligence. To support this Bill, we would need to believe that we can double down on the causes of the cost of living crisis and still solve it; that we can somehow defy geology in the North sea and change the fundamental nature of international energy markets; and that we can ignore all the science and credible experts on climate change and still meet our commitments, including our commitment to transition away from fossil fuels made by the Minister at COP28 a few short months ago. It is clearly nonsense, but it is emblematic of a Government who have run out of ideas and run out of road—a Government who can see the many real challenges our country faces, but have no answer to them beyond confected political drama. In their misguided pursuit of a political dividing line, they have shrunk our country on the international stage, made us hypocrites in the eyes of the world and opened the door in this country to a new divisive politics on climate change that I sincerely believe the Ministers sitting opposite me today are not comfortable with, do not want as their legacy and will come to regret profoundly. This Bill will deliver nothing, but it threatens much. For that reason, I urge the House to vote against it.


  • 8 Feb 2024: Sustainable Aviation Fuel

    6. What steps he is taking with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to improve the allocation of resources between the production of sustainable aviation fuel and other uses of biomass. ( 901415 )


  • 22 Jan 2024: Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill


    My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) pointed out strongly that this Bill, contrary to its claims, is not about energy security. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western), who reminded us of the real effects of climate change right now, pointed out that the future is largely electric and this Bill is a “great deception”. The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) called it stupid, unnecessary and dangerous—she did not mince her words very much. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome) laid many of the myths of the Bill to rest and questioned why the Government are pushing it in the first place. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) pointed out the “political theatre” behind the Bill and why it is completely incompatible with our climate change commitments.

    The Bill is about not what it says as much as what it does. As the former Energy Minister and author of the Government net zero report, the former right hon. Member for Kingswood, said recently, the Bill goes against everything the UK is saying internationally about moving away from oil and gas, and it has already damaged our international stance by appearing to double down on precisely the thing to which we are saying the opposite on the world stage. The right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma), the former president of Glasgow COP, said in a courageous and precise speech this evening that the Bill puts into legislation something that already happens under the agency of the OGA. He also stated that its sole purpose is to double down on more oil and that nations around the world will not take that very kindly as far as our commitments are concerned.

    That says rather more about the state of the Government than anything else. Where were the quality controls on policy making? How did something so evidently content-free and fact-averse as this piece of legislation ever make it so far? How did the present departmental Government Ministers, for whom I have a great deal of respect, allow it to happen on their watch, when they must know it is a load of hokum with no policy merit at all? Now they are forced to go out and try to justify it to the House. It is a very sad reflection of what a tiny, bitter and sad space the Government have retreated into, where serious policy development in the energy sphere—God knows we have enough of that to be working on—is replaced by such ill-advised emptiness. That is what this Bill is, in the end: just empty. If passed, it will linger on the statute book for a short period, make no difference to anything in the meantime and be rapidly overtaken by the reality of the forward march to decarbonisation in energy.

    However, the Bill will have one lasting effect, as I have mentioned, because it signals strongly and, I am afraid, potentially lastingly that the UK is not serious about its climate and net zero ambitions and is prepared to say duplicitous things on both an international and a national stage. That is bad news for all the genuine work that has so far been done by the UK on net zero climate leadership. This Bill will not stick, but that charge might. For that reason, if for no other of the many reasons that have been put forward in this debate, it is best that we take this Bill no further than Second Reading and refuse as a House to let it pass to further stages.


  • 12 Dec 2023: Draft Hydrogen Production Revenue Support (Directions, Eligibility and Counterparty) Regulations 202...


    The explanatory notes state that the initial allocation gives way to a competitive tender process later. The directions therefore concern the initial allocation process in the first instance, but they are all to be informed by the centrepiece of the SI—the low-carbon hydrogen standard, which is generally called “the standard” in the regulations. It refers to a detailed document, which sets out the greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability criteria that programmes that apply for an allocation contract should follow.


  • 28 Nov 2023: Oral Answers to Questions

    I recently visited the site in Leighton Buzzard of the only turbine that has been put in place onshore in England since those supposed restrictions were lifted. It turns out that it has been in the planning process since 2014, and is not on a new site anyway. The Department’s renewable energy planning database shows that there are precisely zero new schemes in the pipeline in England. Should the Minister not go away and reconsider the remaining planning and funding restrictions on onshore wind so that it really can get going again?


  • 23 Nov 2023: Energy Social Tariffs


    On 18 April, the then Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero said:


  • 22 Nov 2023: Draft Green Gas Support Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2023


    The SI concerns the green gas support scheme, which is a scheme that I advocated for a very long time. I was delighted when it came in in 2021, and it has proved very successful in bringing about substantial advances in biomethane production and substantial increases in the amount of biomethane injected into the grid, thereby decarbonising the gas grid to a considerable degree. I hope it continues to be successful. We have to be careful that people who are in favour of sustainable aviation fuel do not seek to pinch that biomethane in the not-too-distant future, but that is perhaps a debate for another day.


  • 25 Oct 2023: Renewable Energy Providers: Planning Considerations


    First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie) on her diligence in obtaining this important debate about the nuts and bolts of how our country gets to a low-carbon renewable energy outcome.

    I take it that, with the possible exception of one hon. Member present, there is pretty much a consensus that our country needs as much renewable power as possible, both offshore and onshore, so that we are on target for our climate goals. I also take it that we can organise our energy structures so that they mindful of how our landscape and community work while maximising the output of renewable and low-carbon energy in all circumstances. Clearly, decisions will have to be made about where things are sited, how they are sited and what the most productive use of land is under different circumstances, but those will be made within an overall view that we want to move forward on renewable energy as quickly as possible.

    The hon. Member for Stroud identified the problems in a number of those areas, and I would say there are three: the small print, time, and connections. Those problems stand within the choices that we have to make, and resolving them does not undermine the principle that we must move forward on renewables on the basis of an acceptable use of the landscape, acceptable support from local communities, and an acceptable outcome in terms of the national stock of power and connections. We will have to do a lot of work across the landscape in different ways to ensure that we have not only the renewable plant, but the connections for that renewable plant, the planning arrangements for that renewable plant and all those things that work together strategically to enable us to get the best result for renewable energy across the country.

    Perhaps I could phrase the question in another way for the hon. Gentleman. His party is the largest party in local government and is in control of the London Government Association right now, where the focus is on net zero. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that there is a disregard in the policies of his party for local communities and that it comes at net zero at all costs? That is effectively the stance that he advocates.

    I hope the Minister will take from today’s debate that there is a lot of work for Government to do on getting the planning arrangements right for the development of renewable energy and on getting the development right, in terms of the proper arrangements that should exist for local consultation, reputation and possibly compensation. For example—


  • 5 Jul 2023: Energy Infrastructure


    I have known the Chair of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee for a very long time, although I still cannot pronounce his constituency entirely right.

    Thank you very much; I will not even try myself. Among other things, the hon. Member mentioned the Climate Change Committee’s very recent report, as did the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) and others. Before I get into the detail of what has been discussed this afternoon, I think it is important to set out what that committee actually says about Government action on climate change, and particularly about the progress made by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on the matters within its purview, which include most of the net zero emissions targets.

    Last week’s progress report from the Climate Change Committee says quite simply that the Government have a “lack of urgency”, and a lack of interest in pursuing net zero targets and undertaking the action necessary to reach them. It is a devastating report with respect to just how little is being done by the Department to advance the net zero policy framework. As a couple of hon. Members have noted, the committee comments:

    That has been a bit of a theme among hon. Members this afternoon. They have raised issues in several areas, including those in the list set out by the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, who raised the question of the grid, the question of nuclear and the question of floating wind. The problem arising in all those areas is that we are failing to take action or take the opportunities to push things forward. All of that will have a very substantial effect on future net zero targets.

    The right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire highlighted the grid, which he rightly described as not fit for purpose. My personal view is that lack of action to undertake the necessary uprating and reorganisation of the grid will be the undoing of all our net zero ambitions. We have heard that projects seeking to get their connections to the grid firmed up are facing delays of up to 10 years. If we do not urgently get the grid up to scratch so that it can capture and deliver low-carbon electricity, we may well completely miss our targets, because we will have a number of schemes in hand but will be unable to plug them into the grid to deliver any low-carbon power to anybody. Urgent action to get the grid up to scratch is important.

    My hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) and for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) raised the issue of carbon capture and storage, and the problems we are having with developing it for the future. They are absolutely right, among other things, to query the arrangements that are presently under way on cluster development. It baffles me, to be honest, that we continue to have competition between clusters on CCS and hydrogen development. We had a first-track competition before placing in reserve—whatever that means—the important Scottish cluster, which is essential for the future of CCS. We have second and even third rows of clusters waiting to see whether their ambitions can be realised. A number of companies involved in those ambitions have put their concerns on hold while the Government decide the track for each project. We should not have tracks; they should proceed together. We ought to be clear about that.

    If the Department had a target for consultations and papers, it would have easily exceeded that target, but I am afraid they are not yet attaching themselves to the urgent progress needed on net zero. That is the main charge laid against the Department by Members on both sides of the House this afternoon.


  • 4 Jul 2023: Onshore Wind Proposals: Community Engagement

    I think maybe the Government should take lessons from Labour. It is now generally understood that the Government consultation is likely to lead to only minimal relaxation of planning rules and that onshore wind will effectively remain banned. Tory peer Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said of the consultation on Saturday that it is simply unacceptable that the Government are still discussing whether they are in favour of onshore wind or not when it is widely recognised as one of the cheapest forms of energy generation. He is right, is he not?


  • 27 Jun 2023: Energy Bill [ Lords ] (Sixteenth sitting)


    This fairly simple clause seeks for the Government to include in all future legislative impact assessments a net zero compatibility test. Achieving net zero is vital to save to planet. The Government have legally binding targets to hit net zero by 2050, and this Committee has agreed to Government amendments that give Ofgem a statutory duty to consider net zero. If the regulator is obliged to consider net zero, and if the Government have legal targets to achieve net zero, surely it makes sense to legislate for the Government to undertake a net zero compatibility assessment, so as to ensure that policies will not have an adverse impact on the legally binding target to achieve net zero. That would result in transparency on whether policies are adversely or positively impacting on the route to net zero. Such transparency would also be of assistance with costs, especially given the net zero cynics among Government Members. Importantly, Energy UK, the trade body that represents energy companies, also says that it supports a net zero compatibility test.

    Given what I have outlined, I do not see why the Government would not accept the new clause. If the Government can carry out impact assessments of the effect of legislation on small businesses, why not carry one out on the wider, legally binding target to hit net zero? I hope that the Minister will accept the new clause.

    I thank the hon. Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun and for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) for tabling their new clause. The Government agree with the intention behind it, but we believe that it is unnecessary. We are already taking a cross-Government and systematic approach to embedding net zero and climate into Government policies and decision-making processes.

    The creation by the Prime Minister of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which I am proud to serve, means that there is an entire Department dedicated to delivering on our climate ambitions. The Department’s focus, alongside energy security, is driving overall delivery of net zero and maximising the economic opportunity that the transition presents. The new Department’s officials work with counterparts across Government to co-ordinate action, working particularly closely with the Cabinet Office and the Treasury to ensure that net zero is prioritised in Government policy and decision making, and that it aligns with our wider priorities.

    We are also working with industry and stakeholders, which has led to the creation of the net zero council, the green jobs delivery group, the jet zero council and the local net zero forum. We also work closely with our devolved Administration colleagues. We have also gone further by creating the Domestic and Economic Affairs (Energy, Climate and Net Zero) Committee, which brings together senior Ministers from across Government to ensure a co-ordinated approach to delivering net zero across government. Additionally, we have provided Green Book supplementary guidance on the valuation of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for appraisal. That guidance helps officials when undertaking options appraisal for policies, programmes and projects; building business cases; and when conducting impact assessments. I hope that provides the hon. Member with the reassurance that he needs to withdraw his new clause.

    The Minister smiled when he said he hoped that that would satisfy me. There is no surprise that it does not. He outlined the creation of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and the important thing is that the net zero compatibility test would apply to all legislation that the Government introduce from every Department, so it would make every Department start to consider the net zero implications of its policies. That is what is critical about this new clause. I do not wish to withdraw the motion.

    Just Transition Commission

    “(1) Within six months of the date on which this Act is passed the Secretary of State must by regulations establish a body to be known as the ‘Just Transition Commission’.

    (2) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide for the purposes of the Just Transition Commission to include—

    (a) the provision of scrutiny and advice on the ongoing development of just transition plans;

    (c) consultation with such persons as the Secretary of State shall consider appropriate in relation to the delivery and likely impact of just transition planning.

    (3) The Just Transition Commission must produce and lay before Parliament an annual report of its work.”— (Alan Brown.)

    I shall potentially continue my losing streak here. This new clause is about setting up a just transition commission. The Committee may be aware that the Scottish Government set up a just transition commission a couple of years ago, which is effectively world leading. It brings together independent academics, and representatives from trade unions and right across industry. It advises the Scottish Government on policy implications and what is needed as we move forward to a just transition to ensure that workers are not left behind and do not lose their jobs, to be effectively left on the scrapheap.

    We certainly need more focus, and to hear more from the Government about ensuring that this is a just transition. We know that we cannot reach net zero without the skilled workforce to deliver it, and without decisive action to ensure that no community is left behind. It is illustrative to look at what Joe Biden is doing with the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States, where a lot of focus is on energy-intensive states such as Texas to ensure that, as they move away from fossil fuel exploration, the jobs are still there. We all know what happened, as we debated earlier in this Committee, when the coalmines were closed with the lack of a strategy to ensure good, decent jobs for people left behind. We saw whole communities abandoned and, in some parts of the country, turned into basic commuter villages, rather than having a home-grown industry.

    It has rightly been said that net zero is the economic opportunity of the century, but it represents a potential threat to those who, at the moment, rely on traditional industries. That is not because oil and gas extraction will immediately cease, or because coal-fired blast furnaces will suddenly be switched off. It is because our reliance on the old way of doing things will gradually decline and, as a result, the skills required will evolve.

    Workers in those industries need to know that there is a plan. As I said, we cannot allow the mistakes of the 1980s to be repeated. We need a forward-looking industrial strategy, to make it clear that the transition to net zero is an opportunity to reinvigorate our industrial heartlands and coastal communities and to make it clear that that means a higher quality of work, better regulation of employment practices and greater diversity in the sector. This is quite a complex task. Some of it will be industry-led, but we know, particularly when we get further down the supply chain to those clusters of jobs that will be based around the traditional industries, that those smaller companies will need support to diversify as well.



    Section 41 is a bit of a nonsense, and of course it is a much bigger nonsense now than it was, because the Government have solemnly agreed to our net zero targets and amended the Climate Change Act 2008. Indeed, the amendment of those targets was agreed after the 2015 Act was passed. We now have targets for our country’s future emissions, as well as legislation that essentially says that we are required to do the opposite of those targets through oil and gas extraction in the North sea.

    As I am sure the Minister is aware, one important calculation in reaching net zero—indeed, the Government have introduced a net zero calculator—is whether at least some extraction of oil and gas from the North sea contradicts the net zero target. We have had a number of assessments, including from the Climate Change Committee and various other bodies, that maximising the economic extraction of oil and gas from the North sea would undoubtably bust our targets, and that we must be clear that at least some of it probably needs to be left there. If we sucked the North sea and other places dry of their oil and gas resources, depending on how we accounted for it, that would pretty much inevitably bust our ability to reach our targets. The objective to maximise economic recovery sits in stark contradiction to our overall emissions targets.


  • 8 Jun 2023: Energy Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)


    Before I expand on the Government’s position and explain why we will not accept new clause 1 or the hon. Gentleman’s amendments, I will acknowledge absolutely that connections and connection timelines are the biggest challenge we face—for electrification to grid, for driving our economy forward in the way we seek to and for reaching our net zero goals. Every single day for the past few months, but in particular this week, I have been engaging with DNOs, transmission operators, Nick Winser who conducted the independent review, Ofgem and the National Grid ESO about what we can do to drive down those timelines. At a critical point, part of that will be the creation of the ISOP. For the benefit of those who might be slightly confused, that is what we refer to outside the Bill as the future system operator—ISOP and the future system operator are one and the same thing.

    I will now turn to the question asked by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test about why an advisory board would make ISOP risk-averse and not fully independent. We are concerned that, rather than enhancing independence, the members of such a board would likely hold various energy sector conflicts. That could crystallise in many ways, including resistance to systematic reform, advice to pay compensation to energy sector participants or an incumbent bias that would seek to frustrate new market entrants. Establishing an industry-led advisory board for the ISOP would be similar to establishing one for the Climate Change Committee—it is not required for an organisation that needs to remain independent, such as the Climate Change Committee, which we are using as the basis for how we proceed.


  • 23 May 2023: Oral Answers to Questions

    Will the Minister explain how, on his watch, things have got to such a wretched state with grid development? The grid apparently cannot now connect renewable energy plants to the system until after 2035, the date by which the Government say in the energy security strategy

    “we will have decarbonised our electricity system”.


  • 9 May 2023: Energy Bill [Lords]


    My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) spoke strongly about carbon capture and storage, about the importance of CCS in the Teesside industrial cluster, and about the importance of ensuring that the industrial clusters can play their role in CCS as they develop further,

    Finally, the right hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), author of the net zero report, spoke enormous sense about delays being the biggest threat to net zero in future. He supported the retention of Lords amendments to the Bill, as did many other hon. Members, on community energy changes and other things that are part of the Bill that we are debating in the Commons.

    Yes, I am happy to acknowledge that that is an important issue in the transition to net zero for the oil and gas industry, and that it is ripe for further legislation to outlaw it in the not-too-distant future.

    The Opposition have some serious differences with the Government about how to go about those changes, but we acknowledge and support the generality of those “green plumbing” measures, not least because their establishment will undoubtedly help the new Labour Government greatly as we embark on our far more ambitious programme of energy decarbonisation and energy efficiency from 2024 onwards. Indeed, one of our substantial criticisms of the Bill is how long it has taken for us to get to the point of establishing the legislation that will guide the next stages of our energy decarbonisation.

    As we have heard, the Bill has been with us for 10 months in its almost finalised form. Yes, the Government have sought to add amendments to the Bill in another place, and there will be further amendments in the Commons, but the measure could have been on the statute book many months ago—and time is of the essence in getting going with the next stages of decarbonisation. Instead, last autumn we were treated to the spectacle of the then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy pulling the Energy Bill from its established progress after just two sessions of debate, and sitting on it for over three months for no apparent reason while the legislative process stalled completely. That led to the remarkable situation of the Opposition writing to the new Minister during that period of stasis demanding that the Bill be recommenced as soon as possible. I know about that because I was the person who wrote the letter. [ Interruption. ] Indeed, I did a very good job there.

    There are many areas where we can say, “Yes, but” to this Bill and put forward the measures that will enable it to rise to the challenge of decarbonisation in a comprehensive way. That is why we will embark on that task as the Bill goes into Committee by tabling the amendments that will make the Bill so much more robust for the challenge of the future, and we hope the Government will be receptive to those proposals. That process has been started, with a number of very well-thought-out additions made to the Bill in the other place on Ofgem, hydrogen, coal, community energy and home retrofitting. We will seek to defend those changes in this place, and we hope the Government will see the wisdom of them and not seek to overthrow them.

    Labour has an ambitious low-carbon energy programme for government, with a fully decarbonised power system by 2030, including a doubling of present onshore wind deployment; a grid that is fit for enabling and delivering a low-carbon economy; Great British Energy, an investment company that can do so much to speed the energy transition along; a massive programme to retrofit 19 million homes over 10 years to reach our energy efficiency targets; and serious planning of the energy transition, so that it is a just transition both in the North Sea and elsewhere. All these plans will benefit from many of the measures that are in the Bill, but they could be so much more supportive, and that is why we want to see an extended and more robust version of the Bill on the statute book as soon as possible.


  • 23 Mar 2023: Energy Trilemma


    The right hon. Lady mentioned the three-legged stool. This is about how we achieve our net zero outcomes while taking the whole question of affordability and of energy security along with us as we go. This is not a zero-sum game. It is not the case that if we consider affordability and security, we take away from our net zero ambitions. After all, we in this House already decided which of those legs we are going for most strongly when we decided on net zero as our target as far as climate change is concerned. That means we have to consider the energy trilemma from the point of view of not whether we will get there but how we can get there with those other matters being taken into account.

    It also means we have to take decisions in other areas that are compatible with the particular length of spine we have gone down on that triangle. I would politely say to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) that, while it may be the case that the hydrocarbons we bring into the UK are more carbon-intensive than the ones we produce in the UK for transport reasons and others, they are still hydrocarbons. With what we have decided, yes, we are going to need oil and gas in our future economy, but in far smaller quantities than is the case in our economy at the moment. We have to think about the right use for oil and gas in our future energy economy, making sure that as much of that as possible is produced in the UK as opposed to importing, but also that the total that we have coming into the economy as a whole is compatible with that net zero goal on the left leg of the sustainability triangle.

    The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we should not be dependent on foreign imports. However, we need to be thinking about a long-term overall reduction in what we are doing. I do not think that simply saying, “We’re going to increase oil and gas production over the next period” is an answer to our present problems, because in the end, that is incompatible with the commitments we have made on net zero. We cannot go down that path in the long-term future.

    No, what I said was that we should be trying to make sure that the reduced amounts of oil and gas that, in the end, we use in our system are as indigenous as they can be. That does not mean that we increase oil and gas production overall. We have to make sure that what we are doing in terms of our route to net zero and our energy provision for the future is secure and affordable.

    For example, we are, I hope, on track to make our energy economy—for power—based pretty wholly on renewables. Certainly, that is a Labour target for 2030; I think the official Government target is 2035. Of course, as hon. Members have mentioned, that means that we have to take account of what the issue is for variables in that energy economy. But, we should not back those up with a whole lot more oil and gas; we should back them up with things such as storage, which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) mentioned, and methods of making sure that we can use our energy as flexibly as possible. Also, our variability must be accommodated by what we do alongside it to make the overall system work. That is actually working quite well so far, inasmuch as renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy there is at the moment. On the affordability criterion, we really are making progress on that front.


  • 11 Jan 2023: Draft Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouse Gases) Order 2022


    As the Minister has stated, nitrogen trifluoride is an unbelievably potent greenhouse gas—17,000 times as potent over a 100-year period as carbon dioxide—but it is not at present on the inventory list in the Climate Change Act 2008. That is partially because, particularly at the time of the passing of that Act, it was not recognised quite how potent nitrogen trifluoride was.

    As the Minister says, nitrogen trifluoride is not used to an enormous extent in industry, but it is overwhelmingly human made, with very little occurring in nature. Pretty much all of it is a result of its manufacture for industrial processes. That was known about shortly after the Climate Change Act came into place; indeed, it was included in the greenhouse gas protocols in about 2013, with the requirement that countries should introduce it into their national inventories.

    We absolutely welcome the addition of nitrogen trifluoride to the list of designated greenhouse gas substances in the Climate Change Act, but there is a slight question mark as to why it has taken this long. It really should have been designated a number of years ago, albeit I appreciate that there has been a process of discovery about nitrogen trifluoride over a period.

    I am slightly concerned that nitrogen trifluoride is still being used to some extent in the UK for industrial processes. I hope the Minister will join me in saying that, particularly as a result of this designation, under no circumstances should nitrogen trifluoride continue to be used in industrial processes anywhere in the UK. I say that because there are perfectly good alternatives for the purposes for which it was historically manufactured and used, albeit possibly at slightly greater expense to industry. We face a position in which industry is possibly using nitrogen trifluoride simply for cost purposes, when its greenhouse gas potential is now well known and, as of today, clearly designated in the Climate Change Act.

    I hope the Minister will say that we are not just recording the use of nitrogen trifluoride but earnestly pursuing its non-use in this country for the future, and that we look forward to the time when, although it is designated in the Climate Change Act, there will actually be no emissions of the gas to record as far as the UK base is concerned.


  • 6 Dec 2022: Sustainable Energy Generation: Burning Trees


    We have also had a discussion about CCS, on the back of burning wood, residual material and waste. That applies to energy from waste just as it does to biomass use. Of course, the Climate Change Committee is quite keen on BECCS. The idea is that the whole process can become net negative as far as contributions to net zero are concerned, and we are producing a net negative contribution to the overall carbon balance, providing that CCS works well and sequesters as much carbon as it is supposed to.

    This underpins just how wide this debate really is and what we need to think about: for example, is CCS a reasonable way to go forward in sequestering emissions over the long period and how much is that going to cost overall in subsidies? My conclusion is that, yes, there is a role for biomass and for energy from waste, with the proper constraints and the proper circumstances under which we provide that power. It has a role, but not a large role. On the other hand, we need every source of low and lowish carbon energy that we can get at the moment, so we need it to make a contribution, but not a large one, to our overall power arrangements.


  • 11 Oct 2022: Energy Costs in Wales


    For a long time we had a Government pretty much asleep at the wheel on governing energy prices, thinking that an energy price cap would deal with the whole thing. But the energy price cap originally was supposed to deal with retail companies price gouging, not price rises coming from the wholesale market into the retail market in the UK as a whole. The fact is that UK energy prices are determined entirely by gas prices. We have done a lot over the years to start bringing renewable energy sources into the mix—indeed, 38% of our power is now supplied by renewable sources; if we take nuclear too, the majority of our energy supply is provided by low-carbon sources—but the UK retail market works as if it were supplied entirely by gas-fired power stations paying the price of gas to make electricity. That is because of the marginal effect of the way the UK energy market works, with auctions and how that all works. I do not think we will go into that this afternoon, but the fact is that the UK energy market is completely broken, in that it allows those really high prices to come through in a situation where we are—or should be—decreasingly reliant on gas.

    By the way, a lot can be done in that direction before we get to that position by decoupling energy prices in the UK market from the gas market. That can be done by changing the way people receive their rewards, as far as energy is concerned, and renewable obligations and contracts for difference, as far as renewable energy is concerned. We could perhaps introduce a green power pool arrangement, whereby renewable power is traded in advance of gas, and the gas is placed on the margins without the ability to swamp the whole market. That means that we perhaps have to introduce a strategic reserve for gas-fired power stations outside the market as we move towards a wholly renewable energy market.


  • 5 Sep 2022: Energy Update


    The only aspect of this rehashed statement to welcome is the acknowledgment from the Minister that the current proposals are insufficient to avoid a catastrophe. What we should be getting today is a proper updated statement on energy security and a net zero update that would reflect additional investment in renewables such as pumped storage hydro, Peterhead carbon capture and storage, what is happening with the Rough gas storage facility, the decoupling of renewables from gas, and grid upgrades.

    My hon. Friend is always a strong voice for Redcar and Teesside. I think that every single question he has ever asked me has included hydrogen somewhere. He is auditioning, I think, to be the UK’s Mr Hydrogen. He has mentioned CCUS as well, which is a big priority of ours, and he is absolutely right to say that energy efficiency is so important. If we can reduce the amount of energy that is used to create the same level of heating in people’s homes, clearly that is a massive gain. That is why we have invested £6.6 billion over the course of this Parliament in energy efficiency.

    On dependence on renewables, the right hon. Member is right that a number of elements used in creating renewable energy resources are dependent on critical minerals, but that is exactly one of the reasons why the Government have recently launched the critical minerals strategy. We will be talking to all our international partners, as I do, about critical minerals and making sure that we have a diversity of sources of supply for them going forward.


  • 6 Jul 2022: Home Energy Efficiency: North of England


    Bearing in mind that issue, we also have a huge gap between the emissions from new build properties and those from existing dwellings. Indeed, the north-east has one of the largest gaps between emissions from new and old properties. In the north-east, there are emissions of just over 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from a new property, compared with over twice that amount—3.6 tonnes per year—for existing properties. So there is a huge job to be done, particularly in properties in the north of England, to help us get to our net zero targets and to retrofit properties throughout the country.

    The call from the hon. Member for Darlington for much more work to be done on the energy retrofit of properties is important for climate change purposes and for future energy bills. It is estimated that £400 to £500 can be saved from energy bills in an uprated energy-efficient property. It is also important for the comfort and good living that we expect in any household in the country. The problem relating to damp and older properties is not just in his part of the world, but in the north generally. This debate is timely and important, and we must have the retrofit debate in the not too distant future.

    I cannot be entirely non-political in this debate, as the hon. Member suggested we should be, although we all agree in this Chamber on what we want to do with retrofitted properties and on why it is important and relevant to climate change, fuel poverty and the welfare of citizens.

    As I think every Member present this afternoon has said, this is a pressing problem that needs to be sorted out as quickly as possible, and on the widest scale that is compatible with our net zero commitment and the duty we have towards our citizens’ style of living, energy bills and expectations of what their housing will look like in future years. Pushing forward on that is something we in this Chamber are completely united on, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to that unity of purpose.


  • 5 Jul 2022: Energy Security Strategy


    I refute the idea that to enhance our energy security, we must enhance our production of gas, oil and other things. As the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) said, our energy security is tied up with getting to net zero. Not succeeding in that would be a great source of energy insecurity. Whatever short-term improvements might be made in gas supply, the idea that we should turn on new oil and gas to enhance energy security does not stack up as part of our overall path.

    So to the canard. It is untrue—simply untrue—that the intermittency of some of our renewables is fatal to our energy security because of the inability to run a lights-on system, which is what we absolutely need. It is untrue because of our increasingly smart energy systems. Because of the way our current energy systems work, they waste a lot of renewable energy by constraining it. The introduction of batteries, inter-seasonal storage and the use of other existing storage such as pumped storage, which we have in substantial amounts, will back up the systems where production is intermittent. In addition, not all renewables are intermittent. Biomass and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which the Climate Change Committee is considering, would not be intermittent; nuclear is not intermittent. Nuclear is so unintermittent, actually, that it is not easily able to cope with the sort of system that we will have in the future, in the quantities that the Government are indicating.


  • 16 Jun 2022: Low-carbon Off-gas Grid Heating


    This has been a good debate about a very troubled subject. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) on securing the debate and putting forward comprehensively just what trouble we are in as far as off-grid properties and decarbonisation are concerned. We heard very thoughtful contributions from the hon. Members for Ceredigion (Ben Lake), for Buckingham (Greg Smith) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon); the latter is something of a fixture in these debates but always has something relevant and useful to say, whatever the subject. We also heard a thoughtful contribution from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry), who was supposed to be summing up the thoughtful contributions of everyone else, but made one himself.

    This is a really thorny subject, because the imperative of decarbonisation heavily hits off-grid housing and businesses. There are, as hon. Members have mentioned, a surprisingly high number of properties in England, Wales and Scotland that are off-grid. I think it is about 1.1 million houses in England, 230,000 in Wales and 550,000 in Scotland. Put together, that is a very large number of homes. Not only do they often have different characteristics from the mass of on-grid housing in urban areas, but they also have limited choices for decarbonisation.

    Far more off-grid homes are poorly insulated and of a lower standard assessment procedure rating than their urban comparators. They are generally larger and more free-standing than properties in urban areas. Therefore, in the solutions we put forward to decarbonise them, we must take account of those issues, particularly so that we can get the energy efficiency quality of those homes up to the standard where they can take those low-carbon arrangements.

    I would not be in favour of taking a break in our plans to move to low carbon, as the right hon. Member for Clwyd West suggested this afternoon, to get our choices right. The replacement turnaround time for the types of heating in those off-grid properties—the boilers and other apparatus—is about 15 years. That is slightly longer than for boilers in urban properties, because oil-fired arrangements and so on are often set out differently. If we take that normal replacement turnaround time, and we pretty much start now with replacing those boilers with low-carbon alternatives as they come up for replacement, the cycle will have been completed by the early 2040s. That is within the 2050 target for low-carbon replacements. If we put our plans off, we simply would not replace the boilers as quickly as otherwise. That suggestion assumes that we are being very careful to undertake the replacements with the active will and participation of the people who live in those homes, as the right hon. Member for Clwyd West enjoined us to do—that we are not marching in and ripping boilers out, and demanding they do things on the spot, whether or not their arrangements are obsolete and whether or not they can afford the changes.

    I have considerable sympathy for the Government’s problem of how to go about decarbonising the sector. The Government have chosen, in the first instance, to go for a heat-pump-first solution—to prioritise heat pumps as the replacement arrangements in those homes. As hon. Members have pointed out, heat pumps do not always work in those homes, and they certainly do not work unless the energy efficiency is substantially upgraded. Given the homes we have in that group, heat pumps might require a whole-house refit, including the gauge of pipes and various other things related to the central heating, in order to work as well as they should. The cost of the heat pump is therefore not the only cost for those off-grid homes. Quite a lot of other work is also required.

    I think we can question whether heat-pump-first is the right way to go about this plan. It is not that they should not be a substantial part of the process but, as has been said, a number of other options are available that ought to and could be considered alongside heat pump installation. We might undertake a more horses-for-courses arrangement, because of the variety of off-grid homes that we need to decarbonise.

    As right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned, the alternatives are several. Some are very promising, some less so. Certainly, as the hon. Member for Buckingham mentioned, hybrid heat pumps—I have been to see a couple in operation in south Wales—do a very good job of arranging for the boiler to continue to operate, but as an auxiliary to other kinds of heating, which was an air source heat pump in this instance. The pumps do that in such a way that completely redoing the central heating, and so on, in the home is not required. The house can work very well with a combination of technologies working together effectively to decarbonise the heat in the home.

    The Government also ought to be considering, just as they should with hydrogen, the best uses for the alternative fuels. For example, what are the lowest-carbon uses for LPG or hydrogen? Do we put all our hydrogen into heating homes, transport and logistics, decarbonising heavy industry, or whatever? The Government must make that choice in terms of the priorities they put forward for those different forms of low-carbon fuels, and bioLPG is certainly one of them.

    I would criticise the Government not on their timescale or their ambition to decarbonise the off-grid area, but on the fact that they have not looked properly at the options that could be available to decarbonise those off-grid properties in the most efficient way. The Government will have to work on rectifying that if they are to get public backing for that decarbonisation over the next period. That is essential in getting not only off-grid properties decarbonised efficiently but, in general, our homes heated in a low-carbon way. Certainly, if the wider debate ends up with people marching down the street protesting that the Government are ripping out their boilers in an assault on their liberties—because they do not have a decent option to decarbonise by consent —then we will not have achieved our objectives at all.

    The issue is not strictly the subject of today’s discussion but clearly comes into how we ensure that the public are properly behind the decarbonisation of their properties across the board, and particularly in off-grid areas. I do not envy the Minister the task of getting that right, and I know that it is a real knotty problem, but I am sure that he will be able to provide us with some good pointers to ensure that we decarbonise our off-grid properties in the most efficient way that we can, and with the most public support that we can get.


  • 23 May 2022: Draft Contracts for Difference (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022


    I cannot see a great deal that is terribly controversial in the draft regulations, so we will not seek to divide the Committee. Indeed, we substantially support the proposals. Clarifying the eligible generator regulations in terms of CCS systems of concern is an important change being made today in this SI. It is important because when we talk about CCS as a whole system, we tend to talk about the carbon being captured, transported and sequestered, and we always talk about that in terms of pipelines and how CCS is going to work.

    Not only are we some way away from establishing decent pipelines for CCS transportation, but—particularly as far as energy-intensive industries are concerned—they are not necessarily going to where the pipelines might be. The question is how we transport the carbon to the places where the pipelines are, or we might want to barge entire shipments of CCS right around the country. Indeed, the Minister will know that the Acorn Project in Scotland is currently developing barge receipt facilities so that the CCS that is transported by barging methods can then be transferred to its place of sequestration efficiently.

    The regulations are important. They clarify what is in and what is out of the process. I want to ask the Minister about processes that will inevitably come into view as far as the CCS process is concerned, but have other things added in front other than the CCS. I particularly refer to the so-called BECCS, the biomass energy with carbon capture and storage, which, again as the Minister will know, is recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. Also, the Government are keen on BECCS in the long term as it combines biomass power with a CCS capture arrangement, so that the whole arrangement is negative as far as energy is concerned.

    Last year’s similarly named regulations, the Contracts for Difference (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2021, brought to an end the establishment of BECCS as a conversion arrangement from coal. They stated that biomass energy involving carbon capture and storage would be treated separately. The explanatory notes indicated that they would not be subject to today’s regulations because they were being treated separately, and they do not appear to have come into these regulations. We could, for example, have a conversion activity from a coal plant to biomass that included CCS in its arrangement from the start of the conversion process. Indeed, it is envisaged that conversion schemes can be included in the eligible generator regulations—that is, they are add-ons to existing activities, as opposed to schemes starting from new—which the Minister mentioned in his opening comments.

    It is not clear whether a biomass scheme that had CCS from the start but was not a new scheme in its own right would be within or outside these regulations. I would be interested to find out whether the Minister has considered that knock-on from last year’s regulations. Could he clarify the situation? Are such schemes considered outside or within the eligible generators for the purposes of these particular regulations?


  • 20 Apr 2022: Domestic Solar Energy

    The COP26 President acknowledges the tremendous contribution that solar has made and can make to the achievement of our net zero goals. I am sure that he also acknowledges that it is now one of the renewables that is cheapest and most quickly installed, so why are the Government ignoring its future development, having devastated the industry a few years back by precipitously withdrawing all support for development, and doing nothing to ease the penal planning restrictions on both domestic and ground-mounted solar installations? He says merely that he expects installations to increase fivefold by 2035, but without providing any support to allow that expectation to become a reality. Is it not time that the Government took seriously the contribution that solar can make to net zero targets?


  • 20 Apr 2022: Energy Price Cap: Residential Buildings with Communal Heating Systems


    Before I go any further, I will say that heat networks are a good thing. They are not just a substantial part of the Government’s plans for future decarbonisation of our heat systems but provide—or should provide—a cheaper deal overall as far as heat is concerned for those who get their heat through them. Also, of course, the networks themselves are not necessarily dependent on gas. A particular network can have any particular fuel—for example, as I have said on several occasions, Southampton heat network is fuelled by geothermal means—so it is not necessarily the case that gas goes into the networks. However, it is a fact that the vast majority of the 14,000 networks, either communal or district, are gas-fuelled and will probably continue to be so for quite a while.

    I think we may well have wider debates about how that works for the market as a whole, but this is one area where we must be clear. An intervention is needed to protect those 500,000 people on district heating networks from the consequences of the volatile gas market for the future, and also to protect those people who are running those heat networks from the consequences of a one-sided price cap. We must appreciate that they operate in very different ways to the rest of the energy market, and need different protections to ensure that they are fit for purpose now, and are available for the future. We will certainly need them to operate effectively within the low-carbon economy, and to provide the low-carbon heat that we all know is desperately needed as we decarbonise our energy systems as a whole.


  • 23 Mar 2022: Energy


    I hope hon. Members will bear in mind a very important figure that the Minister mentioned: 600,000 heat pumps to be installed a year by 2028. That figure derives from the Prime Minister’s “Ten Point Plan” and is an ambition for the number of installations that we should reach, which will continue after that point at 600,000 or so a year. That, among other things, will get us more or less in line with what the Climate Change Committee has suggested on the roll-out of heat pumps to ensure that our heat decarbonisation targets are realised. That is therefore a key figure, and it should be the yardstick against which this measure is judged.


  • 9 Mar 2022: Large Solar Farms


    In that context, we know that solar has already been a considerable success in the UK. It is being developed at the moment on no subsidies. We have 14 GW installed across the country, and 65% of that is ground-mounted solar. Frankly, it is a fantasy to believe that we can get to the sorts of targets we now need on solar—perhaps 40 GW by 2030, which is what the Climate Change Committee says—by simply installing them in small numbers on roofs in cities and towns. Of course we should go with that, and we ought to have a lot more imagination about how we put solar in towns and cities or alongside motorways and various things such as that.

    I agree with everybody that not engaging with communities is simply not on, and it is important that those who want to install renewable energy installations and solar farms need to engage with their communities. What does the hon. Gentleman think should be done to improve community engagement?

    That underlines the fact that, although we are transferring what we do as far as power stations and power are concerned, the issue remains just the same: where we put those power stations and renewables into operation, not whether we put them into operation. It is imperative that we have this amount of renewable energy across our country for the future. Be it offshore wind or onshore wind, city-based solar or field-based solar—all of those have to be considered as imperative for delivering our renewable power supplies. Solar happens to be the cheapest power available, and it is one of the quickest to introduce if we are thinking about a dash for renewables in the future.


  • 31 Jan 2022: Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2022


    Since the 2020 order, from which this amendment order derives, the EU has adopted in principle a proposal for a new carbon border adjustment mechanism. That mechanism would deal with the consequences of carbon leakage—that is, where the EU’s carbon taxes and carbon trading arrangements mean that third countries have a considerable trade advantage, because they can import goods without such arrangements attached and bring them within the EU’s borders. As far as I know, the UK has not yet taken any action on considering or implementing a carbon border adjustment mechanism. If the EU proceeds with such a mechanism, as seems likely, the UK will be in an even worse position than it is now when it comes to carbon leakage. We will be external to a carbon adjustment mechanism, so we will have punitive elements against us. At the same time, people will be able to import goods into the UK, safe in the knowledge that they are not subject to the same sorts of arrangements.


  • 10 Jan 2022: Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill


    The Bill, as its title suggests, is about how to finance nuclear power. We know that the Climate Change Committee has indicated that some nuclear power is needed in the future as part of an overwhelmingly renewable energy mix. The Bill is therefore important in ensuring that we get at least the next, and only, nuclear power plant that can generate power by the early 2030s in place and developing, as the prospects of a new plant elsewhere seem bleak.


  • 15 Dec 2021: Draft Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2021


    The draft regulations are particularly welcome because of the importance of what the climate change imperatives facing large companies in the UK mean for the assumptions and practices—for example about the long-term duration of assets in the ground, or fossil fuels—that were previously widespread in the industry. The required disclosures will ensure that companies are clear about the risks in their operating portfolio, particularly the risks of stranded assets. Across the world, as the impact assessment suggests,


  • 30 Nov 2021: Community Energy Schemes


    My particular involvement in the issue goes back to a 2013 Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry on local energy, which I chaired, that looked at the barriers to how local energy can go forward, remarked that there was not a great deal of local energy going on and talked about the potential for local energy. We have heard this afternoon about the potential from now on, but at the time we were saying we could have perhaps 3 GW of local energy overall in this country by 2020. What have we got today? About 270 MW, something like that.

    Yet again we are meeting with the idea that the future for local energy could be really bright, but I fear that we will be here in a few months’ time talking about the bright future that has not quite emerged, but may in the future. We have not got time any more to keep going round the houses before we get to a decent settlement that will allow local energy to proceed. Local energy is so important, as we have heard this afternoon, for the future of low-carbon renewable energy.


  • 24 Nov 2021: Energy-intensive Industries


    Secondly, the biggest challenge for the future, as mentioned by hon. Members, is how we decarbonise those vital energy-intensive industries so that they continue to produce in and for the purposes of the UK. We should not export energy-intensive production but decarbonise it, so that it continues to operate in the UK as effectively as it has done in the past. In that context, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) pointed out that steel is not a sunset industry but very much an industry of the future. Our efforts to decarbonise such industries should not be seen as a means of closing them down or of removing elements of their activities because they are sunset industries and others can decarbonise. Our energy-intensive industries need to be decarbonised so that they continue to play a central role in future production.

    It falls to me to remind Members that energy-intensive industries are not just about ceramics and steel. A little while ago, the Government helped energy-intensive industries with energy prices by exempting them from some levy costs. There was a list of 70 different sectors that are energy-intensive industries, including the manufacture of malt, the weaving of textiles, the casting of iron, the manufacture of batteries and accumulators, the manufacture of corrugated paper, rubber products, plastic products, technical ceramic products, cement, metal packaging and electronic wires, and metallurgy. Those are all energy-intensive industries across the country, not just in certain parts of the country, and they need our support on current prices and the need for decarbonisation. What I can say about prices right now—I think everyone present will agree—is that we absolutely have to tackle the harm that they are doing to energy-intensive industries, and the difficulties that such industries are experiencing.

    At the same time, we also need to get serious about the support that we need to provide for the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon mentioned Labour’s £3 billion steel renewable fund, which is a fund not just to stabilise prices but to take steel well down the road towards decarbonisation by changing things such as electric arc furnaces, hydrogen production for the introduction of energy for steel generally, and a host of other things. They need to be replicated in those other energy-intensive industries with Government support, so that they can decarbonise in good time and good order and keep their production going across the country in a way that we need for the future.

    That is a substantial task for the Government, both in the present and in the future, and very little has been achieved so far. I am sorry to have to say that, because it is so important that we get our act together right now and for the future, given the absolutely vital role that energy-intensive industries play in our country’s economy. I look forward to hearing from the Minister whether his Government have had a change of heart and are, perhaps even at this late stage, deciding to do something about price rises and the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries for the future.


  • 3 Nov 2021: Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill


    Labour believes that new nuclear has an important supporting role to play in the energy mix, alongside the decisive shift to renewables that we need to deliver the climate transition and secure our energy security. As set out by the Climate Change Committee, we need all the low-carbon power sources at our disposal to deliver the rapid and fair transition that is required.

    Interestingly, the Climate Change Committee, which has looked into this matter in great depth, considers that in the overall long-term future make-up of our energy mix, about 8 to 10 gigawatts of standby power—therm power—is likely to be required in the shape of new or existing nuclear power stations. That is about the size of the difference with an overwhelmingly renewable but variable economy, with elements of firm power backing it up.

    I have mentioned that one plant only that would be included in the suggested 8 GW to 10 GW is in prospect for a start before the late 2020s, because every other proposal has fallen away. However, it is not financed and is probably not financeable by private capital. It is only part financeable by a state financer, with which we do not now want to do business. Let us be clear before we go any further: this Bill is about finding a formula to fund and build Sizewell C power station. Whatever its generic pretensions, that is the issue we should be concentrating on. Even so, getting that plant going would cover most of what the Climate Change Committee considers is the presence in the mix needed.

    This plant, if it goes forward—we hope it will go forward with something like this kind of financing—would cover a substantial part of what the Climate Change Committee considers necessary in the mix of low-carbon energy to drive power towards net zero by 2050. I have mentioned that it thinks about 8 GW to 10 GW of new nuclear power would be needed to complement a predominantly renewable power line-up so that firm power considerations are met, without being in such numbers that it puts the development of renewables into jeopardy. That 8 GW to 10 GW includes new nuclear power, but also the one existing power station that will probably last beyond the 2030s in Sizewell B.


  • 3 Nov 2021: Draft Green Gas Support Scheme Regulations 2021


    Other than having those hopefully brief and not very taxing questions, the Opposition support the green gas support scheme and we support that scheme starting as soon as possible in order to ensure that biodigestion takes its proper place in the panoply of measures that can lead us towards net zero in a coherent way.


  • 21 Oct 2021: Climate Change Committee Progress Report 2021


    I do not want to go overboard about this and start saying things such as, “Better fewer, but better”—better being the watchword for these sorts of occasions—which is actually a quote from Lenin, but it reflects very well on the Members present. I could not have asked for a better group of parliamentarians to debate this issue. Between us, we have addressed in a sober manner both the pluses and the minuses of where we stand on emissions. For the second day running, I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) not only on securing the debate, but on the quality and content of what he had to say. I know that is probably a career-limiting move on the part of an Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson, but I really think that the hon. Gentleman did ample justice to his brief, albeit perhaps he pulled some punches a little because of his party political position. Overall, his speech was a sound and good exposition of both the pluses and minuses of our progress on climate change.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) made some important points about transport and the difference between what we think we have achieved by putting something down on a piece of paper, and, when we follow it through, where we think that has got to. That was exemplified in her comments on the 900 buses that have allegedly been procured. Indeed, I was present at the visit to the buses yesterday, along with her and other hon. Members. That exemplified that we have some things that are an obvious next step in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. If it is possible to embrace an entire bus, we should be running off with those examples and planting them everywhere in the country as quickly as possible, yet we appear to be falling down badly in terms of how we roll out that fine ambition over a period of time.

    As the hon. Member also said, it is only possible to decarbonise our power sector once, which is an important observation for our record so far. Some people, talking about where we have got to, might say that we have done better than a number of other countries in the world, that we have reduced emissions substantially while expanding our economy, and then stand back with folded arms and say, “There we are—it is pretty much done, isn’t it?” The Climate Change Committee’s report gives a telling antidote to that stance. It draws our attention to not just changes in UK emissions over the period 2000 to 2020, but changes by sector.

    A useful chart appears on page 20 of the report—I see hon. Members flicking through their copies to find it—which shows that there has been a stupendous change in emissions from electricity supply. We have done a fantastic job of decarbonising our emissions from electricity supply, which have plummeted from annual emissions of about 160 megatonnes of CO 2 in 2000 to less than 45 megatonnes of CO 2 . We see the wisdom of the point made by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire—we can only decarbonise these things once. Although we should go much further, and it is good that we have seen a proposal for the complete decarbonisation of the power sector by 2035, we will not be able to repeat that reduction in emissions in that sector, so we cannot set that achievement against what we need to do next in the areas we need to concentrate on for the future.

    We need to look at the progress made under the plans in those areas and how well they are getting us towards the same emissions curve as we see in the power sector, and as soon as possible. In that context, the Climate Change Committee’s report to Parliament is telling. The committee is the most polite organisation that one could come across. Not only is it unfailingly courteous in personal dealings with Members but all its reports have “courteous” written through them, like a stick of rock. It does not jump up and down and scream, and it does not over-hype its statements; quite the opposite. Where necessary, it is careful to caveat them as far as possible. In those circumstances, it is sometimes accused of being a bit soft. I do not think it is, but it is rigorously careful and accurate in what it tries to do.

    However, in reading between the lines, the progress report is a pretty coruscating condemnation of progress, particularly in the areas that I have represented to hon. Members. As hon. Members have mentioned, page 24 of the summary report shows the areas where progress falls far short of the Government’s stated ambition and commitments. In some areas the Government’s commitment meets what the Climate Change Committee said should be the pathway. However, in a number of other areas their commitment is failing very badly, and those areas represent a large chunk of the overall emissions coming down the road, while those where they are succeeding often account for relatively small amounts of emissions. We need to try to get that into proportion as well.

    Looking at what the Climate Change Committee said, something that we ought to think carefully about, which we have not done particularly this afternoon, is that the progress report is about not only mitigation but adaptation. Although there is a separate adaptation report, it comes under the overall ambit of the general report to Parliament. On adaptation, the committee says:

    “A robust plan is needed for adaptation. The UK does not yet have a vision for successful adaptation to climate change, nor measurable targets to assess progress. Not one of the 34 priority areas assessed in this year’s progress report on adaptation is yet demonstrating strong progress in adapting to climate risk. Policies are being developed without sufficient recognition of the need to adapt to the changing climate. This undermines their goals, locks in climate risks, and stores up costs for the future.”

    The committee’s report also reflected on the fact that, at the time it was written, the Government were in the process of producing a number of reports that had been promised for quite a while but had not arisen, such as the net zero plan, the transport plan, the hydrogen plan, and the heat and buildings strategy, which the Climate Change Committee was unable to incorporate into its report to Parliament because they were still anticipated. Just this week, no fewer than 1,800 pages of material finally came tumbling out of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Treasury and so on, with 10 days to go to COP26, rectifying a number of those emissions. I am afraid that, try as I might, I have not been able to get through all 1,800 pages by any means. It is apparent from reading those just how far off we are from getting to grips with things that the Climate Change Committee mentioned in its report.

    The answers to the ambition that the Climate Change Committee was concerned to underpin in its report to Parliament are not very ambitious at all. There is a really lame response to the question of how we go about the insulation and energy efficiency uprating of our homes, which, as everybody knows by now, is a sine qua non of a load of actions in other areas, as we have mentioned already.

    One would think that a strategy of energy efficiency should run alongside everything else that we do on heat generation. That one thing, with the exception of some short-term, fairly small amounts of funding for particular projects in the strategy, is sorely missing. I do not know, but I would speculate, bearing in mind the different authors of the report, that perhaps a much more ambitious strategy was in the minds of BEIS, and certain other people came along and crossed a nought off the end of each of the amounts of money in the strategy. It woefully misses the opportunity to really go forward on getting heat firmly in our sights as far as decarbonisation is concerned.

    The hydrogen strategy that has come out is interesting, premised on the progress report to Parliament. It does not have any path by which we can develop green hydrogen, which of course is the element of hydrogen that will do the work of decarbonisation. Unless we have a decent path for developing green hydrogen over the period, we will not make the progress that we should on climate change and emission reductions.

    I know that to my cost. Recently, I think at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference, I ventured the opinion that we will have far fewer livestock farmers in our country in 20 years’ time. That is a straightforward statement of understanding of what we have to do in the agricultural and land use sector, what we have to do about our diets and how we deal with emissions in our food chain, and many such things. I got absolute grief. Indeed, I got a number of angry invitations in my in-tray to visit some farms and see what is really happening, and so on. I know it is a really difficult issue, and that we will have to do a lot of just transition-type work in getting it right, but it is an issue that we have to face. I am afraid that the Government are not doing that in a number of areas as far as emission reductions are concerned.

    My conclusion, which I hope will be pretty widely shared across the Chamber, is that although we have done well so far in our emission reductions process, we need to unpack that to understand where we have done quite well and where we have done badly, so that we have better pointers for the future. As things stand, we appear to be nowhere near meeting the challenges ahead of us on climate change reduction. A lot more new policies and new thinking will be needed to get us anywhere near those targets. Regrettably, as the strategies come out they do not appear to rise to that challenge. I hope that this afternoon the Minister will be able to respond to the debate in that vein, because I hope that I have given a reasonably accurate picture of what the Climate Change Committee says and what hon. Members have said in this Chamber today.

    I hope that this debate will serve as almost a watchword for how we approach our task over the next period. We need to work soberly, carefully and, as far as possible, on a consensual basis, for the future of our climate goals, but also with a clear-eyed recognition of just how far we have to go and how difficult many of the choices will be. We need to face them together, creating solutions that can actually work in our national and, indeed, international interests.


  • 20 Oct 2021: Carbon Capture and Storage


    I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) on securing this debate and the exemplary way he put forward the case for carbon capture and storage—a case that has many other articulate exponents on both sides of the Chamber as well as him. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) particularly comes to mind. He has championed the cluster, CCS and all that goes with it over many years, and he is, I think, substantially responsible for the moves forward in CCS.

    We do not need to spend much time clarifying among ourselves that the case for CCS is overwhelming. We are, after all, moving to a net-zero target. In this context “net” is a very important word. To achieve the net-zero target, we have to concentrate on not only keeping minerals and energy and such in the ground, but putting stuff back into the ground, and we have to think of methods of doing that, because there will be a carbon overhang in 2040, 2050 or whenever. The methods of doing that include growing trees and direct air capture, which has been mentioned, though that has to go in the ground as well. Other methods are CCS and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which involves attaching CCS to an already relatively low-carbon method of producing power, thereby making it net carbon-negative.

    CCS is important across all these fields and the industry as a whole. It is not just a question of the power sector. Most heavy and energy-intensive industries will need CCS if they are to have lower-carbon processes; they have processes besides power production that produce a lot of carbon. It is important across the board. I was indeed pleased to hear in the statement yesterday that the north-east cluster and HyNet had secured strong backing for going ahead with precisely that combination of activity—with providing CCS for industry, or with providing the proper transport for CCS and then sequestration. It is important to recognise that there are a number of different components to CCS.

    As the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire said, this is not an experimental technique that we need to do a lot more work on. We know how it works. We know what we have to do and where we have to put CO 2 . The North sea, for example, has capacity to take 78 billion tonnes of CO 2 —200 years’ worth of the country’s CO 2 emissions. We know where it is going. As I have said, I have seen a full-chain CCS plant in operation at Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan, Canada. It captures the emissions it transports and sequesters them. What it does with the sequestered CO 2 is a matter for another debate. The system works really well and is complete. We should be aiming to get whole systems working together in those industrial clusters in the north-east and the north-west, so that everything works well for the benefit of industry, hydrogen production and low-carbon heavy industrial activities.

    I want to emphasise that we are no longer in the chamber of discussion on CCS. We are in the chamber of action, and we need to apply that to as many things as possible, as soon as possible, in this country. In that context, I want to ask the Minister very briefly—

    Very briefly indeed, Mrs Miller. What is the status of the various support measures that will be introduced for CCS? I have perused carefully the various updates on the design of the CCS infrastructure fund and the business models, but it seems to me that there is no clear line on the exact support to be offered to the different CCS sectors that I have talked about. There may be a contract for difference, for example, for heavy industry. That will need to be led by a 10-year plan, with a levy control framework or similar, but that is not in place.

    There is no CfD in place, either. How is that coming on, and will the Minister guarantee that the arrangements will be in place as soon as possible so that we can roll out CCS as quickly as possible?


  • 21 Sep 2021: Oral Answers to Questions

    The Climate Change Committee’s report to Parliament highlights how little progress has been made with the upgrading of insulation in buildings and points out that


  • 15 Sep 2021: Geothermal Energy


    As hon. Members have mentioned, we have this tremendous resource in front of us in the UK. In a recent report, the Renewable Energy Association estimated that if we delivered, say, 12 heat projects per year over the next 30 years, the UK could expect to generate up to 50,000 GWh of heat annually by 2050 and about 400 GWe—a huge contribution, in particular to net zero energy extraction and use. As hon. Members have said, geothermal is about the cleanest energy configuration that we can think of. It is infinitely renewable and completely reliable, as it just carries on producing the heat and electricity for ever and a day once it is in place.

    I want to say to the Minister—I hope and trust that she will still be the Minister at the end of this afternoon’s proceedings although, more likely, she will still be a Minister, but in a much more elevated position—assuming that I am still talking to her tomorrow, that when she goes back to the Department and looks at the progress of the heat and buildings strategy, which I think is still being discussed and not quite out yet, but almost ready to go, she should jump up and down, and thump on the table, and insist that the strategy contains a serious planning mention of the role that geothermal energy can play in the process over the next period. As we have heard this afternoon, it could play a tremendous role. It would be simply unthinkable if, over the next few years, we were not to exploit that resource to the best of our ability, because we need to—for net zero purposes, for clean energy purposes, and for local energy that does the business for local communities from what is absolutely under their feet as they go about their business.


  • 1 Jul 2021: Enabling Community Energy


    The benefits of that are pretty self-evident. Not only is there a completely different stream for developing the renewable and low-carbon energy that we need, but that method of providing for our energy future does wonders for the ownership of that low-carbon energy, in terms of the close relationship that it provides between people consuming energy and providing for their energy at the same time. The notion of community energy really does fulfil one of the central things that the Climate Change Committee has been talking about recently, which is the need for behavioural changes as far as low-carbon living is concerned. Surely, an arrangement whereby people are producing, owning and consuming their own low-carbon energy is, or should be, a prime example of that behavioural change in action as far as our climate change targets are concerned.

    Then we have the central issue that it is not possible in this country simply to produce electricity and sell it to a next-door neighbour, the person down the road or collectively for the local good. We cannot do that at the moment, and this is where the Local Electricity Bill, mentioned by various hon. Members, comes to the fore. I had concerns about the Bill’s previous iteration—about the problem that might arise within the arrangements in it for unleashing high-carbon energy into a local environment, rather than the low-carbon energy that we need to produce. So I would not like to see any local energy Bill enable local diesel reciprocating engines to come forward as a local energy supply when what we want is to decarbonise our electricity supply. I am delighted to see that the promoters of the Bill have now put a carbon intensity clause into it, which resolves that problem.


  • 23 Jun 2021: Green Energy in the North-west


    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley) on having secured this afternoon’s debate. It is a really important debate that sheds light on two things in particular, and he is to be commended for the excellent way he presented the case for renewable energy in the north-west.


  • 22 Jun 2021: Draft Contracts for Difference (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2021


    The Opposition do not have any problem with the biomass conversion proposal, under which CfD inclusion is ended for biomass plants that are converted from existing coal-fired power stations. This country has examples that have been successfully carried out under previous CfD arrangements, one being Drax in the east midlands. Drax is an interesting example in as much as the statement in the explanatory notes relates to the idea that although the Government are, as it were, withdrawing favours from biomass conversion as it stands, they acknowledge that the role of biomass with carbon capture and storage is a high priority for the Committee on Climate Change and is considered by it and many others as a substantial contributor to future net negative emissions. Should bioenergy with carbon capture and storage proposals be made, the Government may want to review their decision on biomass conversions. It is not an academic issue precisely because not only has Drax involved itself in biomass conversion from an existing coal- powered plant, but it is implementing a CCS programme for the biomass conversion that has taken place. Circumstances could arise in which a developer came forward with a proposal for not only biomass conversion of an existing coal-fired power station but CCS attached to it. It would therefore fall into the BECCS area in terms of future biomass arrangements. It would well behove the Government to consider that possibility early rather than later, because that is likely to be quite a considerable portion of biomass activity in the future. It would be of concern were the Government not ready to support that in the best way possible.


  • 27 May 2021: Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme


    We have had an excellent debate, with a very high degree of agreement among those taking part, not only about the failings of this particular scheme but about the imperative at the heart of what we have been talking about this afternoon. That is the imperative of ensuring that, within a very short time, we have secured in this country a massive uplift in the energy efficiency of homes across all sectors of housing—not just the easy-to-treat homes but the ones that have single cavity walls, for example, and are difficult to treat. We have to put into those homes different forms of heating to go along with the energy efficiency uprating, and the reason why we have to do that is of course to decrease very substantially the emissions from buildings, which contribute so substantially to CO 2 emissions overall, which could lead us well away from our target of net zero by 2050. Indeed, buildings in the UK emit some 19% of emissions overall, and the vast, and a substantial, majority of that is in residential homes, so the targeting of schemes to uprate energy efficiency in homes is vital.


  • 25 May 2021: Clean Energy

    In terms of increasing the production of renewable energy, does the Minister feel rather embarrassed about the deep neglect that there has been of the development of deep geothermal energy in the UK over recent years? Is she aware of a report published on 19 May suggesting a new future for deep geothermal energy, and particularly a mechanism for supporting deep geothermal through a successor to the renewable heat incentive? Does she intend to respond positively to that report and its proposals, and will she acknowledge that deep geothermal is indeed one of the cleanest and most efficient renewable energy sources that we can have in the UK?


  • 28 Apr 2021: District Heat Networks


    I think district heating will be an important part of our approach to the decarbonisation of heating. It certainly has a substantial part to play, under particular circumstances and in particular areas, in delivering low carbon heat reliably and satisfactorily to populations. At its heart, it is a system about networks, not about what goes into the networks. A variety of different forms of fuel can go into the network and deliver heat very efficiently. It is not just about taking heat from incinerators. It has much wider applications through heat engines or through low-carbon sources of energy that can be a part of a network. The network can adapt and change over time.


  • 21 Apr 2021: Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Kyoto Protocol Registry) Regulations 2021


    However, we need to be clear, among ourselves at least, about what the measure does. It is not the commencement of trading under the new UK ETS arrangement. It is not in any way a measure relating to alignment of the new UK ETS arrangement. It is instead essentially a preparatory measure to enable the UK ETS to operate properly. It clears up a lot of issues about the KP—Kyoto protocol—registry, brings the registry arrangements under the control of the Environment Agency, and regularises the arrangements for membership of that registry for UK companies trading in that protocol area.


  • 9 Feb 2021: Green Hydrogen

    I welcome the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan announcement of the proposal to develop 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and, as the Minister has mentioned, the £240 million net zero hydrogen fund to support that. Is it her intention to deploy that fund to support the production of green hydrogen and not to use any part of it to support production capacity consisting of grey or blue hydrogen?


  • 17 Dec 2020: UK Hydrogen Economy


    I do not need to reprise too much of that content, because we agree that the potential for the hydrogen economy in this country is not only bright but essential in our drive to net zero. We heard about how hydrogen will play a substantial role in the decarbonisation of heat and the efficiency of energy going into homes. We heard that it is more than possible to inject hydrogen into the system—after all, town gas used to be about 50% hydrogen before natural gas was introduced into the system, so it is not a new thing, but it could aid us enormously in getting down to net zero in our heating. Beyond 20%, we can envisage hydrogen towns, hydrogen islands and a whole range of hydrogen-heated areas. I was slightly disappointed to see in the energy White Paper how the Government are only thinking about consulting on hydrogen-ready boilers for the future. We need to get on with that now. Let us mandate hydrogen-ready boilers across the country tomorrow so that they are ready and we have the proper equipment to make it work when these things come to pass.

    It is essential that we invest early in green hydrogen to get the hydrogen economy going properly. I have seen the very interesting minutes of the meeting that the Minister got together in June to discuss those points further; that was very much an element of the Council for Science and Technology briefing that he took part in. I hope he has firmly taken the message on board about future hydrogen production. Hydrogen has a bright future, but we have to create it in the right way to make it as bright as it can be. If we get it wrong at this stage, we will regret it severely, in terms of our net-zero carbon ambitions.


  • 15 Dec 2020: Hydrogen Energy

    I am pleased to see that the net zero hydrogen fund that the Secretary of State just mentioned will support, among other things, the production of hydrogen. Will he commit today to using that fund to prioritise the production of green hydrogen, as opposed to blue hydrogen, in the future?


  • 3 Nov 2020: Environment Bill (Ninth sitting)


    Let us look at actions in various other areas of Government. The imperatives on net zero and climate change that we just passed through the House effectively apply to decision making in all Departments. Departments are not supposed to make decisions about their activities and spending without reference to those imperatives. Yet what we have on this piece of paper—I am sure it was assiduously drafted by someone seeking to defend this particular exemption—appears to drive a coach and horses through that consideration, let alone other considerations. Apparently, in taking its decisions on larger matters, the Treasury does not have to be bound by considerations on environmental protection.

    The Treasury would have had that leeway, because of the phrase “have due regard”. There are clearly circumstances in which emergencies or other issues mean that Ministers may at particular stages have to draw away from their environmental or climate change imperatives and responsibilities. However, the important thing about having due regard is that if they do so, they have to explain why and under what circumstances they are taking the decision. Clause 18 will do exactly the opposite: Ministers will not have to explain anything—they can just not do anything that they do not feel like doing. I hope that Conservative Members will join us in saying that that is not good enough and is not what the Bill should be doing.


  • 3 Mar 2020: COP26

    Every country has to submit its contribution to climate action before COP26 meets. Why is the Secretary of State preparing the UK’s contribution statement on the basis of the fifth carbon budget, which works towards a target of only 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, when this House has determined that the target to be met should be net zero by 2050?


  • 26 Feb 2020: Environment Bill


    Another imperative is that we must be sure about how we are to treat the natural environment and biodiversity in the wake of the climate emergency. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) about the imperative of countryside access and natural spaces, from my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester about biodiversity targets, from my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) on tree planting, from my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon on net gain in biodiversity, from my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) on biodiversity gain and species decline, and from the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) on biodiversity gain.

    The Bill is full of loopholes that allow the Government of the day to act, or not, as they think fit. It opens an enormous door that a future Government who are not committed to action on the environment and the climate emergency can walk through. The key issue of the independence of the Office for Environmental Protection is inadequately addressed. The target-making sections of the Bill do not cohere with the delivery sections. There is obscurity about how targets in the Bill are to be set and met. Altogether, it is not good enough.

    The Bill has to bind Governments of whatever colour to doing the right things relative to the natural environment, water, waste, conservation and land use for the future, because we will secure a liveable environment and a secure home for species facing the consequences of climate change only if we do the right thing by the environment and keep on doing it.

    We need a climate change Act for the environment, and what we have at the moment is a charter for now and not for tomorrow. That is why we will table a robust series of amendments in Committee. In the spirit of our jointly stated aim of making this Bill a landmark Act that will stand the test of time on the environment, we expect those amendments to be carefully considered and acted on by the Government in Committee. That is why we will not oppose Second Reading, but we expect that when the Bill returns to the Floor of the House we will be able, as a result of those amendments, to endorse it wholeheartedly as the Bill we all need for our environmental and climate futures.


  • 25 Feb 2020: UK Oil and Gas Industry


    Cynics have mentioned that such debates are called on the cusp of a Budget to talk about why the oil and gas industry should have lots more support from Government. However, it is significant that the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine did not talk just about that. I concur with the sentiment expressed around the Chamber that the Government should not continue to treat the oil and gas industry as a cash cow, as has happened on previous occasions. The industry has come out of a difficult period and is recovering, but it still has enormous challenges ahead and needs considerable support in the next phase of its development. That support will be of a different nature from that needed hitherto, because of the context mentioned by the hon. Gentleman: climate emergency, climate change and the challenge of net zero. Those issues suffuse our considerations of the future of the oil and gas industry.

    A number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), mentioned the possibility—indeed, I think, the absolute necessity—of developing not just carbon capture and storage capacity, but carbon capture and storage nodes. That would mean we could develop entire chain arrangements of CCS, from inland to nodes and out to the North sea, and that we could get involved in the production of hydrogen. All those exciting developments could provide an enormous and bright future for the North sea oil and gas industry. There should be better collaboration between the oil and gas industry and the offshore wind industry to look at the necessary skills, infrastructure and supply chains, so that the similar technologies involved can be better developed, which would be in the UK’s interests.

    In the context of climate change, we need to recognise not only that there is going to be a different future for North sea oil and gas, but that oil and gas will be needed in different forms in the UK over a long period. We are not simply going to dispense with oil and gas. All sorts of applications need oil and gas. For example, the production of hydrogen over the next period will conceivably substantially involve steam-methane reformation from gas. Even if we are bringing hydrogen forward with CCS, that will be a substantial part of the process.

    We therefore cannot say that there will be no oil and gas in the future in the UK, but the projections by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the amount of oil and gas we are going to use show a substantial decline up to 2035. That is the period of Oil & Gas UK’s Vision 2035. I very much commend to hon. Members its approach to changing the nature of the oil and gas industry to be climate change-facing, as far as developments are concerned. We then have the prospect, as the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) mentioned, of seeking self-sufficiency in a declining market for UK oil and gas products. That would be centred on those different uses for oil and gas, and it seems to me to be an essential part of the future of the oil and gas industry. That is what a bright future looks like.


  • 11 Feb 2020: Waste Incineration Facilities


    In general policy, we must recognise that the age of incinerators is over. A decade or two ago, perhaps we could have said that incineration was an improvement on the previous practice of landfill. Indeed, in this country incineration has increased in inverse proportion to the reduction in landfill over the last few years. However, as we move towards net zero, we are in danger of freezing in time our waste strategies by granting permission for large incinerators that capture waste streams over time. That will prevent us from moving up the waste hierarchy in dealing with our waste generally, and in looking at it as a resource to be recycled, reused and put back into the circular economy—rather than put in landfill or burned, usually for minimal energy recovery.

    We are at a turning point. The future is net zero; it cannot be incineration. We have to move rapidly up the waste hierarchy, and there are challenges and obstacles to that ambition. There will be some residual waste, but, as hon. Members have mentioned this morning, the current definition of residual waste encompasses things that it should not. For example, only 9% of plastic film is recycled. Most of it is incinerated or goes into landfill. Recently, I asked questions about 47 containers of plastic waste that were exported to Malaysia, and that the Malaysians did not want. They sent the waste back and said that it had been illegally exported to Malaysia.

    Absolutely. Part of moving up the waste hierarchy involves a proper and full accounting of what goes in and out at each stage of the process. I recently asked the Minister to assure me that the plastics that come back to the UK in those containers will be properly dealt with and will not just go into incineration or landfill. Other countries have started to bar us from using waste export as a route out of doing a proper job of recycling and moving up the waste hierarchy. We therefore need the next generation of resources to deal with that move up the waste hierarchy. We simply do not have enough plants in this country that can properly recycle all the different grades of plastic waste, and we do not have enough anaerobic digestion plants to deal with the putrescibles that will come out of the waste stream. The Government have a substantial responsibility to ensure that those facilities are available, so that we can move up the waste hierarchy as fast as we need to on our path towards a net zero economy.


  • 6 Feb 2020: Oral Answers to Questions

    Does the Secretary of State accept that the prime purpose of planting trees in the present climate crisis is to provide an effective carbon sink to produce the negative carbon emissions that offset other carbon emissions in a net-zero world? The Committee on Climate Change suggests that that means planting perhaps up to 50,000 hectares of trees per annum up to 2050—perhaps 2.4 billion trees. Does she agree that the present target in the clean growth plan of 11 million trees is tiny—especially as it is currently being missed by 71%—and almost amounts to “greenwash”? When is she going to get real on tree planting and management, and adopt measures that will secure the billions of trees we need and not the millions she is projecting?


  • 28 Jan 2020: Industrial and Commercial Waste Incineration


    Old-style incineration is right at the bottom of the hierarchy, marginally above landfill. There has been considerable success over the years in removing waste from landfill. That is important for addressing climate change, as it leads to a substantial reduction in methane emissions, which are avoided by not using landfill in the first place. However, moving just to the next stage up in the hierarchy is a little like a landlord responding to someone complaining about getting wet in their house by putting a tarpaulin on the roof. It is a bit better, but it is not a solution to the problem. We need to be much more imaginative in moving up from those solutions.


  • 30 Oct 2019: Oral Answers to Questions

    Labour will produce a strong offer at the forthcoming election on the climate emergency and net zero, including a full ban on the extraction of fossil fuel by fracking. What chance does the Prime Minister think he has of matching that offer, particularly in the light of the news that the Conservative manifesto will be written by a lobbyist for the fracking industry?


  • 17 Oct 2019: The Climate Emergency


    In the summer, Parliament declared a climate emergency and required the Government to bring forward a cross-departmental plan of action. In July, Parliament agreed to amend the Climate Change Act 2008 target for greenhouse gas emissions from 80% by 2050 to net zero. The Minister at the time emphasised the importance of crafting new policies to address the change.

    One might have thought that the Government would be hard at work doing that. One might have thought that there would be a lively understanding of the pitiful state of our emissions in relation to the task, even if Ministers are fond of telling us how well we have done previously in driving down emissions. As a country, we produced 428 million tonnes of CO 2 in 2018, so we will need permanently to cancel at least 12 million tonnes every single year if the net zero target is to be achieved in good time.

    One might have thought that the Government would be hard at work anyway, in the light of that change to the legislation, addressing the manifest failings that they are experiencing in implementing existing targets under old legislation. Let us remember that the clean growth plan, introduced in October 2017 as a response to Parliament’s agreement to the fifth carbon budget, was, by its own admission, well short of meeting that budget, drawn up under the original 80% emissions target—equivalent to 141 megatonnes of CO 2 , or a 9% overhang in admissions. One might have thought that addressing that manifest dereliction of duty and putting us back to the starting line for making the accelerated progress in emissions reduction that is an imperative under the net zero target would be a priority for the Government.

    One might therefore have thought that the Queen’s Speech would set out a sturdy list of measures explaining how the Government will legislate to underpin this enhanced ambition and put us back in a position to take the urgent measures needed to meet our own and international targets. I am sure that Her Majesty the Queen anticipated being able to read out something like, “My Government will introduce a series of measures in this Parliament that will give effect to our agreed ambition of securing net zero emissions by 2050.” She might have added, “or even earlier.”

    “will prioritise tackling climate change”.

    I am sure that Her Majesty was far too polite even to conceive of articulating the thought, “Well, if that is so, how come there is not a hint of any actual priority being given in the 1,500 words I have just read out prior to the five words I now have to add on to my speech—almost, as it were, as an afterthought when it had been realised by someone who wrote the speech that nothing had been said about climate change up to that point?”

    We have, after all, a different Government. It does not escape notice that some of those who were working the hardest in government to make a reality of our climate change ambitions are now not only out of government, but in a number of instances are out of the parliamentary Conservative party entirely. Perhaps it is just that the new Government do not think very much about climate change, but it would have been rather more honest to have said that, rather than doing nothing and then sticking five words at the end of the speech to assure us all that they are very serious about it all.

    So what might a Queen’s Speech that did take climate change seriously have included? The Government might have brought in legislation to ensure that sales of internal combustion engine cars ceased by 2030. That measure alone would save us 98 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum from then onwards. They might have introduced legislation requiring all homes over the next 20 years to have available to them the means to become fully insulated and energy efficient. That would save about 100 megatonnes of CO 2 annually. They might have introduced legislation that set in motion the decarbonisation of heat in those homes, mandating electrification of heat, the introduction of biogas into heating supply and hydrogen supply in urban circumstances. That would save about 50 megatonnes—


  • 8 Oct 2019: Government Plan for Net Zero Emissions


    I congratulate the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) on obtaining today’s debate. It is truly important, but should not have been obtained by a Back-Bencher. It should have been scheduled in Government time, on one day, as I called for a few months ago when we passed the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, amending the Climate Change Act 2008 to move to net zero. That was a 90-minute debate on an amendment, and this is our next debate on the matter.

    “Overall, actions to date have fallen short of what is needed for the previous targets and well short of those required for the net-zero target”?

    None of those words are mine; they are all the words of the Committee on Climate Change’s 2019 report to Parliament, which set out a coruscating catalogue of things that should have happened and have not as far as policy development is concerned. That underlines a theme that has been part of our debate this morning. It is not that nothing has been done since 2008, when the Climate Change Act was passed; it is just that nothing much has been done, and that ambitions for doing things next fall woefully short of what is needed, given the climate change emergency that we have declared and that we know is underlined by the people now demonstrating outside Parliament.

    It is not that nothing has been done on climate change in particular areas, but, as the Committee on Climate Change itself indicates, the only area where any significant progress in reducing carbon emissions has happened since 2008 is in the power sector—not even the energy sector as a whole, because nothing much has happened on heat. The power sector has been responsible for 75% of emission reductions overall since 2008. Every single other sector has been level or increasing—in transport, housing and industrial sectors, emissions are level or going up. Those are areas where we can go further than saying that nothing much has happened: nothing has happened in those areas over the period.

    It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that those things happen, and they are woefully failing to set policies that can really shift those numbers on climate change, given the 12 years that were set out by the IPCC as the time available to achieve measures that move us toward the zero-carbon economy. We have set ourselves that target, but we have no policies in place to achieve it. We have 12 years to get those policies, not only on paper, but in place in reality on the ground.

    Very briefly. The 2019 spending review came out with the fabulous figure for decarbonisation of £30 million. To get some scale on that—


  • 1 Jul 2019: Draft Electricity Capacity (No. 2) Regulations 2019


    Finally, I seek the Minister’s clarification on something else that I think is a welcome departure in this SI. Will he clarify how renewables and low-carbon energy in general can become eligible for obtaining some funding under capacity auctions? The Minister mentioned that renewable energy with some subsidies—but not subsidies sufficient to put them out of contention, by which I understand subsidies that have historically come under the terms of the renewables obligation, the feed-in tariffs and the contracts for difference—would continue not to be eligible, if those renewables were in receipt of those subsidies.

    However, can the Minister tell me what subsidies would be eligible for those renewable and low-carbon sources of energy that are open for the capacity market? If there are none, does he consider it appropriate to pit completely unsubsidised renewable energy against other forms of energy in a capacity market auction, or should there be sub-auctions, even in unsubsidised circumstances, for renewable and low-carbon energy as against fossil fuel and high-carbon energy?


  • 24 Jun 2019: Climate Change


    I rise to emphasise just how strongly we support this order. As you have said, Madam Deputy Speaker, we have 90 minutes to debate it, but I for one think that that is miserably insufficient time for what we need to talk about. I hope that the parliamentary authorities will arrange a whole day’s debate as soon as possible on the order and its implications. I of course accept that this is how orders work, but I know that hon. Members across the House are itching to talk about the consequences of this momentous change and to review what it means for how we go about tackling climate change, the measures we will have to take and, indeed, the commitments we will have to make over the next few years to make sure that the order does not fall dead from a legislative press but instead really works in our war on climate change.

    The Labour party has long called for that change. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) called in the House for net zero as long as a year ago, as indeed did the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). The change has, of course, been widely called for by climate strikers and green activists across the country. This first step in the right direction is for them as much as for the Members debating it today. It is also a tribute to the sagacity and draftsmanship of the original Climate Change Act 2008.

    The 2008 Act was taken through this House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who is in his place. The fact is that such a momentous and far reaching change in the UK’s target horizon, on the removal of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the move to a permanent net zero carbon economy, can be effected by an order consisting, effectively, of one article and the substitution of one figure in one subsection in the Act. It is possible to do that, because, as the Minister mentioned, section 2 of the Act states that the Secretary of State may, by order, amend the percentage specified in section 1(1)—the current 80% target—if it appears to the Secretary of State that there have been significant developments in scientific knowledge about climate change.

    I am sure the Minister agrees that that is precisely what has happened since the passing of the Act. What we thought might be a sustainable emissions reduction target to keep the global temperature rise to below 2°C by 2050 already looks insufficiently robust. The UK’s contribution to a global effort seeking to arrive at a 2°C outcome—a commitment to reduce the UK’s emission load of carbon dioxide by 80% from a baseline of 1990 levels—is no longer sufficient. We need to aim for global temperature rises of no more than 1.5°C by 2050. The Minister mentioned the recent seminal Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which shows us why the target is so important and why even limiting temperature change to 2° will not get us to a tolerable safe place as far as the effects of global warming on the planet are concerned. That does indeed count as the “developments in scientific knowledge” specified in the Act.

    The UK’s contribution to the global effort has to ensure that we can achieve net zero emissions by 2050—or, I would hope, before 2050. That has to be our new target and it has to be enshrined in our legislation. I say before 2050, because it may well be that further scientific advances indicate that we need to achieve the target before then. I think that that will be the case and the Act could be amended further, if necessary, to take that into account.

    If one is trying to get a zero-emissions outcome, trying to get a lot more high carbon fuel out of the ground using some of the most difficult ways possible does not exactly seem to be in line with that target.

    The Committee on Climate Change, established under the Act as the guardian of science in our proceedings on climate change in the UK, reported strongly, as has been outlined, that we need to move to net zero and that we could do it by 2050, within the cost parameters established in the original target, if we put in place the very challenging policies it outlined. We strongly support that small change that means so much.

    First, the Minister will know all about the carbon budgets, which were admirably and clearly established under the Climate Change Act. They are designed to keep us on track for a steady reduction in emissions and to put in place measures to keep emissions decline on track. It set out three budgets from the 2008 start date, established in total size by the Committee on Climate Change, and required a Government plan to be put into place on how to meet each budget. The Minister will know that while we have done well by international standards in reducing our emissions by 47%—it is much less in consumption emissions, if we look at it that way—that is not a sufficient trajectory for net zero carbon targets. Our current performance, and likely achievements on known policies right now, place us in a disadvantageous position as we seek to adhere to the budgets that will drive emissions down to net zero by 2050.

    The carbon budgets are designed—all five of them, to date—to put us on a path for an 80% reduction and 2°, not net zero 1.5°. It is shocking that we are currently failing to get to grips with the later budgets, budgets four and five, even under the circumstances of 2°. We have exceeded our earlier budgets only partially because of policy and partially because of economic circumstances, meeting or exceeding the first two budgets and probably the third.

    Secondly, we received the alarming news recently that the Government seemingly intend to roll over historical surpluses—some 88 megatonnes of carbon dioxide saved from the second carbon budget—to ease the passage of the third carbon budget, thus creating a higher starting point for the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. That move is not completely illegitimate in terms of the construction of the Act, but the Committee on Climate change has always recommended that that should not be done, and that banking and borrowing on future budgets would gravely distort the safe progression downwards of carbon dioxide emissions. Similarly, we should not seek to offset our own account through international emissions allowances, as the Government seem intent on doing.

    Will the Minister explain why the Government have moved to set aside emission surpluses from earlier budgets? Will he say now that he will unwind that intention and not use them to inflate future budgets? Will he confirm that international offsets will have no place in future budget setting? We note in the explanatory memorandum to the order that despite the committee’s recommendation in the report that the UK legislate as soon as possible to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with the target of a 100% reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 covering all sectors of the economy including aviation and shipping, the Government have, for the time being, merely left headroom in the budgets for international aviation and shipping. Shipping and aviation currently make up 3.2% and 2.1% of global emissions, but this could rise to over 30% if action is not taken alongside other greenhouse gas reductions. What is the Government’s intention with regard to aviation and shipping coming properly and fully into carbon budgets, and why are they continuing to delay what we all know is an essential inclusion if those targets are to be meaningful for the future?

    Thirdly, does the Minister recognise, as I am sure he does, that net zero is the practical outcome of the legislation to require a 100% reduction in the UK’s net carbon account? Net zero means that in addition to developing low carbon policies, as we were for the 80% target, we have to develop policies that are essentially carbon negative—that put carbon back into the ground in one way or another to compensate for the remaining positive carbon elements of our overall account. This means that techniques such as BECCS—bio-energy with carbon capture and storage—extended carbon capture and storage, carbon capture from the air and radical afforestation are all important policies for the future target. What plans do the Government have— [ Interruption. ]

    Finally, the Minister will no doubt have been copied into the recent letter from the Chancellor concerning legislating for net zero, in which he urged that there should not be legislation until a review of the costs had been carried out by the Treasury. The letter was widely regarded as being somewhat climate economic illiterate, in that it set out only the costs and not the benefits of moving forward in this way. As I said, the Committee on Climate Change indicated that in its opinion the GDP cost of 1% to 2% was unchanged from when the 80% target was set—this was presumably approved by the Treasury. Indeed, as Lord Stern reminded us in his seminal report of 2006, which seems a long time ago, the GDP costs of doing nothing might be several times as much.


  • 22 May 2019: Pension Funds: Financial and Ethical Investments


    I congratulate the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) on securing this debate. I think he slightly understated the carbon bubble in his opening remarks. The carbon bubble—basically the evaluation of assets that we know will never be realised—is not something that might burst in the not too distant future. It will inevitably burst because energy companies have systematically overvalued their assets and put them on their balance sheets. Not only will the historical overvaluing be in question, but all the valuing for the future will be in question, basically in line with where we now know we have got to go on net zero in our economies.

    To reassure the hon. Gentleman and others, it is perfectly possible for pension fund trustees to take the view that their fiduciary duty of obtaining good returns to deliver the pensions expected is not incompatible with taking into account huge amounts of other issues, including climate change. It is important that we all recognise that. We have a duty to look at that as well.

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman that some pension funds are beginning to take a different view. Indeed, that different view is becoming more possible, but the general consideration of the fiduciary duty remains a short-term gain for pensioners in the funds. Of course, the people setting out on their working lives will not get the benefit of those pension funds for 30 or 40 years. During that time inevitably we have to move to the net zero carbon economy. It is therefore essential that pension funds have a duty to look at the long term.

    Having said that pension funds tend to invest in bonds and various other things that are primarily about energy bonds, on the assumption that there will be value, which we know will not be there in future, there is then the question of moving towards investment in things that do make a difference to climate change. Pension funds have a genuine problem in terms of the Solvency II regs, which tend to guide pension funds away from investing in the schemes that are capital-intensive up front and revenue less intensive behind, that are at the heart of the green investment revolution.


  • 30 Apr 2019: Oral Answers to Questions

    The truth of the matter right now is that, far from expanding the source of renewables, the Government have narrowed the use of renewable energy in recent years. Of course we should strongly support the development of offshore wind, but the Minister must acknowledge that marine and tidal power has been almost strangled at birth by the Government’s indifference and even active hostility, and that onshore wind and solar PV have been severely hampered by adverse Government decisions on support and planning. On lack of support, will the Minister answer a specific question? Why is he sanctioning a VAT rate rise to 20% on solar power while at the same time maintaining a rate of just 5% on coal and fuel oil?


  • 19 Mar 2019: Oral Answers to Questions

    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?


  • 14 Mar 2019: Future of the Oil and Gas Industry


    The report also goes into considerable detail about not just the future alternative paths, but what we might call the future imperative paths for the North sea as a mature basin. My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney) mentioned that the oil industry has come through a challenging period—it is in a better position than it has been in for quite a while, given its efficiency achievements and what is happening with the exploitation of future fields—but he drew attention to the need to look at a future industry for decommissioning in the context of the climate change imperative. I was pleased to see that the report did not duck climate change; quite a few of its passages actually centred on the challenges that the fight to get us to a low-carbon economy will present for the oil and gas industry, and on how the industry can take part in that process rather than opposing it.

    We must recognise that the imperative of climate change will cause us to take a considerable number of decisions about the oil and gas industry. Indeed, the report identifies a number of those decisions, one of which is the question of what we do about carbon capture, use and storage. That is not just a possible extension of activity and industry for the North sea as fields are depleted—indeed, those fields are enormous potential repositories for carbon dioxide—but can be used to the benefit of the North sea fields in their own right.


  • 28 Feb 2019: Net Zero Carbon Emissions: UK’s Progress


    This has been a tremendously good, positive and applied debate, and, from my 21 years in this House, I cannot say that has always been the case. I have attended virtually every climate change debate in this House, and it is shocking that we have not had one for two years.

    Those previous debates were usually characterised by a claque of climate change deniers who regularly attempted to derail them. This debate is perhaps a reflection of where we have got to now. I thought that one of the last remaining serious climate change deniers in the House, the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), would take part, but it turned out he wanted to talk about Welsh tourism, which is a mercy.

    We are all together this afternoon, perhaps for the first time, when it is almost too late. Everything that has been said by climate scientists, and that has been said in all the debates I have been involved in during my long time in the House, is coming true and proving to be right. We should perhaps talk not about a climate change debate but about a climate is changing debate.

    I am not smug about the fact that what I was saying in our previous debates has been proved right, and what those climate change deniers were saying has been proved wrong; it scares me stiff. We are now at two minutes to 12 on the climate emergency before us. I thank all the hon. Members who, in different ways, have contributed this afternoon on that central point.

    I thank the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) for securing this debate, and I thank the hon. Members, such as my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol North West (Darren Jones) and for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), who pointed out just how little time we have had for these debates. When we get the advice of the Committee on Climate Change on a net zero future, it might be appropriate for the Minister to make sure that we can have a debate in Government time, for at least half a day—or a whole day, if we want to be ambitious—on that advice and its implications and ramifications so that hon. Members are allowed the proper time to put across what they want to say about this climate emergency and what we need to do to deal with it.

    I am scared stiff because I know that the ability to do anything about this climate emergency is on our watch. Members of Parliament over the next 12 years, as mentioned in the IPCC report, will have to get their act together on climate change or forever miss the opportunity to do anything about it.

    My hon. Friend is making an important point about the time constraints, and about how this House has not done nearly enough to debate this issue. Does he agree it is critical that other Government Departments, not just BEIS, focus on the implications of climate change, particularly the Department for Transport, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Defence and so on? We must understand the impact those Departments have on Government policy in shaping a holistic approach to policy making across all parts of Government.

    My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is that the action we need to be taking in this House for the future must not just be the province of one Department, as the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) pointed out. It needs to be something that seeps to the core of every part of government and of this House. Everything we do must be judged by whether we are making progress on reducing carbon emissions and fighting the effects of climate change or whether it is going in the opposite direction.

    In that context, I want to draw the House’s attention to what we have done so far and what we are—we hope—going to do for the future, because that is crucial in terms of moving from our current target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 to that net zero target. Of course a net zero target does not just mean doing things that reduce carbon; it means doing things that actually put carbon back in the ground. We are talking about negative carbon emissions, as well as positive carbon emissions. It means planning a whole different system of doing things, as my hon. Friends the Members for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) and for Cardiff North drew attention to. We need to do things in different ways in order to make that change in our economy, so that we have a permanent low-carbon, sustainable economy for the future.

    We have been given the Government’s clean growth plan. It was set out in response to the fifth carbon budget requirements, which, among other things, require us to get our carbon emissions down by 57% from 1990 levels by the end of the fifth carbon budget. I have to say to the House that the clean growth plan fails to do what it says it is going to do about the fifth carbon budget. Indeed, it suggests that we may be as much as 9.7% over the targets for the fifth carbon budget in terms of the things that the Government are setting out to do. So absolutely the first thing we need to do in considering our progress towards zero carbon is to fundamentally make over, that clean growth plan so that it actually works. Not only must it achieve the terms of the fifth carbon budget, but it must go beyond that so that we are ready and setting ourselves up for the advice we are going to get from the Committee on Climate Change as to how we get to zero carbon. I invite the Government to start work today on getting that clean growth plan reorganised so that it can meet the terms of net zero when they come to us. Were the Government to embark on that strategy, they would have the full support of the Opposition in making that work and making sure that we are ready for net zero, and not running along behind, as we have for so many years in this House since the climate emergency started to come upon us.


  • 17 Jan 2019: Nuclear Update


    The long-term coherence of the UK capacity arrangements is now significantly disrupted. With the capacity market also falling foul of legal challenge, these elements add up to a strategic energy sector that is now being grossly mishandled by this Government. Now that their nuclear plan has gone up in smoke what plan can the Secretary of State spell out to us for finding new backers for these projects? Given the apparent capacity constraint, is he intending to uprate the coming contracts for difference auction, removing the caps on capacity and funding that he has imposed to provide further opportunity to build new renewable energy capacity to replace what has been lost?

    For this plant at Wylfa alone, Hitachi had planned to invest £16 billion. Does the Secretary of State have contingency plans, rather than warm words, that he can announce today for the economies of Anglesey and north Wales, where Wylfa was projected to create up to 10,000 jobs at peak periods of construction and 850 permanent jobs? For that matter, what about Moorside and the plant it lost two months ago? Government dithering leading to the cancellation of that plant has seriously undermined the UK’s energy security, its decarbonisation goals and the economy of Cumbria. The people of Moorside expected the plant, and roads, infrastructure and even apartment blocks had been built in preparation, all of which will now go to waste.

    Given that energy is one of the sectors that creates the most carbon, today’s news deepens our profound concern about the Government’s ability to meet their own climate targets. The Labour party is proud to have announced our goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2050 and we congratulate the Government on attempting to catch up with our green ambitions. But given that the clean growth plan was already falling short and the Government were already failing to meet those targets, can the Secretary of State give us some detail today on how he expects to meet UK carbon budgets in the light of today’s developments? Can he assure us he is not intending to replace the low-carbon power that has been lost with new fossil fuel plants?

    Far from being at the expense of renewable energy, our energy policies have supported Scotland to become a world leader in securing energy from renewable sources. In fact, we heard earlier this month from WWF Scotland that wind output in Scotland has broken through the barrier of 100% of demand for the first time. That comes as a result of the policies that this Government have put in place to bring down the costs of wind, which is highly competitive. As a result, that is causing some competitive challenges for other technologies, including nuclear, but I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the progress that has been made on renewables.

    When it comes to investment in renewables, the hon. Gentleman will know that Wales is a substantial and proud leader in renewable energy. I think Gwynt y Môr is the second largest wind farm already deployed in Europe. I mentioned in my statement the rising availability of alternative technologies. To put this in context, in 2017 we procured more than 3 GW of offshore wind in a single contract for difference auction at £57.50 per MWh. That is more in a single auction than this plant was going to provide. As I have said, the challenge is the competition coming from other technologies, and Wales is a beneficiary of some aspects of that.

    In his statement, my right hon. Friend said that the economics of the energy market had changed significantly in recent years, meaning that renewable energy could now be not only cheap but readily available. Does he share my concern that consumers will not see all the benefits of the reduced prices, given that we are bound into these exceedingly long-term and hugely expensive contracts? An example is Hinkley, whose strike price means that it will probably be the most expensive form of energy in the history of energy generation. Can he give me an assurance or commitment that nuclear power will not result in consumer bills skyrocketing in the years to come?

    The Secretary of State rightly points to the fact that renewable energy is a Scottish success story, and such events vindicate the Scottish Government’s decision not to join the UK Government’s vision for the UK as a nuclear nation. Will he please outline the Government’s sunk costs in terms of civil service time and any other development costs incurred as a result of this project?

    I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I note his interest and his experience in this field. National Grid is undertaking a substantial programme of transformation to make the grid smarter and able to accommodate intermittent renewables. Again, progress has been made. The amount of renewable energy being deployed is vastly in excess of what the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) was advised was possible when he was in office. Great strides are being made. A smarter grid is a more effective and more resilient grid.


  • 13 Nov 2018: Climate Change: Extreme Weather Events


    The subject of this debate is extreme weather and climate change, which has been debated in this House previously. Climate change deniers have come to the Floor here and indicated that this extreme weather stuff is nothing to do with climate change; that it is all a bit of a hoax and we should just accept the fact that the weather changes, as I think a certain President of the United States recently opined, and we should not worry too much about it. Well, I think that has been comprehensively demonstrated to be not only a completely false conclusion but an alarming and complacent conclusion, because we know what action we will have to take on climate change over the next period.

    As the hon. Member for Richmond Park has rightly said, we cannot attribute particular weather events to the effects of climate change, but elementary physics teaches us that—I speak as the proud possessor of a relatively good grade in O-level physics, so I am at the elementary level—if the temperature of water increases, as we know is happening, the water expands. It is not just a question of global icecaps and various other things melting that adds to sea level increases across the world; it is just the fact that water expands as it gets warmer.

    As water expands as it gets warmer, the air above it is affected and becomes more turbulent. It absorbs more energy and takes up more water vapour, resulting in more precipitation, exacerbating the effects on the weather. It is not the case that climate change causes tidal surges or hurricanes in the southern United States, but it exacerbates them and changes them. They are longer in duration, more severe and more frequent, and are the consequences of the physics of climate change, as I have described.

    So we know what our future holds if we do not take urgent action not only to mitigate climate change but to adapt to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) set out clearly what is in store for our own country’s infrastructure as a result of the changes. Indeed, I have observed the substantial effects of tidal surges and extreme tidal weather; a vital part of communication infrastructure has been severed. To a much lesser extent, I have had a small attempt in my constituency area to get much greater attention paid to flood defences for the Itchen valley. For certain, that valley will be flooded to an increasingly frequent extent as a result of tidal surges and changes.

    I am worried about the extent to which past performance is prayed in aid for not doing as much on climate change and global warming as we might do. It is true that the UK has performed better than many other countries in taking action on climate change, but the sheer scale of the task facing us means that one country’s performance cannot be set against another’s.

    The hon. Member for Richmond Park indicated that our clean growth plan is good in many ways. It has many good things in it, and includes many good responses to the requirements of the fourth and fifth carbon budgets from the Committee on Climate Change. However, the clean growth plan itself acknowledges that it will not get us to the terms of the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. Indeed, it states that it will fall short by about 5% in terms of emissions by the time of the fifth carbon budget. The failure between the fourth and fifth carbon budgets is much worse; the clean growth plan gets us only about 50% of the distance between them.

    Given what we know about the difference between 1.5° C and 2° C, as the hon. Member for Richmond Park mentioned, we have to do so much more. I was therefore dismayed that when the Government wrote to the Committee on Climate Change to ask what it thought about a 1.5° C, net-zero target on climate change they specifically excluded action to change the terms of the requirements of the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. We are looking at what we can do about a world increase of 1.5° C, with the enormous differences that the hon. Member for Richmond Park says would result from 2° C. Yet we are proposing no change at all in the current carbon budgets, which, even by the Government’s own plans, we will not reach anyway.

    A theme of this morning’s debate is that far more needs to be done and we have, as the IPCC report tells us, a very limited amount of time in which to get it done. We therefore need at the very least to express that urgency in the House, to ensure that the debate is shared among all Members. The urgency, effort and additional activities that are needed to combat climate change, and to adapt, must be properly brought before the whole House. As a result of this morning’s debate that call might be heard.

    In terms of parliamentary scrutiny, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government sent out the wrong signal when they abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change and subsumed it into the much bigger Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, where these issues get lost among all the other stuff that the Government are looking at?

    Indeed, Ms Dorries; I was just about to come to my last sentence when the hon. Gentleman asked me that pertinent question, to which I will take one second to reply. Yes—when the Department of Energy and Climate Change was subsumed into BEIS that gave out a bad signal about the Government’s seriousness about these issues. Whether or not that Department is re-established, the status of climate change within Government needs to be uprated, not just in BEIS but across all Departments, in terms of what we know we need to do.


  • 25 Oct 2018: Draft Companies (Directors' Report) and Limited Liability Partnerships (Energy and Carbon Report) Re...


    The essential element of this statutory instrument is what companies should do to report their emissions, energy use and various other matters. I completely concur with the Minister that reporting arrangements provide sunlight as a disinfectant. It is right that a scheme should allow that to happen. There was a previous scheme that allowed that to happen under the original carbon reduction commitment. The CRC arose from the Climate Change Act 2008; in its design, it not only required reporting but had a trading element, which was sub-traded between companies. It allowed an extension of the trading arrangements alongside reporting arrangements, which had originally been envisaged in the Climate Change Act for larger companies.

    The third whittling away was the complete closing down of the CRC. It will finish in the 2018-19 reporting period and will be the end of the CRC as a whole. This replacement arrangement for the reporting elements of the CRC is very welcome, but it is the least one might expect following the closure of the CRC. Yes, in introducing additional requirements to the climate change levy on smaller companies the Government have introduced an element of revenue-neutral arrangements for trading, but the arrangements are a welcome successor to the reporting arrangements under the CRC. To some extent they extend those reporting arrangements, as a substantial number of non-quoted companies will now be included. Some 11,000 companies will be required to put these directors’ reports in their company filing.


  • 23 Oct 2018: HELMS and the Green Deal


    My personal view is that it is imperative that some active resolution is brought about across the board, because this is a reputational issue for any future energy efficiency or home improvement scheme. If customers engaging with those schemes have no confidence in the schemes working, they will not happen. It is absolutely imperative that we get energy efficiency and green energy schemes going in this country as part of the challenge of decarbonising our energy systems and uprating the energy efficiency of homes across the country. It is important that that gets under way for the future with a clean slate and a clean bill of health for what is being done.


  • 22 Oct 2018: Draft Electricity and Gas (Energy Company Obligation) Order 2018


    The essential point about the overall aim of ECO is that it should be concerned with all those issues—with urban and rural fuel poverty and with bringing properties up to a decent level of energy efficiency to ensure that our properties are in a fit and good state with regard to climate change and energy use changes.


  • 9 Oct 2018: Oil and Gas Industry


    We have had an excellent debate, with informed contributions all round, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) on securing it. As hon. Members have said, this is a very important debate because the Budget is so close and because there are wider issues relating to the role that the oil and gas industry will play in a substantially decarbonised future. There are a number of assumptions about how oil and gas will be used in the future. As hon. Members have said, the debate is taking place literally the day after the IPCC published its report on global warming and its effects, and discussion about that report is just beginning. That must be the context for our discussions about the future of oil and gas.

    I commend the creation and operation of the Oil & Gas Authority and—hon. Members have mentioned it—“Vision 2035”, which the OGA is putting forward for the future of the industry. In that vision, it does not just talk about continuing business as usual, but looks at the much longer-term future, even beyond the point at which the very last reserves have been produced. One of the OGA’s missions is to create a sustainable energy service and technology centre long after the final economic reserves have been produced. We need to look not just at business as usual, but at a range of other things that the industry can start to develop, and is developing, as the North sea field becomes even more mature. Of course, one of the things it can do is develop decommissioning skills on a worldwide basis, so that we can ensure not just that the decommissioning in the North sea is done in the best possible way, but that those skills can be exported across the world.

    We need to be mindful of the fact that, as I mentioned at the beginning of my contribution, the IPCC report on global warming and the future of the world has just come out. It is pertinent to our discussions today, because it underpins what kind of long-term future there is for oil and gas. I consider that the long-term future involves looking at how oil and gas can be used in a range of ways that are not entirely familiar to us today but will be essential for the sinews of British industry. Oil and gas will have a substantial role to play, for a very long time, in those areas of activity. I am thinking of chemical products for which oil is irreplaceable and of alternative vectors such as hydrogen, if the CCS implications of the formation of hydrogen can be managed. All those things imply that there is a substantial future for oil and gas from the North sea.


  • 24 Jul 2018: Wylfa Nuclear Power Project: Taxpayer Liability for Safety


    That is in contrast, of course, to my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen). I have known him, and we have fought many energy battles side by side, for many years. I can attest to his strong support for and deep understanding of the role that renewable energy plays in our energy mix, alongside his support for nuclear power and, indeed, the potential nuclear power station in his constituency. He spoke eloquently on both those issues.


  • 9 Jul 2018: Draft Warm Home Discount (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018


    That is a long way away from getting anywhere near the targets that we need to get near and achieving that uprating of energy efficiency for properties across the board, fighting both the climate change concerns of inefficient homes and, as importantly, their fuel poverty implications. Can the Minister tell us anything this afternoon about the longer term plans she has to ensure that this and other schemes in the relatively near future will have a much longer timescale ahead of them, so that they can play a longer term part in fighting that campaign for fuel efficiency and against fuel poverty, and get us to those targets at the earliest time possible?


  • 20 Jun 2018: Engagements

    Following the agreements to which the UK signed up at the Paris climate change summit, will the Prime Minister now commit to a new UK climate change target of zero net emissions before 2050?


  • 19 Jun 2018: Geothermal Energy


    At the moment, the incentives to get such a scheme going properly in any area are not sufficient. That is particularly unfortunate; geothermal energy ought to be considered a different form of renewable energy, because of its known longevity. When we invest in a geothermal energy plant, we are investing in a capacity that will give us free energy for 120 years—we cannot say that about pretty much any other renewable energy source, except possibly the Swansea tidal lagoon. I therefore think that the criteria under which geothermal energy is considered should be based on that kind of payback and that kind of timeframe.

    In conclusion, all hon. Members who have contributed to this debate have made clear their support for the potential of this form of renewable energy, and they have given examples from various parts of the UK. I particularly applaud the Scottish Government’s initiative to bring forward real funding for geothermal schemes, and I hope that in the not-too-distant future Southampton will no longer be the only geothermal plant in the entire United Kingdom that operates in the way I described. There are glimpses of progress here and there, but it is by no means continuous or anywhere near to fulfilling the enormous potential that geothermal energy offers.


  • 15 May 2018: Draft Offshore Environmental Civil Sanctions Regulations 2018


    OPRED already has enforcement notices under its belt. The Minister mentioned a number of OPRED enforcement notices over the past year or so, but what, on a broader canvas, has OPRED been doing recently regarding those offences? She helpfully set out for us the number of prosecutions that could have been considered for possible breaches, but I have here the actual notices and prosecutions carried out by OPRED over the year prior to May 2017. It issued five enforcement notices under the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005; two under the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015; and a further improvement notice. That is eight notices all together, with one prosecution completed and three further cases referred to the relevant prosecuting authorities.

    It is also interesting that OPRED already has a range of civil penalties available to it for environmental pollution and breaches of regulations related to environmental stewardship. Surprisingly, they are not mentioned in the notes accompanying the SI, but OPRED has been active on notices under the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Regulations 2012, which provide for substantial civil penalties for breaches such as failure to comply with a condition of a permit; failure to pay a penalty for exceeding an emissions target for an excluded installation; under-reporting of emissions from an excluded installation; failure to comply with a condition of an emissions plan, a direction relating to an operating ban, an enforcement notice or an information notice; and providing false or misleading information.

    Perhaps the Minister will also inform us what is to happen to the existing civil penalty regime under the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Regulations 2012, as a result of the introduction of the new penalties, particularly given that, at first sight, we see that a number of penalties provided for in the new regime mirror those already available under existing legislation. What would be the preferred option for OPRED? Will it stop applying the higher-penalty civil remedies available under the legislation I have mentioned, and begin to operate the lower-penalty arrangements available to it under the new regime, or has the Department issued no guidance on that? If not, will such guidance be available in the guidance document that we are promised will be available in November?


  • 23 Apr 2018: Draft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations 2018 Draft Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Schem...


    I have to say that I welcome many of the changes that will take place in terms of the scope and focus of the draft regulations—particularly, as the Minister mentioned, the concentration on biomethane and heat pumps, and the injection of biomethane into the grid. Those technologies are seen as increasingly relevant to the attack on the decarbonisation of heat, as it were. The different ambitions the renewable heat incentive will have as a result of these changes reflect a lot better where we actually are in terms of the development of those technologies going forward.

    However, this is a change in ambition in that it is an overall reduction in ambition. We need to be clear about that. Not only is the renewable heat incentive, as it stands at the moment, not remotely enough for the ambitions that we have and should have on the decarbonisation of heat in terms of being a vehicle to bring that decarbonisation forward, but it is, as the Minister mentioned, very much a time-limited device, which will expire for new entrants in March 2021. In terms of the measures put forward in the clean growth strategy as some of the building blocks for serious clean growth and meeting climate targets, this is actually one of the most short term.

    Indeed, in so far as investors and businesses are concerned, that time limit represents, in many ways, a cliff edge as to what will happen in the longer term future. As hon. Members will be aware, the period between where we are now—allegedly spring 2018—and March 2021 is barely time to get projects from conception, to proof, to development, to financing, to realisation. The cycle that is now in place with the renewable heat incentive is barely sufficient to support a lot of the schemes that will be needed—with all the care and detail that will be needed in their development—over the next few years, in so far as a major attack on the decarbonisation of heat is concerned.

    “commissioned research into different heat demand scenarios, the use of hydrogen, what changes might be needed to the electricity grid in response to large scale uptake of heat pumps, the role that bioenergy might play in decarbonising heat and international activity.”

    This is a relatively modest scheme on the back of what was a relatively modest scheme in the first place. We should be under no illusion: these changes downgrade our climate change and heat decarbonisation ambitions quite substantially. To that extent, we cannot register anything other than considerable disappointment at that particular reduction. It makes it all the more essential that, in the summer of 2018, we get a grip on understanding what role the RHI or a similar incentive can and should play in heat decarbonisation, and how much further we need to go than the scheme presented to us today.


  • 19 Apr 2018: UK Oil and Gas Industry


    I want to give the hon. Member for Gordon an assurance. I do not think it was deliberate, but he chanced on a characterisation of some of those who consider the climate change debate to be an imperative in considering the future of oil and gas in the North sea—that those people would suggest that oil and gas should not have a bright future there. That is not the case. I regard the climate change imperative as encompassing all that we do in connection with energy, as I think does the Minister. However, that does not mean there is not a long-term need for oil or gas; there is a need for both. The question is not whether we have the need, but what we do with the stuff once we have got it, and what sort of responsibility we take for its subsequent use.

    An example, which the hon. Member for Waveney will well recall, is the future arrangements that we might have for decarbonising the gas system. One way might be to develop a hydrogen gas economy—a green gas economy—for heating our homes. The cheapest and most efficient way to produce the necessary hydrogen would be through a steam methane reforming system, and that of course needs gas. We can envisage circumstances in which we would take gas from the North sea and make hydrogen from it—possibly in the Teesside cluster that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North described—and, to make sure that it would be climate-efficient, the process would need CCS as well. The carbon captured in the hydrogen-making process would be put back into the North sea repositories, which would have been saved by efficiency in the decommissioning process. By a variety of devices, we could have different ways of using what we had to secure a bright future for the North sea, but it would not necessarily be the bright future that we envisaged hitherto.

    It is important to be clear about our intentions for what we extract from the North sea—that what we use should be domestically sourced as far as possible. That would be good news for the UK as a whole, but we would also have the wider responsibility of the climate change imperative behind us. We need to think through what we will do with our North sea products and, on that basis, how we shall sustain the industries that have served the UK so well in the past 40 years or so. I am not one of those who says, “The North sea is finished; it is a mature basin.” There is quite a lot more to get out of that basin. We must do that in rather different ways, with rather different responsibilities, but provided we take that approach the bright future for the North sea and the oil and gas industry there is assured. I hope that we can work together on achieving that in the coming years.


  • 8 Mar 2018: Energy Efficiency and the Clean Growth Strategy


    What happens to fuel poverty, if we systematically insulate our homes to an acceptable standard? What happens to bills in the future, and what happens, as the hon. Member for Eddisbury pointed out, to the amount of fuel that we are consuming in our homes? She estimated that a 25% or so reduction in gas as a result of insulating our homes to an acceptable standard has all sorts of knock-on effects for the wider climate change debate. As she also said, that is reflected in the clean growth strategy ambition and targets that ideally we should be aiming for as far as insulation in all homes is concerned, and in the earlier target of insulation up to band C for homes in fuel poverty.

    Having congratulated the hon. Member for Eddisbury on her contribution, I want to add a slight note of sadness. Perhaps we should have all sat on one side of the Chamber this afternoon and addressed our comments to all the rest out there who did not turn up to the debate and who quite often do not engage with this issue. We might have collectively addressed the importance of energy efficiency not only in domestic buildings but in commercial and industrial buildings. It is important to work together to address climate change, fuel poverty and all those other targets to make sure we sort them out. Today’s debate has reflected the collective and consensual activity that we ought to organise among all of us, provided all those other people along the road support the Minister in what she is doing for energy efficiency. The Opposition party must have the very best policies so that when our turn comes to govern, we have a clear understanding of where we need to get to, what we have to do and how we support and fund it. That is a job of work for all of us in this Chamber to get ourselves involved in.

    I surely do. On the basis of what the Committee on Climate Change says, the current ECO commitment falls way short of the levels of treatment we need if we are to get anywhere near our 2035 targets. Even the £1.8 billion figure that has been cited will not cover a complete series of treatments for houses in the UK. I suggest that making our treatments much more efficient—by doing them on an area basis, for example—would allow us to get much closer to our target for the same money. We can probably agree that £1.8 billion will be the sort of money that will get us there, but an efficient approach could get us so much further, which I would completely support.

    I appreciate that I have gone on rather longer than I intended, but let me briefly say a few words about the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) and the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham). They both drew attention to the role that CCS can play, as did the hon. Member for Wells—or rather for HEEPS. I thoroughly endorse that line of thinking on CCS, but I must point out that as far as the clean growth strategy is concerned, £100 million will not get us anywhere near our CCS target, just as our ECO commitment will not get us anywhere near our energy efficiency target.

    I congratulate Teesside on its comprehensive approach, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar has been centrally involved. Teesside could be an absolute exemplar for the rest of the country in its combination of intensive industry with CCS and its by-products. That is very important for realisation of the clean growth strategy and we need to incorporate it in all our future clean growth plans.

    I congratulate all hon. Members on their contributions to the debate. They all faced in exactly the same direction, acknowledging the importance of energy efficiency in homes, for a variety of reasons including climate change and fuel poverty, and the prominence that we need to give it in our policy debates. If this afternoon’s debate has hastened that process, we will have done a very good job between us.


  • 30 Jan 2018: Oral Answers to Questions

    The Minister will have seen the recent report by the Committee on Climate Change about the Government’s clean growth strategy in relation to the fifth carbon budget. Indeed, I know that she has seen it, because she wrote the committee a nice letter thanking it for its report. What plans does she have in place to rectify the shortcomings and omissions in that strategy, as identified by the Committee on Climate Change in its report?


  • 18 Dec 2017: Financial Assistance to Industry


    The RO arrangement has effectively come to an end for new entrants as of March 2017 and, although the programme will run for a further 10 years, it is effectively a ghost programme. It will continue to carry out the obligations that have been entered into for their 15-year period, but no new ROs will come on stream. Instead, for larger renewable energy concerns there will be contracts for difference.


  • 12 Dec 2017: Oral Answers to Questions

    In the recent Budget the Treasury, I assume following consultation with the Minister’s Department, pulled the plug on all future support for renewable energy deployment except for the already allocated near-term support for offshore wind. Does the Minister himself support such action, and does it help or hinder the UK’s progress towards meeting its carbon reduction targets?


  • 28 Nov 2017: Smart Meters Bill (Sixth sitting)


    No doubt you have observed, Mrs Gillan, as will have members of the Committee, that there are some similarities between this amendment and amendment 8 to clause 3, which we discussed earlier. They are part of the effort I have been making to ensure that the public have a slightly bigger voice in what happens in the programme, particularly in the event of something going wrong with it. I mentioned earlier the number of groups and organisations that have expressed anxiety, and these include the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and the Energy and Climate Change Committee. I was particularly struck to see that Centrica itself had reached the stage where it thought the cost of the programme should be met from general taxation, rather than a charge on the customer. That led me to wonder.


  • 7 Nov 2017: Oral Answers to Questions

    I welcome the return to some consideration of CCS in the clean growth plan, after the Government’s dreadful mistake in cancelling the £1 billion UK CCS pilot plants in 2015. What discussions has the Minister had with her Norwegian counterparts on the prospects for UK-Norway collaboration on that country’s advanced plans for carbon sequestration in the North sea?


  • 19 Oct 2017: Carbon Capture and Storage


    Surrounded as I am by what we now know is a Teesside collective, who look out on to the North sea, I cannot offer quite such a spectacular view from my constituency. I have a view on to the English channel, which is of course rather less bracing for a dip this time of year, but does not share the North sea’s potential for CCS in the future.

    I endorse everything that has been said by pretty much everybody in the Chamber today about the importance of carbon capture and storage for the future. I cannot do better than describe it in the exact words of the Committee on Climate Change:

    “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is very important in meeting the 2050 target at least cost, given its potential to reduce emissions across heavy industry, the power sector and perhaps with bioenergy, as well as opening up new decarbonisation pathways (e.g. based on hydrogen).”

    The Committee on Climate Change sees carbon capture and storage as absolutely essential. That is what it said in its report, “The Fifth Carbon Budget”, which we in the UK have now adopted. It is incumbent on us to make sure that we respond to what the committee has underlined in that report—the importance of carbon capture and storage.


  • 12 Oct 2017: Clean Growth Strategy


    I welcome the final publication—after, we have to agree, many delays—of “The Clean Growth Strategy”, and I agree with the Minister that the UK has been, as it should be, towards the front of the pack in action to decarbonise our economy. I also agree that the responsibility for getting us to that position lies with the Members to whom she has paid tribute today. I also welcome the Minister’s clear position that she is fundamentally onside on the need to radically decarbonise our country to meet climate change imperatives—unlike, I have to say, many of her Back-Bench colleagues. I warmly welcome her efforts in this direction and clear commitment to the tasks we have to undertake.

    I also welcome many of the additional policy directions that are contained in the document. I particularly welcome the commitment to further rounds of offshore wind to assist with the decarbonisation of the energy sector, and what I hope will be an intention to return to the development of onshore wind. These new policies and commitments, among many others, are important because it is clear that on present policies the UK is set to miss its key targets for decarbonisation, set out in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which this House has endorsed. That is surely the point of judgment for the efficacy of this plan: does it do what it is required by the terms of the Climate Change Act 2008:

    On getting there, does the Minister recognise just how far behind in decarbonisation we are in the heat sector? Does she consider that the funding set out for the renewable heat incentive up to 2021, which appears to be a restatement of what is already there, and of the energy company obligation, which appears to be a time extension of present funding for energy efficiency, will get us anywhere near the indicative heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency carbon reductions set out by the Committee on Climate Change in the fifth carbon budget?

    The Minister will recall what emphasis the Committee on Climate Change placed on the role of carbon capture and storage. She mentioned in her statement that the Government now appear to be waking up once again to the idea that carbon capture and storage is a good thing. While I welcome that apparent renewed interest in actually doing something about the establishment of CCS, both for energy generation and energy-intensive industries, does she consider that taking away £1 billion of funding for the development of CCS, as the Government did in 2016, and replacing it with up to £100 million of development funding in this plan will get us anywhere near the level of CCS use that the Committee on Climate Change recommends?

    I agree with the Minister that a low-carbon transition can go hand-in-hand with economic growth, and she has today and on other occasions emphasised that the use of industrial strategy to drive decarbonisation, while providing for jobs, supply chains and manufacturing in the process, is a very important fundamental platform for our decarbonisation approach generally.

    I want to reassure the hon. Gentleman, however, and I have helpfully set out on page 41 the fact that, should we have to, and with the consent of the Committee on Climate Change, we can use flexibilities. My intention is that we do not have to use them. Because we have over-delivered, and will over-deliver so substantially on current projections, up to carbon budget 3, more than enough will have been built up in terms of flexibilities to cover carbon budget 4 with more left over. My sense is that, given the ambition, the pace of change and the extraordinary changes in the cost and adaptation of new technology, we will comfortably exceed these budgets. But he is right that we have a statutory duty to report on this. This is a very good example of legislation making politicians focus on what is important, over the political cycle. I thank him for his ability to question, which enables me to confirm those points.

    I admire the hon. Gentleman’s shadow ambition for renewable energy, but I want to be clear today that when we look at new technologies, it is important that we apply the triple test. First, the technology must decarbonise sufficiently; secondly, it must be affordable—we have to see a very good cost trajectory; and thirdly, it must build capabilities that Britain can build on, so that we can export and grow our own economy.

    It is interesting to hear that Maggie Thatcher’s policy of shutting down coal mines and importing coal was down to some strategic vision about climate change. On a serious note, however, I thank the Minister for early sight of the statement and welcome the document’s publication, although she will understand that I have not yet had a chance to read it from cover to cover.

    The clean growth plan clearly needs to be strategic and must bind other Departments. As the shadow Minister said, it must tie in and deliver the desired outcomes of the carbon budget and our climate change commitments. That is the spirit and intention of the strategy, but the Government need to ensure that that actually happens, so Treasury commitments are necessary. Some £2.5 billion of investment was outlined in the statement, but that is in reality only a fraction of the investment that is needed to decarbonise the UK.

    All future energy scenarios rely on carbon capture and storage, but the strategy both includes and dismisses the use of CCS, so I am not exactly sure about the Government’s policy. We need a real commitment to delivering CCS, and the shadow Minister correctly said that pulling the £1 billion funding was farcical. Although the document states that £130 million has been spent on CCS R and D to date, that money has effectively been wasted. That was highlighted by a National Audit Office report, which said that the previous investment did not deliver any real outcomes. Investors need to have confidence in CCS, so the Government need to take a lead. The same can be said of tidal lagoons. If lagoons are to deliver, we need a much better show of commitment from the UK Government and we need it soon.

    I welcome this important strategy, but will my hon. Friend ensure that the resulting vital investment is directed at the most efficient and reliable sources of renewable energy, such as tidal power?

    My hon. Friend will know that we try to be technologically neutral in the auction structure to ensure that sources of energy are the lowest cost and the most effective in terms of decarbonisation, creating a strategic base upon which we can innovate and invest. The excellent policy work has been striking, and I pay tribute to some of my predecessors in the Department. For example, our work on offshore wind, which involved setting a framework, investing up front and then driving down costs, has been amazing. Those are the sorts of processes that we would like all renewables to go through. My hon. Friend mentioned water power, and we have the second-highest tidal range in the world after the bay of Fundy—I know that only because I was a geography student—and exceptional amounts of power are being generated from our coastline.

    To reassure the right hon. Gentleman, not only has the Green Investment Bank—it is now known as the Green Investment Group—signed up to the plan, it has joined our green finance taskforce. We have asked our leading minds and operators in financial services, insurance, risk assessment and financial regulation to come together, so that we can not only mobilise the level of private capital that we need to drive this transformation in the UK, but export that incredible professional expertise right across the world. The taskforce is already coming up with solutions, and we will again be able to lead the world by mobilising capital and investing the right amount that we need to decarbonise.

    I congratulate my hon. Friend on producing this brilliant strategy. It is brimming with ambition and full of good ideas, as we would expect from her. It is great stuff, but I just want to ask about one issue. The strategy tells us that transport emissions have been cut by 2% since 1990 compared with an average of well above 20% in all others sectors, so if we are to hit the 2050 targets, we will need something really radical in transport. The strategy talks about banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and I want my hon. Friend to reassure me that that will be equal to the challenge we face.

    I was not there myself, but the Minister told the Tory party conference that she viewed carbon capture and storage as a vital technology for the future, and I welcome its revival on the Government’s policy platform. They are certainly seeing sense. CCS is also vital for Teesside and for the jobs that the Minister talked about. Will she back the Teesside Collective project with real resources and, as she develops new initiatives, engage with the all-party parliamentary group on carbon capture and storage, which I chair?

    As we set out clearly in the document, we think that gas, particularly its lowest carbon form, absolutely has an important role to play in our energy mix. That is why a renewed focus on and investment in CCUS is important.

    At the moment, the Government are failing to give a clear steer on emissions targets, have given no answers on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and are not investing in any meaningful way in renewable energy or energy efficiency. Will the Minister seek to introduce legally binding targets for renewable energy, as the Welsh Labour Government announced they would earlier this month? Successful markets need a clear strategic vision and leadership, and an effective regulatory regime. This Conservative Government have neither.

    We have an effective, legally binding regime that operates right across the UK. It is called the Climate Change Act, introduced with cross-party support in 2008. We have to produce our carbon targets. I have set out today why I think we are on a good trajectory towards them. However, I fear that the hon. Lady wants to be one of those “command and control” Marxists who wants to predict every single thing that happens in the economy at all times. That is not how innovation works. We set out a framework for investment. We try not to pick technologies; we want the lowest carbon, the lowest cost and the most innovation. We then work with the private sector to create the most innovative ecosystems, so that we can capture the opportunities. I will be very happy to have a cup of coffee with the hon. Lady and give her a slight cheering up. There is a lot of good stuff in the report, and she should be supporting it.

    I echo what colleagues from across the House have said about this being an excellent announcement, and I congratulate the Minister on everything she has done to bring it about today. I echo what the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) said about how this will be particularly warmly welcomed on Teesside. May I invite the Minister to agree with me that Teesside is the natural starting point for CCS in the UK, owing to its concentrated and diverse industry, proximity to north-east storage sites and optionality for future low-carbon technologies, such as hydrogen?


  • 3 Jul 2017: Energy Price Cap


    The hon. Gentleman talks about energy strategy, and it is right that the Government have taken a decision—this was ducked by previous Governments for decades—to renew our nuclear power stations that are coming to the end of their lives. He will know that the SNP Government in Scotland agreed to extend the lives of nuclear power stations there, and he will also know about the impact of our success on renewable energy, specifically offshore wind, in Scotland. I have had fruitful discussions with colleagues throughout Scotland, especially in the remote islands, about the future possibilities for that.

    My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We need to ensure that we meet our important climate change commitments at a competitive cost—for consumers and for businesses—and that we obtain the industrial benefits from having a supply chain in this country. That is exactly why we devote a chapter of the industrial strategy Green Paper to future plans to make the most of the clean energy transition in all respects.


  • 27 Jun 2017: Oral Answers to Questions

    We were promised the publication of this report in the middle of 2016. In October 2016, the permanent secretary promised that it would be published by February 2017. In January 2017, the then Secretary of State promised that the report would be published in the first three months of this year. Now we hear that it might be published this autumn. A year and a half on from the original promise, we are now clearly defaulting on our commitment under the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires that the plan is published as soon as is reasonably practicable after the order has been laid. Is not the Minister ashamed of this lamentable failure to act on that legislative requirement to produce a report that is important to the future of climate change activity, and will she apologise to the House for the delay?


  • 22 Mar 2017: Draft Electricity and Gas (Energy Company Obligation) (amendment) Order 2017


    Although I said that we do not want to stand in the way of the regulations, I am not mollified about their overall thrust. We need to be clear that the regulations will represent a reduction on the reduction in the ambition of the ECO as far as energy efficiency measures are concerned, both for those in fuel poverty and for the climate change purposes of increasing energy efficiency in properties. They are an endorsement of the collapse of the energy efficiency measures going into all homes, and even with the change of emphasis toward the fuel-poor and those receiving measures under the carbon emissions reduction obligation, other parts of the ECO have in effect been removed.

    We are barely reaching fuel poverty targets. I welcome the important emphasis on fuel poverty in the measures—a substantial and welcome shift of fuel poverty-focused measures up from 30% to 70% of measures within the ECO as a whole—but I emphasise that that is within an overall reduction of the pot. The consequence of that is that the measures under the CERO part of the ECO scheme reduce substantially and carbon saving community obligation measures disappear entirely. The measures under CERO represent a reduction, in that smaller pot, from 34% to 30% of the total. That is very important in terms of the treatments of properties that might be available under ECO, in terms of the energy efficiency climate change targets.

    Those targets are fairly stark. In the fourth carbon budget, which was adopted and accepted by the Government, the Committee on Climate Change considered that 2.2 million solid wall treatments by the early 2020s should be included in that, to make the contribution to energy efficiency climate change targets. Hon. Members may want to reflect on the targets that are in this measure today: 32,000 treatments envisaged in the 18 months up to 2018. If extrapolated, and even if that amount is maintained over the full period of the next ECO, when it succeeds the interim measure we are discussing this morning, that would mean we would fall short of the target, which was agreed by Government, by 1.8 million treatments. That is an astonishing shortfall. That is not a question of falling slightly short—it is effectively extinguishing any serious consideration of those targets over the period, which is potentially catastrophic for our ability to meet our obligations under the carbon budgets.

    I do not wish to detain the Committee further, but I do emphasise that the Opposition consider the measures to be woefully inadequate for those in fuel poverty and to address wider concerns about climate change. If we had the opportunity, we would fundamentally revise their scope and extent in order to make a proper impact on fuel poverty and the overwhelming imperative of getting energy efficiency under control in the context of concerns on climate change.


  • 16 Mar 2017: Energy Prices


    We have seen eye-watering price increases lately. A number of companies have raised the price of dual fuel by 10%, and there have been double-figure increases in electricity bills from others. The companies justify their increases on the basis of a combination of wholesale prices and the Government’s environmental measures, and even—as we have heard recently—the impact of smart meters. The problem is that we have no easy way of assessing the extent to which those claims are justified. However, as was emphasised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, we need to lay one canard to rest, and that is the suggestion that price rises are a result of low-carbon levies. They are not. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool, the recent report from the Committee on Climate Change indicated that, overall, only 9% of bills result from Government energy measures. Indeed, not only are those energy measures not a huge part of the overall bill, but they will contribute to decreasing bills in the future by decreasing demand, by increasing energy efficiency, and, in terms of renewable energy, by changing the merit order of energy supply so that eventually the wholesale price of energy can be driven down over a period.

    “to the rise in non-energy parts of the bill such as social and environmental schemes which support renewable energy and help customers use less energy”?


  • 1 Mar 2017: Petroleum Licensing (Exploration and Production) (Landward Areas) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Re...


    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. We have before us a statutory instrument purporting finally to put in place protection against surface drilling for hydraulic fracturing in national parks, sites of special scientific interest, areas of outstanding natural beauty and similar areas. It might be worth casting our minds back and considering how we got to a position in which this SI is being presented to us today. During the passage of the Infrastructure Act 2015, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), assured us that

    When that SI was laid before Parliament, the then Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), reassured those who had made that point that


  • 24 Jan 2017: UK Decarbonisation and Carbon Capture and Storage


    I was going to say that the debate had been characterised by a mighty cross-party alliance in favour of CCS, which I heartily concur with, but obviously there is this afternoon one exception to that. I want briefly to address that exception: the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson).

    The issue is basically about the imperative to decarbonise our energy supplies, and it is an unashamed imperative because we know that climate change is real and that, if we do not do anything about it, that will be disastrous overall, for us all. Indeed, we can go back, in terms of alternative costings, to the Stern report. Stern said that doing nothing on climate change would probably consume 5% of our GDP, whereas doing something about it might consume 1% of our GDP. It is a very substantial investment for the future and rather a good bargain overall, in terms of what we might put in and what we might get out.

    Of course, the same applies, in the context of the energy sector, to CCS. The question is really how we decarbonise our energy supplies, using different potential scenarios, and what would happen if we did not take CCS into account as far as decarbonising our energy supplies was concerned. It is not that we cannot, but it is about the relative costs of doing that with different technologies. It is not me saying this: it is the Committee on Climate Change in setting out its scenarios for the fifth carbon budget, which, of course, the Government have now adopted as a way forward over the next period.

    We have basically adopted a scenario for energy decarbonisation that has at its centre, and as part of that fifth carbon budget, that energy emissions should be below 100 grams of CO 2 per kWh by about 2030. The Committee on Climate Change says that the investments we have at the moment give us an emissions intensity of about 250 grams of CO 2 per kWh. If we close remaining coal-fired power stations and replace them with gas-fired generation in the short term, that would take emissions marginally further down to 190 grams of CO 2 per kWh.

    Of course, if all the existing nuclear power stations were also replaced by gas, and gas met new demand subsequently, emissions intensities would rise to over 300 grams of CO 2 per kWh by 2030. The Committee on Climate Change goes on to say:

    “Commercialisation programmes for CCS and offshore wind alongside lowest-cost investments in the 2020s in a mix of new nuclear, onshore wind, solar and offshore wind rather than expanding gas generation would bring emissions intensity down to below 100 gCO 2 /kWh.”

    That is a very straightforward and exact road map for where we need to go in terms of energy decarbonisation.

    Of course, if we did not have CCS in that scenario, we would have to do a lot of different things to replace what CCS would have done by physically taking the carbon dioxide out of the process and putting it into the ground. We would have to do something else to take that carbon dioxide out of the process. That could be a lot of additional energy efficiency or it could be a lot of new, different low-carbon plant.

    We come to the question of what the alternative costs might be if we did not have CCS in the process. Indeed, the NAO report on the carbon capture and storage pilots, which hon. Members have mentioned this afternoon, clearly sets out that meeting the 2050 target for decarbonisation of our whole system, without CCS, would

    Hon. Members have mentioned what that means in terms of an annual basis, but that is the overall cost. Interestingly, the NAO cites where that particular figure comes from: of course, it came from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2015.

    We are clear about the ends, but we are not currently clear about the means. That is where the scandalous cancellation of the two pilot projects—which, by the way, had already been included in those Committee on Climate Change estimates I just mentioned, so we are even further back from the starting line than we would otherwise have been—puts us in terms of having, at the moment, the possibility of ends.

    We have agreed the fifth carbon budget. The Government are due to produce their low-carbon plan some day soon; I think it was supposed to be last year and then it was supposed to be this spring, but I see from the industrial strategy announcement yesterday that the target is now some time in 2017. I am interested to know from the Minister whether that low-carbon plan is going to be published in the early part of 2017, as I hope. If it is, I would be extremely surprised if it included no mention of the key role CCS will have to play in making that plan a reality. That is the truth of the matter: without CCS, it is very difficult to envisage a lot of the systems that we talk about in terms of low-carbon energy as a whole—not just low-carbon electricity—working very well.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop) mentioned, among other things, the possible role that hydrogen might play in the future heat economy. Hydrogen can be made by electrolysis of spare electricity but it is more likely that, during the earlier period, it is going to be made using existing infrastructure by steam methane reformation. That gives us a potent fuel in terms of sorting out the decarbonisation of our heat structures, and possibly the substantial decarbonisation of our transport structures, but CO 2 is a by-product that needs sequestering in the process, otherwise it is not low-carbon at all.

    The essential role that carbon capture and storage will play across the board in our decarbonised, low-carbon energy economy is without question. The question is: what do we do about it? We have heard mention this afternoon of the estimable Oxburgh report, which was essentially commissioned by Government after the closing down of the pilot schemes. Without wishing to repeat some of the details of the Oxburgh report that have been mentioned this afternoon, I would say that the report does not talk about pilots and does not talk about ways of trying to introduce bits of CCS here and there. It talks about a very practical route forward, which is costed and relatively low-cost, for what Government need to do—exactly in line with what we think we are doing at the moment about industrial strategy and how we move that forward—to make carbon capture and storage a part of our energy landscape over the next period.

    I commend anybody who has not read that report to look at exactly what it says. That is exactly what it does: it sets out how we move forward over the next period to integrate carbon capture and storage with various measures as part of our processes. I ask the Minister whether the Government intend to respond to the Oxburgh report in the near future. If they do intend to respond, what form is that response likely to take? I hope that when the Government decide to respond, they respond in a very positive way because that is what we need right now. Undoubtedly, we need to decarbonise radically. Undoubtedly, carbon capture and storage has to be a part of that decarbonisation. Setting out a way forward for making carbon capture and storage a reality in our energy firmament is, it seems to me, a very high priority for Government at the moment.


  • 12 Dec 2016: Emission Reductions and Low Carbon Investments


    I suggested that it is worth examining the EU ETS’s structures in respect of the countries that fully participate in it but are not EU members. There are particular regulations relating to that, but those countries participate fully in the EU ETS and are not just observers at the table. They are bound by what happens in the ETS, but they are active participants in shaping it. I hope at the very least that, in our future relationship with the EU ETS, we aim to be a full member and sit round the table, even if we are not a member of the European Union, so that the fact that the development of the EU ETS reflects our country’s priorities for the decarbonisation of our industries and for climate change is fully taken into account.


  • 24 Oct 2016: Draft Contracts for Difference (Allocation) (Amendment) Regulations 2016


    My second and third questions relate to the detail of that. Whether the available money is a one-off or continuing, presumably it will have to deal with the existing picture of the levy control framework up to 2020 because this statutory instrument essentially extends the period through which the levy control framework will work. If that is the case, we know that the controls set in place with the levy control framework and agreed between the Treasury and the then Department of Energy and Climate Change are likely to be exceeded by 2020.


  • 19 Oct 2016: Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2016


    For all those reasons, I suggest that the safest course of action would be to suspend the changes, carry out a consultation and produce an impact assessment. That would not lead to any danger of new plants suddenly coming in under the wire. If it is still felt necessary to make the changes after all that, and after consideration of what CHP plants can do to make the changes necessary, so be it. However, I suggest that to go ahead with the changes on such a thin raft of evidence, and on such a poorly designed basis of operation, does not make safe our goals of ensuring that the renewable heat incentive provides for the decarbonisation of heat in an efficient way and of encouraging plants to develop in that way. I suggest to the Minister in a friendly manner that securing those goals might be the best course of action not just for the industry and the renewable heat incentive, but for the future of decarbonisation in the heat sector as a whole.


  • 7 Sep 2016: Paris Agreement on Climate Change


    At the time, it was welcome news that the Government went ahead and agreed to the fifth carbon budget, and that they did so without any suggestions that there might be caveats attached, unlike what happened with the fourth carbon budget. That sent a clear signal about what our overall ambitions should be. A question then arises about the fourth and fifth carbon budgets moving forward, and whether we can fit what we have agreed regarding the INDCs into the process of agreeing those carbon budgets and their consequences. That is where we start to have a problem. I am increasingly concerned about whether we have the policy instruments in place and the wherewithal to reach a position where we can say, hand on heart, “Yes, we are in this seriously.” Indeed, that concerns not only me but, more importantly, the Committee on Climate Change. Its recent progress report to Parliament on carbon budgets made the important point that although, as the Minister mentioned, our progress on tackling overall emissions has historically been looking pretty good over the recent period, with emissions falling by an average of 4.5% a year since 2012, that has been almost entirely due to progress in the power sector, not progress in the rest of the economy.

    The Committee on Climate Change says that, in the rest of the economy, emissions have fallen by less than 1% a year on a temperature-adjusted basis. It specifically says that that is because of a slow uptake of low-carbon technologies and the behaviour of the building sector—low rates of insulation improvement and low take-up of low-carbon heat—as well as because improved vehicle efficiency has been offset by increased demand for travel. It also says that there is minimal evidence of progress in the industrial and agricultural sectors. The Committee is beginning to sound alarm bells about the extent to which we will be able to make the progress that is needed if we are to carry out those INDCs properly.

    The Committee on Climate Change points out that, even as far as the energy sector is concerned, some areas have seen progress. It says that funding for offshore wind has been extended to 2026, which I very much welcome as an important step towards attaching the next stage of the levy control framework to offshore wind. However, the Committee says that there are backward steps in other areas, and Members will not be surprised to hear what they are: the cancellation of the commercialised programme for carbon capture and storage; the reduction in funding for energy efficiency; and the cancellation of the zero-carbon homes standard.

    The Committee on Climate Change also says that other priorities have not moved forward. There have been no further auctions for the cheapest low-carbon generation, no action plan for low-carbon heat or energy efficiency, and no vehicle efficiency standards beyond 2020. It also says that progress on improving the energy efficiency of buildings has stalled since 2012. Annual rates of cavity wall and loft insulation in 2013 to 2015 were down 60% and 90% respectively from annual rates between 2008 and 2012. I cite these points from the Committee given its status as an expert body.

    The carbon budget and carbon programmes have substantial ramifications for endeavours, aspirations and targets way beyond the size of what appears to be the policy put in place at a particular moment. I have a lot of sympathy with the Minister in his task of putting the new low-carbon programme together over the next period. He inherits a number of issues that have percolated down to short-term policy decisions, which have substantial ramifications on climate change targets over the longer period. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North, I would like to big up the Minister’s new post. It is a good idea to have a Minister for climate change who is completely onside as far as climate change is concerned. Not only is he onside, but he has a long record of being onside. His commitment to this cause is absolutely unquestionable.

    In his responsibilities and those of his Secretary of State, the Minister has a problem arising from the flurry of policies over the past year on the long-term considerations relating to climate change effects. If his new Department lets those policy changes lie, or runs further with them, the problem will be exacerbated, and his problem of writing a low carbon programme will be magnified.

    The new Department benefits from particularly good appointments in the form of Ministers who completely understand and are at ease with the question of what we need to do, where we need to do it, how we need to do it and what the effects will be. We need to identify where those effects may continue to be felt outside the new Department. We can point the finger at what happened with some of those changes under the previous Department of Energy and Climate Change, and we can point the finger in the direction of the Treasury. During the latter stages of the previous Government and in the first period of the present Government, we had the Treasury’s energy and climate change policy and the Department’s energy and climate change policy, and the two rarely coincided. Let us guess who came out on top in terms of policy direction.

    My first plea, coupled with kindly advice to the Minister, is to get on top of the Treasury straight away. If Treasury domination of energy and climate change policy is allowed to continue, regardless of the long-term climate consequences, the writing of a new carbon policy will end in tears. To illustrate that, we can look at the previous carbon plan, which came out in December 2011. That plan not only contained some bright ideas, but set out where we were, where we wanted to be in 2050 and how the transition would be undertaken in each of a series of sectors, and that was analysed thoroughly for those sectors.

    In the context of the 40% emissions cut that we are now looking at in the European INDCs, the assumptions underlying a low carbon plan are important. How effectively do they cover where we are now, where we are going to be in 2050, how we make that transition and how that transition works in 2030, which is the period that we are now considering? The carbon plan 2011 is clear about carbon saving, the green deal and ECO. It envisages that all practical cavity walls and lofts will be insulated by 2020 and up to 1.5 million solid walls will be insulated. We know that that has gone. There is no longer even a remote chance of such an achievement, particularly with respect to solid walls and probably also with respect to other forms of insulation, because the green deal has gone and ECO has morphed into a pretty restricted version of the original ECO. Yet, the Committee on Climate Change, in its preamble to the fourth carbon budget, suggested, as an assumption in that carbon budget, that by the early 2020s over 2 million treatments of solid-wall properties would have to be undertaken as a central contribution to carbon reduction. So that has gone.

    In the scenarios modelled, it is estimated that CCS will contribute as much as 10 GW. Well, that has gone. The Treasury managed to bundle CCS into a cupboard very neatly just a little while ago. Personally, I thought that was one of the biggest enviro-crimes committed by the Treasury, in terms of its policies of cutting off the fundamental route to decarbonisation of remaining baseload power over the period and apparently not worrying about the consequences.

    “From 2030 onwards, a major role for gas as a baseload source of electricity is only realistic with large numbers of gas CCS plants.”

    We have committed ourselves to close down coal by 2025, although we have yet to see the consultation on that, but that is to be undertaken, it is stated in the relevant consultation, only if the progress on building new gas plants is sufficient to allow that to happen—that is, the commitment is to phase out coal, but to replace it with a new dash for gas. Yet, the carbon plan and, indeed, the Committee on Climate Change indicate very clearly that gas itself can be maintained as a baseload only if it has a substantial amount of CCS attached to it. We are apparently going ahead with the dash for gas over the next period without any thought that in the reasonable future CCS may come in as far as gas itself is concerned. That has a substantial impact on our ability to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets over the next period.

    My hon. Friend always speaks with such authority on these matters. In relation to CCS, is he as concerned as I am that the cross-Yorkshire and Humber pipeline has just had its planning deadline extended by the Secretary of State? It looks as if, yet again, these projects are being put into cold storage.

    There is perhaps an irony in the words “put into storage”, because the whole purpose of the exercise in the first place is storage. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that the whole question of what will happen with not only CCS pilot projects but the infrastructure and the prospects for CCS as a whole appears to have been put into the long grass, and that is a profound problem as far as our future climate change commitments are concerned.


  • 4 Jul 2016: Energy Spending Priorities: Investors and Consumers


    It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach). She has made a very thoughtful contribution, most of which I agree with. I hope that this will set the tone for the rest of the evening’s debate, because there is now a wide consensus that the storm of changes that were made last summer to a whole range of renewables incentives has created enormous problems for investor confidence and substantial uncertainty over the Government’s direction on energy policy overall. The three excellent reports from the Energy and Climate Change Committee that we are also discussing this evening underline how the problems have arisen and what they consist of. However, we have also seen the acceptance by the Government of the fifth carbon budget in the past couple of days. It is great that they have accepted it. It would have been nice to have included shipping in it, but I understand that they are not going to proceed with that. Nevertheless, they have accepted the fifth carbon budget, which describes the onward march of renewables as absolutely essential for the reduction of our emissions.

    The fourth carbon budget dealt with the essential nature of carbon capture and storage and the forward march of energy efficiency in homes. I made the point in an intervention earlier that the fourth carbon budget assumed that there would be 2.2 million solid wall treatments in homes, but the changes that have taken place over the past year have all pointed in the opposite direction to the imperatives that the Committee on Climate Change put forward in the carbon budgets. There are therefore real question marks in relation not only to investors but to future policy overall. How can we be on target with those budgets—as I hope we will be—at the same time as undertaking all the recent changes?

    The hon. Gentleman—the Chair of the Committee—is right to raise those questions. The effect on the levy control framework of the change in prices—and it should be noted that the prices of gas, electricity and oil are now below the lowest conceivable scenario in the Department’s energy projections—was simply not anticipated by the Department when it designed the framework. Moreover, the framework only takes into account the expenses to consumers of power. As the hon. Gentleman said earlier, it is clear that investment in renewable energy is affected. The change in the merit order and the downward pressure on prices has a real effect on wholesale prices. It is estimated that for every pound that is invested, about 60p comes back. That has not been taken into account in the calculation of the costs of the levy control framework, and I think that it is an argument for another fundamental redesign of the framework after 2020.

    That may not be particularly surprising. It is clear that all the billions of pounds that have been thrown up against the wall in relation to capacity auctions—when it comes to trying to get some new gas-fired capacity power stations on stream, or, failing that, to ensure that gas-fired, coal-fired and, indeed, nuclear power stations can continue to supply energy—bear no relation to the limits that have been set for the levy control framework. Not only do they bear no relation, but the Committee on Climate Change estimates that some £70 of a customer’s bill will fund renewables by 2020. It is currently about £35.


  • 13 Jun 2016: Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2015


    The important additional point is that the deployment of renewables through FITs is, as I mentioned, adding to the nation’s installed energy generating capacity and the loss as projected in the central scenario in the impact assessment to the order of 5.7 GW by carrying out the cap option is a real loss to installed generation capacity over the medium period. FITs-eligible installations do not get any sort of reward for being there to generate because they already have some assistance through the FIT, but other, non-renewable generation now does through the mechanism of the capacity market—auctioning assistance, essentially, for agreeing to be there to generate if generation is required, although not actually generating, as renewable energy would do if it were installed.

    Instead of that, the measures represent a capitulation to limits that dismantle policy in favour of a sterile nightwatchman view of deployment, which cannot be acceptable with the low-carbon energy emergency that we face. We must have a better way of dealing with the deployment of renewable energy—with the capacity and the future asset that it represents—than to cap its deployment in the way described in the statutory instrument.



    My case—the hon. Gentleman will perhaps join me in at least part of this—is that trying to save customers money on their bills essentially by closing down substantial parts of renewable deployment, but at the same time spending large amounts of money and costing customers a lot more money on their bills by trying to procure non-renewable, high-carbon capacity on the other side of the equation, may well lead to us completely losing the opportunity to decarbonise our energy supplies at a good cost to customers over a longer period. I hope that a review might result in a discussion emerging on the real net cost over that period and perhaps a more realistic view of what the levy control framework is going to do on deployment.


  • 27 Apr 2016: Coal-fired Power Stations


    Thirdly, I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing to the debate an interesting category dilemma. I am responding as a member of the shadow energy and climate change team, and the distinguished Minister represents the Department for Communities and Local Government, so between us we may be able to provide a complete landscape of discussion in response to her concerns. I will concentrate particularly on the energy issues and the future not just of Rugeley but of coal-fired power stations across the UK.

    I will get the entire title of the hon. Gentleman’s constituency right one day. He will have to forgive me for not getting the various parts entirely correct. As he said, coal-fired power stations in this country will not have a future unless there is a clear programme accompanying their development to capture 90% of their emissions through CCS.

    It was with considerable regret that we saw the termination of the UK’s two potentially world-beating pilot projects for comprehensive CCS; among other things, they would have paved the way for a much more widespread implementation of CCS for new and existing power stations across the country. I do not think that the route to CCS in this country is dead, although I was sad that the Opposition’s call for a comprehensive new CCS strategy from the Government, which we made during the passage of the Energy Bill and which was supported by the Scottish National party, was not incorporated into the Bill. In the light of the termination of those projects, there is an urgent need to develop a viable new way forward for CCS, whether exclusively in this country or in collaboration with other countries, to keep alive the idea that it is possible to attach CCS to power stations in future.

    I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman agrees that there should be a way forward for CCS, but does he not also agree that, although the Government funding allocation has disappeared, the industry itself could step up to the plate and drive forward a UK CCS industry?

    I hope the industry will be involved in that. However, the hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind that, although a great deal of intellectual property remains from the project that was to take place in his constituency, for example, the project itself was not at all progressed—the CCS industry in this country remains nascent, so for the industry to take on the load of developing itself to any extent over the next period seems to be quite an ask. It is therefore essential for the Government to become involved in strategising and underwriting the development of CCS. I hope that that will now be done, even if it is not at the same level of expense as in the original two projects supported by the Government.

    Given that CCS technology is proven and that the hope for Government funding is not entirely lost, does the hon. Gentleman agree that Government investment in research and development and stable legislation are key to the industry confidence necessary to develop CCS in the UK?


  • 9 Mar 2016: UK Energy Market


    The hon. Gentleman also made the very important point that we are discussing one part of that energy trilemma, in that we have embarked on—and I hope we will continue to be solidly embarked on—a process of decarbonisation of our energy system. Clearly, that has to be achieved, but under the circumstances of two additional imperatives: first, that there should be security of supply, among other things to make sure that the lights stay on, which is perhaps a rather important part of the customer experience of electricity prices and the market; and secondly, that prices should be fair, reasonable and equitable, as far as customers are concerned.


  • 24 Feb 2016: Biomass Energy


    Having said that, biomass certainly can play a clear and substantial role and can perhaps produce 10% to 12% of the UK’s energy requirements in future. That also emphasises the point that biomass should not be set against other forms of renewable energy. In that context, I was a little concerned about the suggestion from the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) that biomass should, as it were, be advantaged against other forms of renewable energy, because of its relationship to system integration costs, as far as the network is concerned.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification, but perhaps I can also make a little clarification for him. He mentioned the NERA and Imperial College London report about system integration costs. That is an important report, but he should also know that a similar report from NERA and Imperial College London was produced about three months before the report that he mentioned. It so happened that the client for the other report was the Committee on Climate Change, as opposed to Drax. The questions that were asked in the two reports, which had identical authors at almost identical times, were slightly different and therefore produced fairly different results for overall system integration costs. Essentially, one looked at how biomass would relate to the system as it stands; the other looked at how it might relate to system changes.

    The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. There are system integration cost differentials between different forms of renewable energy. My point is that, depending on which report people read, those are not the same as they might appear to be between renewables. Indeed, what is undertaken in how the system works as a whole can substantially mitigate the different costs, so that, as we evolve the system, we can be in a much better position to ensure that the suite of different renewables—which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn mentioned, is so important for future low-carbon deployment—can properly be deployed happily alongside one another, as a suite of measures to ensure that we move towards a decarbonised economy.

    I recognise that we have limited time this morning, so I want to turn briefly to the point the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty made about the level playing field that is necessary for biomass. It is undoubtedly the case, given the measures that are in place at the moment for the enhancement of renewable energy, that there is not a level playing field. There is an overall problem with that suite of measures because of the levy control framework and the extent to which hardly anybody is likely to get a contract for difference for their project over the next period. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that some biomass plants got contracts under the early investment decisions, prior to the new form of CfDs coming into being. However, when it comes to the efficiency of biomass, allying that with CHP schemes to ensure that biomass can get 15-year contracts under the CfD arrangements, even if the heat source is not there for 15 years, is an important change that would need to be made to CfD arrangements for the future.


  • 2 Feb 2016: Energy BILL [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)


    I thank the hon. Member for Aberdeen South for tabling new clause 15. My understanding is that he wants only Scottish Ministers, and not the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to be legally able to close the renewables obligation to onshore wind in Scotland. I remind hon. Members that energy policy across Great Britain is reserved to the UK Government. The power to make a renewables obligation closure order is reserved to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change under section 32LA of the Electricity Act 1989, which was inserted by the Energy Act 2013 specifically to ensure that closure could be effected consistently across Great Britain. Because the policy is reserved, the provisions to close the RO early to onshore wind in the present Bill will also apply to Great Britain.


  • 2 Feb 2016: Energy BILL [ Lords ] (Fourth sitting)


    Clause 80 was inserted into the Bill by the Opposition in the other place and intends to restrict the carbon accounting rules that are permissible under the Climate Change Act from 2028, which is the start of the fifth carbon budget period. This is quite a technical area and to aid Committee members’ understanding, I thought it would be helpful to explain briefly how carbon budgets and carbon accounting work at the moment. I hope hon. Members will bear with me as I explain that before I come to set out our reason for seeking to remove the clause from the Bill.

    The Climate Change Act sets a target for the UK to reduce emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. It also requires us to set intermediate targets called carbon budgets to reduce emissions along the way. Carbon budgets are a cap on the emissions allowed over successive five-year periods. For example, the first carbon budget covered the period from 2008 to 2012, and we met that budget with 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to spare. We set carbon budgets 12 years in advance, so by 30 June this year we will be setting the fifth carbon budget to cover the period from 2028 to 2032. As well as setting each carbon budget, we make regulations that set carbon accounting rules for each budget period. The rules, in addition to what is set out in the Climate Change Act, tell us how to calculate the budgets and therefore whether we have met them.

    Clause 80 is intended to stop us reflecting how the EU ETS works in our accounting for carbon budgets. It amends the Climate Change Act to say that EU ETS units cannot be debited or credited from the UK net carbon account. I clarify that, even with that change, we will still participate in the EU ETS; we would just not reflect how it works in our carbon budgets.

    There are positives and negatives in different accounting methods. Weighing them up needs careful consideration of a number of factors, such as the potential impact on consumers, on businesses, on industry and, of course, on cutting emissions at the lowest cost. It is absolutely right that we keep our accounting practices under review. However, I make it clear to all hon. Members that now is not the right time to make this change. The Government are totally focused on setting the fifth carbon budget by 30 June, and we have already been working on it for upwards of a year, as required by the Climate Change Act. That 30 June deadline is less than six months away.

    We have been working on the basis that it will be permissible to use the current accounting framework, which is also the basis on which the Committee on Climate Change has produced its advice on the level of the budget. Accepting clause 80 would threaten serious delay in setting the fifth carbon budget, putting us at risk of not complying with the Climate Change Act at a time when the UK should be showing clear, decisive leadership following Paris. It is therefore my strong desire to see clause 80 removed from the Bill.

    Having repeatedly listened to the Minister and her colleague, the Secretary of State, I am convinced that they both personally share the Opposition’s genuine desire to make a success of our Paris COP 21 commitments. We all understand the urgent necessity to reduce our carbon output in the most cost-effective way possible. Ultimately, we all want to stave off the worst effects of climate change in a way that bolsters rather than undermines our economy.

    To that end, I will break down our arguments in support of the clause into four key parts: first, how the clause will ensure investor confidence in renewables and the Government’s approach to them; secondly, why the over-complex accounting of our current carbon budgets risks our failing to meet our reduced emission commitments, both nationally and internationally; thirdly, how the clause will ensure lower costs for taxpayers, consumers and businesses as we strive to decarbonise; and fourthly, why the clause is necessary to live up to both our European and international commitments.

    So far, Ministers have cut the solar subsidy by 64%, costing up to 18,000 jobs. They have cut the biomass subsidy and the biogas subsidy. They have scrapped the green deal without replacing it with something more effective, and they have slashed investment in home insulation and reducing fuel poverty. They have imposed a carbon tax on renewables by scrapping their exemption from the climate change levy, which is akin to extending an alcohol tax to apple juice. They are about to try their best this week to block further onshore wind generation, even where projects enjoy popular local support. They have slashed support for community renewable energy projects, and they have announced the sell-off of the UK Green Investment Bank without protecting its special green status. They have handed out generous 15-year subsidy contracts to diesel generators, which are one of the most polluting energy sources available. They have failed to incentivise a single new gas-fired power station, and they have cancelled a £1 billion manifesto commitment to carbon capture and storage—going back on a decade of promises from the Prime Minister himself.


  • 26 Jan 2016: Energy BILL [ Lords ] (First sitting)


    (ab) Are necessary to meet the terms of the Climate Change Act 2008 or European or international obligations on climate change”

    This amendment would allow the Secretary of State to give direction to the OGA if the Secretary of State considers that these are necessary to inform the OGA’s role in developing and promoting carbon storage and/or to meet the terms of the Climate Change Act 2008 or any international obligation on climate change.

    However, although the clause gives the Secretary of State fairly wide powers to provide directions to the OGA, it does not include the issues to which we adverted in the discussion on the previous clause, which is the question of what happens to the OGA’s role in developing and promoting carbon capture and storage, and how the OGA meets the terms of the Climate Change Act 2008.

    “to meet the terms of the Climate Change Act”.


  • 18 Jan 2016: Energy Bill [Lords]


    The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) appeared to suggest that the best idea we could take was to close down the North sea. That is not something I buy into. Since we know gas and oil will be with us for some time, albeit in reduced amounts relative to the overall energy mix and more concentrated in transport and heating, it is better that it is sourced from a secure resource in the North sea than bought in from across the world. The North sea is a great sustainer of jobs, industry and supply line for the UK, as we have heard from a number of hon. Members. It is right we look to gain the best out of it for those jobs and that industry and for the security of the UK. It is not an either/or. It is right that we should pay full attention to the climate change commitments we have made. Labour will be seeking to strengthen some of the commitments as part of the Bill. The creation of the OGA to secure the best outcomes for the next phases in North sea development is an essential plank of Sir Ian Wood’s report. We fully support its creation as a free-standing body with powers to develop and co-ordinate the industry.

    The fact that the Government very unwisely scrapped the UK’s plans to get ahead of most of the world in CCS at scale technology does not mean that CCS will not come or that it is needed any less for future energy and intensive industry production. It just means that we will be buying someone else’s technology more slowly at a greater cost, but the least we can do now is to ensure that the storage end of the process is secured in one of the best places in the world to undertake such activity and, on the back of it, to develop jobs, supply chains and income in parallel with the continuation of that mature field—and possibly at some stage even securing crossover between what is happening with oil recovery and the storage of CO 2.

    I do not agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), who said that these two issues, though connected, should be proceeded with separately. They are completely connected in respect of how the North sea will work now and for the future, so it is important to take careful note of what CCS has to offer the North sea in the longer term. We will therefore be pressing in Committee to secure a better overview of CCS by the OGA, and indeed to ensure that for the future the Government have a full strategy for dealing with CCS both in the North sea and across the country.

    I am afraid that the agenda that we have seen over the past few months—one of downgrading options for renewables in order to pursue a gas-based strategy overall —is at the heart of this particular issue. We say that there is, and should not be, a contradiction between supporting the continuing secure supply of the gas and oil that we will need for the foreseeable future and the development of renewable energy as a key component of the United Kingdom’s energy mix.


  • 25 Nov 2015: Clean Energy Investment


    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Bailey. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) on obtaining this important debate and on how she put forward the case that, so far as the future of this country is concerned, the recent attacks on renewable and low-carbon energy have created a difficult set of circumstances for future investment and have reduced Britain’s standing in the world as a good place for renewable investment. That is an extremely important point to make, because renewable energy has enormous potential, and the recent investment in it has started to release that, particularly with solar photovoltaics and onshore wind. As a result of support and assistance, those technologies are coming close to market parity, but the rug is being pulled from under them. The subsidy was not permanent and was decreasing, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) said, the Government have made it a cliff edge. At the very least, that is being extremely reckless with future investment in renewables in this country.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley set out a number of the changes that have taken place, and it might be useful to set them out again briefly. We have had the early closure of the renewables obligation to onshore and large-scale solar; planning rules changed to restrict the deployment of onshore wind; the announcement of the end of the feed-in tariff for small-scale solar; the scrapping of pre-accreditation for small-scale renewables; investment tax relief removed for community renewables; the scrapping of the zero-carbon homes target; future rounds of the contracts for difference under the levy control framework delayed; the scrapping of the green deal, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) mentioned; and the extending of the climate change levy to renewable energy, effectively placing an additional carbon tax on the purchase of renewable electricity.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley said that the ending of that exemption represented a grab by the Treasury. Indeed, it can be described no less starkly than that. It also comes close to retrospectivity, as those who benefited from the exemption for the climate change levy expected it to be phased out by the early 2020s. As my right hon. Friend set out, the sudden change now has led to serious difficulties for a number of the companies involved, including Drax and Infinis.

    Just the ending of the exemption may have been sufficient evidence for investors to decide that it was probably not a good idea to continue investing in the UK. However, when that measure is combined with all the other measures that I mentioned, it cannot fail but produce a bleak outlook for investors in renewable energy in the UK. As we know, because we are enjoined in the UK to export our renewable investments, it works the other way round; investors are not necessarily looking at coming to the UK only. They can go to invest in other places, and all the evidence is that that is beginning to happen. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central pointed out that we have now fallen out of the attractiveness index top 10 for the first time since the list began, with a serious decline in our country’s renewable energy attractiveness.

    The Minister will say—has said, I am sure—that this is okay because our targets for the deployment of renewable energy to generate electricity look as though they might be reached. I remind the House—indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley underlined this point—that we are failing miserably to reach our overall EU energy targets in electricity, heat and transport. The recent letter from the Secretary of State, which came to public attention, indicated how badly we were likely to miss the targets over the next period. The EU is quite happy for us to overachieve in certain areas, even if we underachieve in other areas. The idea that because you have achieved in one area, you can then drop the baton in all the other areas and not worry about it seems a further misunderstanding of the task ahead of us.


  • 23 Nov 2015: Energy Market Design


    In a context where we already collaborate to an extent with the EU in various energy matters, reductions in, or the removal of, subsidies for onshore wind and solar are being defended on the basis that we have already reached the expected deployment of renewable sources of electricity generating capacity. I assume that the Minister at least bows in the direction of the idea that we have a joint EU target on renewables, and that energy as a whole should include a joint target for renewables. Indeed, the UK’s renewable energy target is 15% of energy by 2020, as part of an EU-wide agreement.

    Perhaps that is no more than a straw in the wind—an indication of the problems that the UK may encounter in making its position compatible with the EU’s, as we move on to greater integration of markets. I remind the Committee that for Paris COP 21 we have a joint position with the EU on the European contribution to carbon reduction and climate change targets; I would also point out the extent to which we are negotiating on those targets in Paris as one body. That will ensure that the member states can join in a real contribution to the joint targets agreed across the EU.


  • 9 Nov 2015: Oral Answers to Questions

    T8. After the Energy and Climate Change Committee wrote to the Government deploring their lamentable failure to get anywhere near targets on low carbon heat reduction and saying specifically that they had to go beyond part L of the building regulations to get new homes back on track, is the Minister reconsidering his decision to abolish the code for sustainable homes? ( 902044 )


  • 12 Oct 2015: Draft Electricity Capacity (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2015


    Although, as we have heard, the changes were consulted on in the spring, it looks as if the main change to the regulations passed into law last year is perhaps to correct an omission. It appeared that CCS projects that had received some kind of grant support, through either European Union funding or departmental grant arrangements for early-stage developments such as front-end engineering and design, might be in a difficult state of definition as far as the pre-qualification arrangements are concerned because someone had not put the right wording in the 2014 regulations.

    I welcome the new, proper wording, which clarifies the circumstances under which CCS projects will be not disadvantaged if they have received a grant, or advantaged if they have received a grant specifically in relation to a capacity market unit. Nevertheless, a problem still appears to arise, because as far as I am aware, the Government do not intend to enable CCS to access operational support to capacity markets. Indeed, on the contrary, the Government’s intention, which they made clear in their scoping document this spring, is that whereas grants will be available in advance of a contract for difference being issued for the operation of a CCS plant, operational support should in principle take place through some form of modified CFD. In the long term, that closes the door to support of any kind for CCS arising through capacity auctions, and I doubt whether any CCS developer is under any illusions otherwise.

    Therefore, prudent though it may be to close the door on possible sloppy wording, I wonder whether the whole premise of the regulations is not a little redundant. Perhaps the Minister will help by clarifying those matters a little, unless CCS is intended eventually to pre-qualify for capacity auctions in its operational phases and across the board, which would be quite a turnaround in policy.


  • 30 Jun 2015: Shale Gas


    I want to concentrate on what a shale gas industry in this country would look like. We have only one serious document sponsored by the Department of Energy and Climate Change that looks at the consequences of a serious industry. My concern is that that document, a strategic assessment produced by AMEC a little while ago, estimates the output from shale gas wells to be 3.2 billion cubic feet per well over 20 years. As an average output for wells in the UK, that would equate to the best level ever obtained in any well in north America. Conditions for shale gas in the UK are very different from those in the United States, and the likelihood is that the output per well would be far lower than the very best output in the US. On top of that, the current average US well output is about 0.8 billion cubic feet—far lower than the best ever output—and, more to the point, there is a rapid rate of depletion per well.


  • 25 Jun 2015: Oral Answers to Questions

    Will the Minister confirm that, under existing secondary legislation, her Department is obliged to issue renewable energy certificates to all applicants until March 2017? Will she also confirm that her Department will continue to issue renewables obligation certificates after March 2016 in the event that her proposed legislation to bring them to an end is not on the statute book by that date?


  • 10 Jun 2015: Climate Change


    We are discussing what I hope will be a global agreement. I hope it will be sorted out in Paris this December, that it will be sustainable and that everybody will play their part in making sure that global warming is curtailed and that the global temperature rise stays below 2 °C by 2050. It is extremely important that the UK takes a robust approach to the conference and that it bases its approach on our own climate change architecture, including the Climate Change Act 2008 and our carbon budgets, in order to make sure that the EU’s offer to the conference is also as robust as possible.

    The EU has collectively offered an intended nationally determined contribution of a 40% cut of 1990 levels by 2030. At the moment the UK is going along with that, but the problem is that if we look at the 38 INDCs that have so far been placed on the conference table, including the EU’s collective commitment, we will see that they will not get us below 2 °C. Indeed, we are looking at a prospective global temperature increase of between 2.9 °C and 3.1 °C, so it really is in the interests of a proper agreement, and of the UK’s existing commitments on climate change, that we produce a robust alternative and suggest that the EU increases its contribution, if possible, to 50%, because that is what the UK has committed to in our own carbon budget. In the little time available between now and the December conference, I urge the Secretary of State to push for that increase to the EU’s INDC, in order to emphasise just what we can do to secure a global agreement. Of course, that depends not only retrospectively on what the UK has achieved through its carbon budgets and related architecture to date but on what extent the UK can prospectively ensure that it can meet those commitments in the future. That is where we run into some trouble with the future commitments.

    I mentioned the fourth carbon budget in an intervention, and it was, I recall, accepted by the previous Government after some hiccuping. Among other things, according to the Committee on Climate Change, that carbon budget not only produces a gateway of reducing emissions by 50% by 2025 but makes assumptions such as that 23 GW of wind power will have been installed by 2020, that 2 million solid-wall homes will have been insulated for energy efficiency purposes by the early 2020s, and that 90% of homes will have had their lofts and cavity walls insulated by that period. The UK is failing hopelessly in reaching all those measures. That difficulty will be compounded by the policies being proposed, which means that our commitments are facing in precisely the opposite direction over the next few years.

    We must remind ourselves that carbon budgets are not just for Christmas. They need to be worked out properly, and if we are to ensure that our commitments in Paris can be maintained we need urgently to get to work on the carbon budgets and to make them work. That means that we in this country must stay by our commitments on climate change in the future.


  • 1 Jun 2015: Britain in the World


    I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) on a superb maiden speech that will, I am sure, be echoed by important contributions in many years to come. During it, I reflected on her emphasis on the importance of renewable and sustainable energy to the economy of Grimsby. It is many years since I made my maiden speech, but over those years—the five terms for which I am grateful to the electors of Southampton, Test for returning me as a Member of Parliament—I have tried to champion that cause in this House, as well as championing the pressing need to take action on climate change. The sort of new future that could be available for Grimsby with renewable and sustainable energy at its heart is one of the positive outcomes of that championing.

    In this Queen’s Speech, we saw a brief reflection of the importance of action on climate change and the need for a very firm and positive outcome to the upcoming talks in Paris in December. It is important that that was in the Queen’s Speech, because it is on our watch that these talks will take place, with an outcome that could be crucial for the whole future of our world. If there is one thing that we might want Britain to do in the world, and for the world, it is to press at the climate change talks for the conclusion that could make such a big difference.

    In that context, I worry about the difference between the words that are in front of us and the actions that have to go with them. One of the key Bills proposed in the Queen’s Speech is an energy Bill that appears to point in precisely the opposite direction from the way we need to go on climate change by institutionalising the extraction of mineral energy at its maximum and taking punitive action against renewable and low-carbon energy, particularly onshore wind, which it places in the arms of a system that is already bankrupt. If the Bill has its way, there will be very little new renewable energy coming forward over the next period. That is important. Britain has a lot of money in the bank to contribute towards tackling climate change. We have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk and leave it at rhetoric.

    The Government have said that the unique selling point of Britain’s contribution towards tackling climate change is the targets it has set and how it has met its carbon budgets. Indeed, we recently met our first carbon budget and have set a number of future carbon budgets, which I hope we will be able to meet. However, if we end up attending climate change talks having abandoned that particular trajectory, our influence in the world will be immeasurably diminished.

    We could put in legislation the requirement to decarbonise our energy supplies by 2030. That was a grave omission from the Queen’s Speech. We could do that in the run-up to the climate change talks to demonstrate that we are serious about a future low-carbon economy. If we end up at the climate change talks dithering about whether we are going to do that and reach our future targets, our influence will be gravely diminished and our attempts at a low-carbon future will be undermined as a result.


  • 14 Jan 2015: Energy Prices


    Listening to the hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) was a rather curious experience, given that more or less the entire policy of the Department of Energy and Climate Change under the current Government, particularly as it relates to such matters as contracts for difference and the levy control framework, is based on the assumption of inexorably rising energy prices. In fact, the policy is rather falling to bits, because the Department can no longer make that assumption. The Opposition’s proposal, on the other hand, is based on the reality of the regulator as we now find it, and the reality of what will continue to be a volatile energy market over the coming period.


  • 8 Dec 2014: Infrastructure Bill [Lords]


    “The intention is therefore to set a maximum on-site carbon dioxide emission standard for new homes and for the remainder of the zero carbon target to be met by house builders supporting off-site carbon abatement measures”.


  • 20 Nov 2014: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report


    We need to take decisions on how we deal with the decarbonisation of our energy and on limiting as radically as possible the emissions that will add to anthropogenic global warming. Those are the direct policy implications that this House needs to look at closely, and we will unpack that further to say, “We may have disagreements about exactly how we limit the decarbonisation of our energy supply and the many different ways of doing it, but we will have a separate policy makers’ debate”—as my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) has alluded to—“on the best method of doing that.” Unless we have an overarching guide where we are clear about what we are doing, most of the rest of that conversation will not make a great deal of sense.


  • 20 Nov 2014: Carbon Capture and Storage


    I want—unsurprisingly, I guess—to agree once again with the distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo), about how important carbon capture and storage will be in future to any form of mineral energy burning at all. I also want to draw attention, as the report does, to related issues: the development of carbon capture, the competition, what happens after the competition, and how CCS may sit in our energy economy in the years to come.

    Unlike the Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) and I visited the first operational CCS plant in the world. It was not quite operational then, but it has been since spring, and is working well and effectively capturing the plant’s whole production. That is significant, because it demonstrates, contrary to one strand of the debate in recent years, that CCS really works. The question of how well it works economically is a second-order issue, but is nevertheless important.

    Clearly, CCS in itself will not make anyone a load of money. Indeed, in terms of traditional energy economics it clearly does the opposite, but interestingly on our visit to Canada we learned that some clever circular loops have been built into the CCS process at the plant at Boundary dam in Saskatchewan. That makes the process much more economically interesting than was suggested by early studies on how it would work.

    In the UK, where mercifully the first two plants—the competition plants—are, I hope, going ahead on the basis of a substantial degree of underwriting, the question to ask about CCS’s importance to the wider energy economy in future is what happens about plants three to eight. How will the UK get them under way, and make sure that the elements of CCS in which we already have a substantial lead will be part of its worldwide benefits, which the Committee Chairman described?

    That shows simply that if we want, overall, a reasonably decarbonised energy supply by 2030, then probably—since it is not just likely but pretty essential that there will be an element of gas in the energy mix, balancing other forms of energy that will come forward—there will be room for perhaps 26 GW of new gas-fired plant to come on to the system, but running at a very low level, to back up and balance the working of the rest of the low-carbon energy economy. Perhaps it might run at about 18% to 20% capacity.

    If, on the other hand, we want to overshoot that and double the level to 200 grams—and, to allude to the previous debate, we now know from the IPCC assessment reports that that outcome would be intolerable for our climate change goals—we might have room for 43GW of new gas-fired power stations running pretty much at full tilt. In neither scenario, incidentally, would we have room for coal-fired power plant.

    If that is what is ahead, might it be a better to invest in bringing forward CCS, so that the gas plants could run at the appropriate level over the relevant period—and some coal plants could run as well—than to seek the will-o’-the-wisp of providing increasing amounts of money to supply gas-fired power plant providers so they can develop plants that will not run much? Economic policy is directly relevant to the idea that we get on with carbon capture and storage, beyond the first two plants that have been subject to the competition reward, and underpin it over the next period. To my mind, that is the only way in which mineral-based fossil fuel can continue to run on our systems to any great extent over the next period.

    On the second question, my personal view is that not only is shale gas in the category of reserves that are unburnable but at present we already face the likelihood that known fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground if we do not do something about how we burn them—never mind us fracking rocks apart to provide new sources. The position with the carbon budget is that serious, as the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee pointed out. That is why, from a wider point of view, I question whether drilling large amounts of shale gas out of the ground to add to the pile of unburnable fossil fuel is necessarily the best long-term policy idea anyone has ever had.

    I add to the wider philosophical debate about the advantages of carbon capture and storage the practical point that we need urgent thought about just how we support CCS over the next period, so that we have the investment in it that we know will be needed if the outcomes I have described do not come to pass. We need investors to be secure in their minds that they can make carbon capture and storage a reality of the British energy scene, with the benign consequences I have outlined this afternoon.


  • 6 Nov 2014: Oral Answers to Questions

    In the light of that deal, I am sure that the Secretary of State will now be anxious to make the UK’s contribution by laying down the order for the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply to 2030. Will he tell me when he intends to lay down that order and, when he has done so, what he has in mind for the decarbonisation range that will be in it?


  • 25 Jun 2014: Private Rented Sector


    I have it on good authority that the DCLG is blocking the laying of those regulations. As they have to be laid by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, DCLG is saying that it would be too bureaucratic and costly to implement the legislation. Recent research has shown that landlords across the country would have to spend only about £1,500 to update their properties to meet that standard. If that information is correct, it is shocking. There needs to be a basic understanding that if someone rents a home it will be of good quality, the tenant will be secure in it and the transaction between landlord and tenant will be a fair deal. All the cards are stacked against tenants, and regulation is needed to make sure that the deal is fair. If DCLG is preventing the implementation of legislation that could make sure that homes were of a decent standard, it should get its act together and reverse the decision. I should like to hear from the Minister this afternoon that that is indeed what the Department will do.


  • 2 Apr 2014: Energy Price Freeze


    It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo), the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee. He made a number of points in his contribution, not all of which support what the Secretary of State was saying this afternoon.


  • 24 Mar 2014: amendment of the law


    Furthermore, it is not really true that, as the Red Book says, the buying power of the levy control framework, which sets out the amount of support available for low carbon and renewable investment until 2020, will be unaffected by other Budget decisions. It directly means that renewable obligation buying power, part of the levy control framework system, will be changed because the obligation was based originally on 2011 assumptions about the level of carbon price over the period. The relationship between the strike price and the reference price for contracts for difference will change, which means that we will be paying more out of a fixed fund to make up the difference between strike and reference price. The buying power of the levy control framework will certainly be reduced and there will be a smaller quantum support to go into new entrant projects for renewable energy over the period.


  • 11 Mar 2014: Energy Company Obligation


    However, some 7 million of the most difficult to treat homes require some form of solid wall insulation. The Committee on Climate Change recommended in their 2009 Report, ‘Meeting Carbon Budgets – the need for a step change’ that 2.3 million solid wall homes will need to have taken up solid wall insulation by 2022 in order for the UK to be on track to achieve carbon budgets. ECO support for these properties will help drive this market, and the supply chain to fulfil it, enabling us to unlock the resulting carbon savings more cost effectively.”

    Another issue is the extent to which the programme admits of access to measures, which, by their nature, allow for savings to be made at a lower cost per tonne of carbon dioxide saved. Those measures, however are supposed by and large to be covered by the green deal, whereby the cost of loans for measures is recovered from bills. As the original Department of Energy and Climate Change document says, ECO should be concerned only about the measures that go beyond those treatments. However, if such measures are allowed to count for ECO’s purposes instead of green deal purposes, inevitably a carbon obligation can be discharged by concentrating on those measures, rather than on the hard-to-treat homes specified in the original DECC document on ECO.


  • 3 Mar 2014: Government Levies on Energy Bills


    The first curiosity is that the levies are not in the estimates: according to accounting conventions, they cannot be. One of the central things to which the Energy and Climate Change Committee drew attention was the fact that because the current accounting regulations mean that levies cannot be placed within end-of-year accounts or estimates for the Department, some fairly urgent action is needed to bring those issues back under the parliamentary gaze and make them accountable to and discussable by this House.

    As we heard from the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo), the Chair of the Committee of which I am proud to be a member, much work to decarbonise the UK’s energy economy is underpinned by levies on energy bills. The chosen instrument that the Government have introduced to control those levies is the levy control framework, which is itself a very curious beast that was introduced by sudden fiat in the Budget of 2011. It was announced in the additional document to that Budget called “The Plan for Growth” but without, as far as I know, any debate, pre-scrutiny or other examination of its effect as regards the inclusion or exclusion of various levies. Subsequently, without that examination, it has controlled, pretty selectively, DECC’s spending on support for renewable and low-carbon energy.

    Some levies have, of course, already gone down the taxation route. The renewable heat initiative was to have been a levy but it is now funded from general taxation. The warm home discount has recently gone from being a levy to being funded by general taxation, and—still to come—the money to support carbon capture and storage has shrunk to £1 billion and is also funded from general taxation, with no clarification as to whether subsequent CCS gets a CfD, and will eventually be in the LCF. Perhaps it will get capacity payments that are levied but not in the LCF, or perhaps it will just get support from tax. There is, therefore, no consistency about what is controlled and what is not, and apparently no clarity on the horizon.

    We know that ECO will now not even remotely reach its suggested policy target of 180,000 hard-to-treat home treatments by 2015, but we have not had a chance to discuss or debate either the initial policy or its revisions. The whole question of levies lies, it seems, outside the policy and scrutiny process. Both the NAO and the Energy and Climate Change Committee found that to be highly unsatisfactory, and suggested imperative remedies. In a letter to DECC, and in its most recent report on the LCF, the Committee suggested:


  • 16 Jan 2014: Oral Answers to Questions

    12. What progress he has made in developing renewables obligation grace periods for renewable energy developers able to demonstrate financial closure of projects prior to March 2017 but commencing operations after that date. ( 902011 )


  • 7 Nov 2013: Energy Prices, Profits and Poverty


    “the increasing use of levies on bills to fund energy and climate change policies is problematic since it is likely to hit hardest those least able to pay. We note that public funding is less regressive than levies in this respect.”

    Would a review of those particular levies—we concentrated, among other things, on the energy companies obligation—consider moving some of the obligations into general taxation? Or is the purpose to reduce the overall impact of the energy companies obligation on bills? I understand that, in recent days, No. 10 has issued a target to the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the expected outcome of the energy levy review. I am interested to hear whether that target exists, what it looks like and in what form it will be met.


  • 10 Sep 2013: Climate Change Act


    It is difficult—certainly in four minutes—to know where to start. As has been said, if someone does not believe that climate change is happening, and believes that it is all conspiracy, they are hardly likely to believe that there should be a Climate Change Act or that it should affect either how people act in the economy, or how legislation proceeds—exactly as a businessman who believed the earth was flat would not sponsor a round-the-world yacht race.

    I understand how far back we are going in the debate; but I think that, as far as where it is heading, it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what science does. There is no final, settled scientific position on climate change; nor is there such a settled position on virtually any other major issue in science. That is how science works. It is based on hypotheses and their refutation, and further hypotheses. As far as scientific hypotheses go, and as far as the debate in the scientific community is concerned, the idea that anthropogenic global warming is clearly producing substantial change in the climate—not the weather, but the climate—is, relatively, one of the most certain.

    It is incumbent on us to take note of that science, in relation to the questions of adaptation and mitigation. I do not say that we should opt for adaptation rather than mitigation. The Climate Change Act 2008 has stood the test of time since it was passed in informing our policies in that respect. The question of scrapping it now goes to the heart of what we, as legislators, are here to do. We must take account of what science says, and decide politically what to do about it. That is why it is essential to continue to support the Act, in deciding how to proceed with policy on energy and wider environmental issues.


  • 18 Jul 2013: UK Shale Gas


    The debate here falls into two categories: a wider category and a narrower category. It is undoubtedly true in terms of the wider category that we will have to leave a lot of the carbon that we otherwise could get out of the ground in the ground over the next few years. Indeed the understanding of the Department of Energy and Climate Change of this process in terms of what will need to be done with regard to gas as a component of wider energy sources in the 2030s reflects that in the way in which gas will need to be used at a much lower level and fairly sparingly in the running of gas-fired power stations. But that is also an issue in terms of what we do with oil, coal and a variety of other mineral sources of energy under our soils.


  • 25 Jun 2013: Lobbying


    It is shocking that the Government have taken a year to respond to the all-party Select Committee inquiry on lobbying and what can be done about it. That is way out of line with what is normally expected of Government responses to Select Committee reports. That ought to be rectified immediately. Pre-legislative scrutiny of what is proposed would not derail the legislation unduly. For example, the Energy and Climate Change Committee was recently given six weeks to consider the entire draft Energy Bill before it came to the House. Pre-legislative scrutiny would give a vital opportunity to get something that works across the House.


  • 6 Jun 2013: Pollinators and Pesticides


    We remain in a world in which there is an enormous amount that we do not know. I hope that DEFRA will monitor developments involving non-bee pollinators much more closely, will keep them well to the fore in the views that it expresses and the action that it decides to take, and will continue to look at the evidence that is being produced about elements that are thought to be having an impact on colony decline. I hope that its consideration will bring together such issues as varroa mite habitats, food availability, husbandry, and, indeed, climate change, in order to create a more complete picture of what is going on.


  • 18 Apr 2013: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change


    The world simply cannot do that over the next 100 or 150 years. That seems to me to be a fairly self-evident fact, assuming that people agree that there is some relation between what we do—burning fossil fuels in particular, and human activity in general—and the state of the world’s atmosphere and the extent to which the Earth will warm up as result. Someone who thinks that there is no connection whatever would presumably not be concerned about finding all the fossil fuel in the world and burning it all. Someone who thinks that there is a connection, and an urgent one, would presumably wish to do something about it fairly urgently. Since climate change and, in particular, the results of the burning of fossil fuels know no boundaries, the only way that we can do something about the situation over the medium term is through interaction and discussion between states throughout the world about achieving an outcome that is not as disastrous as it would be if every country went its own way individually.

    That is why the international COP process and, contributing to it, joint targets backed up by individual country targets are important. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent North mentioned the extent to which, almost under the radar internationally, countries are beginning to take the sort of action that we in this country have already taken with climate change legislation. One of the ongoing processes recorded in the Select Committee report is that countries, even those that might be advantaged by global warming, are undertaking their own climate change legislation.

    It is vital the UK does everything that it can over the next few years to support countries to develop their own climate change targets and to join us in ours, so that progress towards a level playing field can be considerably advantaged as the negotiations take place. One thing that we should resolve today not to do is to indulge in any tinkering with our climate change targets, as we try to move towards international agreement on other people’s climate change targets, given that that would send a very bad signal indeed to other countries, some of which are beginning to take their climate change legislation directly from what we have done in the UK.


  • 18 Apr 2013: Low-carbon Growth Links (China)


    The Select Committee report is not about whether Britain has an imperialistic relationship with China and wishes to influence the whole of Chinese development. It is a modest effort to look at how the UK’s climate change and energy considerations might be attached to relations with the largest emitter of CO 2 in the world. I am talking about a country that is developing rapidly economically, and changing equally rapidly its position as regards its stance on climate change. The report tried to consider how those two things might be matched. Unless we do not believe that there is any merit whatever in having any sort of international dialogue with anybody, we should take that Select Committee view at face value and welcome it for what it is.

    The report is not a view that all is rosy in the world of China, but a timely reminder that China is changing its view on climate change. A number of things are happening in China that underline that view. Indeed, just yesterday, the Minister in charge of climate policies, Xie Zhenhua, indicated that the aim for the Chinese economy now is a reduction in the 2011 levels of carbon intensity by 40% to 45% by 2020. It also wants to boost its non-fossil fuel use to 15% of energy consumption by 2020. He talked about the beginning of the carbon market in Shenzhen in June and then later in the year in Shanghai. Significantly, he said that instruments will be included in the Shanghai carbon trading market that will take credits off the market when supplies are too high and prices are too low. He said that China would learn from the difficulties that are taking place in Europe and that it was committed to the development of a carbon trading market. In the 11th five-year plan, China had attempted to reach some targets. Among other things, it closed down factories for a number of weeks towards the end of the five-year period for each region to reach its target.

    Whatever we may think about elements of the political and economic situation in China and how they are dealt with, it is worth while collaborating with China to a far greater extent for the greater good, not only of China or this country but of the wider world. If the Committee’s report has been able to emphasise and underpin that process, it has achieved a good purpose. However, hon. Members should not read into the report something that is not there. It is an honest attempt to consider how UK advances and UK positions may be aligned more closely with other countries and with China in particular. China is indeed changing its stance on climate change—it is not a delusion to say that—and for its own purposes, as well as for international purposes, beginning to make substantial changes in how it goes about its economic activity, and it is important that we do likewise—


  • 23 Jan 2013: Energy Efficiency (Houses in Multiple Occupation)


    As a press release from the Department of Energy and Climate Change told us in 2010, from 2018 people will be able to become tenants of privately rented homes in the knowledge that their properties have a minimal decent standard of energy efficiency, and it will no longer be possible to let any homes that are on the lowest energy efficiency levels, F and G. An article headed “Huhne gets tough on landlords of draughty homes” included the statement that


  • 19 Dec 2012: Energy Bill


    The present energy market arrangements—the British electricity trading and transmission arrangements system—have served us well in some ways. They have ensured that a capacity margin has been constantly available to guarantee supplies and at some stages of its existence has applied downward pressure on prices. However, the world has changed radically since the present market arrangements were first introduced more than a decade ago. Prices are going up, not down, massive amounts of plant are being retired from the system in the next few years and their replacements will need to be far lower carbon than the retiring plants. Most importantly, the trading arrangements of the market are carbon blind and do not, in themselves, advantage low carbon over high carbon; it is left to other devices, such as the renewable energy obligation, and subsequent work with the market to do that.

    Thirdly, even if there were a target in the Bill, measures elsewhere in it will still take us in precisely the opposite direction and make its aspiration redundant. They need removing or replacing. I strongly believe that the Bill needs to do what it sets out to do in the long title. We need a robust framework that can guide the next stage of deployment of renewable and sustainable energy and that can establish effective mechanisms for those plants, once deployed, to bring their energy to market. We need a market that can deal with new and existing producers fairly and consistently, so that the goal of a well-balanced marketplace encouraging new entrants, rewarding and supporting the best management of energy and celebrating the removal of demand from the system as the ultimate way to decarbonise it can be achieved.


  • 13 Dec 2012: Oral Answers to Questions

    Has the Secretary of State had a chance to peruse the report just produced by the Committee on Climate Change on the customer price differential between a renewable-rich strategy and a gas-rich strategy? Does he agree that that could represent a sixfold difference in long-term price increases for customers? Does he agree with the committee’s view, and will he be sharing his views with the Chancellor shortly?


  • 28 Jun 2012: Green Economy


    The emergence of a green economy cannot be brought about just by changing the dials on a few economic levers; it is fundamentally asymmetric with what has gone before. Low-carbon sustainable energy, for example, does not have an investment or operational pattern that is anything like what we have been used to for the past 100 years. We cannot construct the next generation of low-carbon power plants and providers on the basis of what has gone before.

    We can no longer rely on the assumption that we can generally predict what capacity will be needed and then work out how best to meet it. Future energy policy must be based on investing first in consciously reducing demand and then in decarbonising the remaining demand. In doing that, we have to move to a different paradigm of investment, because demand reduction is a process not an asset, and because low-carbon plants are capital intensive but mean on fuel. In other words, low-carbon plants take a lot of money to construct but, once constructed, use fuel that is either free or recovered from other processes. The model of low and basic construction costs and investment in sourcing, transporting and using fuel, and paying for it as we go, is no longer applicable.

    What might we do? We could invest in decarbonising our homes, for climate change purposes and for demand reduction purposes. We should insulate homes to make them fuel poverty-proof—as we know, the green deal will only scratch the surface. We will get £4 billion per annum over the next 15 years from the EU emissions trading scheme, carbon trading and the carbon floor price. As a fiscal measure—without hypothecating what is in the tax pot—we could invest a large amount of that money in ensuring that our homes are energy-efficient.

    Above all, we should get real about the green investment bank. The bank will have £3 billion as a fund until 2016, or perhaps later, depending on whether the Chancellor decides that it is ready for investment as a whole, yet last year KfW, the German public green investment bank, invested £24 billion—more than a third of its £70 billion —on energy and climate change measures. We can do that if the green investment bank is a bank, but it needs the ability to raise bonds and money at an early stage. That is the sort of fiscal underwriting we need for this green energy, resource and social revolution that we are going through. We need to get on with that urgently, and I urge the House to support the motion to assist with that process.


  • 16 May 2012: Cost of Living


    Investing in green energy and the low-carbon economy is one route to lower fuel costs in the future, because of the disaggregation of fuel costs and world mineral energy prices. We can keep getting indigenously produced and stably priced fuel in the future. Investing in energy efficiency in homes and offices—using less energy more efficiently—is a no-brainer, as has been said. Lower energy usage will bring smaller bills. The best method for combating fuel poverty is to fuel-poverty-proof UK homes.


  • 28 Feb 2012: Rio+20 Summit


    Rio+20 is likely to proceed on a much more sombre basis than earlier summits of this kind, but as other Members have pointed out, last year’s Durban summit on climate change demonstrated that expectations can sometimes be confounded, and I hope that we can approach this summit in that spirit. The fact that it has been demanded by the developing world rather than by developed nations makes a significant difference. It will look to the themes of Rio, but it will do so in terms of everyone’s development. It will consider the concept of a green economy in the context of sustainable development and the institutional framework that will make it possible, and I believe that it will do so in the light of the whole Brundtland report rather than just the oft-quoted first line. It must concern itself with the carrying capacity of the planet and with its concomitant—the need for global equity in the sharing of the resources that go into sustainable development.

    It might be salutary to compare that starting line with what we thought obtained at Rio 20 years ago. The work of the Stockholm resilience centre at Stockholm university was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Martin Caton), and was examined in some detail in the Select Committee’s report. The centre asked what the planet could put up with in a number of areas before its sustainability threshold was breached. What were the planet’s sustainability boundaries? It considered 10 of them: climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle, global freshwater use, land system change, the rate of biodiversity loss, atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution. That work made it clear that we have not only transgressed three of those boundaries—the rate of biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle and, of course, climate change—but have often done so in a startlingly profligate way, and are close to doing so in three other areas: ocean acidification, the phosphorus cycle, and land system change.


  • 1 Feb 2012: Micro-combined Heat and Power


    The simplicity of such a revolution has already been demonstrated. People will have boilers in their homes for the long-term foreseeable future. What is more, about 1.5 million boilers break down or retire and are replaced every year, so it is not difficult to see that, if future building regulations favour micro-CHP boilers as replacements, that would happen not with a great deal of fuss or with many lifestyle magazine articles, but with a further leap forward for domestic energy sustainability, which we will have to work on urgently over the next few years, as the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), is well aware, with the emergence of the green deal and the energy company obligation.

    The second boiler revolution could act just as dramatically in reducing emissions. Even if those 1 million boilers replace older condensing boilers, rather than non-condensing models, after a 10-year life, they would generate a saving of more than 2 million tonnes of CO 2 , which is about half the total estimated CO 2 savings that the Committee on Climate Change has pencilled in by 2020 for the results of greater efficiency in household appliances. That would be a dramatic contribution to emissions abatement.

    Of course, although micro-CHP is energy and climate efficient, it does not qualify for the renewable heat incentive as far as heat production is concerned for the obvious reason that, all other things considered, it is not fuelled by renewable energy. However, of course, it could be supplied in the form of biogas on an off-grid basis. I am not sure whether the Department would, in those circumstances, accept that micro-CHP would qualify both for RHI and FITs, but I imagine that that is a debate for another day. The fact of the matter is that a technology and an industry that can do great things are now waiting. The sector needs the confidence and future intent to enable it to scale up to the levels needed to produce a large intervention in the UK’s boiler landscape at a price that will eventually be at or close to those of more established boiler installations.


  • 3 Nov 2011: Shale Gas


    I took part in the Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry into shale gas, and in the course of that inquiry, I took part in a number of visits, not just to the one site in the UK that is currently being drilled, but to areas where intensive drilling was going on, has been completed, is producing or—in many instances—has been abandoned. What I found particularly useful about those examinations of existing practice was that they not only helped us to consider the overall theoretical picture, but enabled us to see what a shale gas producing economy might look like in the UK, based on what we now know about the in-principle availability of shale gas in the various plays in the UK.


  • 3 Nov 2011: Electricity Market Reform


    Now, as hon. Members have said, we need to decarbonise our electricity market rapidly and invest substantially, not just in replacing capacity but in providing additional capacity, because of the nature of the capacity that we are bringing on board as far as the low-carbon market is concerned. We are talking about perhaps £200 billion in investment. All but two of the big six companies have pretty much borrowed up to the limit of their balance sheets, so we need important mechanisms to secure not just the good running of the market, but low-carbon investment on the basis of good value for customers. I do not underestimate at all the breadth of the challenge implied by the electricity market reforms.


  • 14 Sep 2011: Energy Bill [Lords]


    I will question to what extent the Bill is attached to anything by which it can be measured. What might we mean by the success of the green deal, the energy company obligation or the energy efficiency aspirations of the Bill? As things stand, it is difficult to attach the good ideas, aspirations and programmes in the Bill to any sort of measure. Most importantly, it is difficult to attach them to one of the key measures we currently have, which is the progress we are making in reducing our carbon emissions under the Climate Change Act 2008. That Act asked for certain actions to be undertaken by the Committee on Climate Change. In its progress reports and recommendations on meeting our carbon budgets, the Committee has increasingly involved itself in specific measures that, among other things, are the domain of the Bill, such as targets for the removal of problems relating to non-cavity wall homes through external and internal insulation. Such measures contribute to greater energy efficiency and, as a result, to reducing carbon emissions.

    Essentially, my proposals are in the same vein as several that we have debated this afternoon. New clauses 1 and 2 would explicitly link the aims of the Bill to the progress made on reducing carbon emissions and to reports from the Committee on Climate Change. The Department would have to provide a clear strategy in its plan for delivery and ensure that the strategy is based clearly on a link with climate change strategy. Similarly, in respect of putting local authorities at the heart of local carbon reduction, a requirement would be placed on the Committee on Climate Change to advise on local area carbon emissions, so that they too are linked.

    The Bill sets out a number of ways in which the green deal and the ECO can move forward, but it does not set out any means by which to assess their success or appropriateness. That is significant in terms of the proposals in the Bill for the development of the ECO. We are asked to accept that an ECO of perhaps £1 billion a year will get close to achieving the loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, and solid wall insulation tasks that face the country over the next period, which relate to the Committee on Climate Change recommendations. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) described a number of the scenarios that have been set out and said what we ought to be achieving for the third progress report of the Committee on Climate Change. What is the Government’s ambition within the likely terms of the Bill? Will the finance be available to get us anywhere near that ambition?


  • 19 Jul 2011: Summer Adjournment


    Approximately 7.5 million to 8 million tonnes of waste wood is produced every year. It is mostly construction waste, and the greater part—some 80%—is landfilled, which is a far higher proportion than for other waste items. About 1.2 million tonnes is recycled and reused for animal bedding, plywood, fibreboard and so on, but energy is recovered from only about 0.3 million tonnes or 4% of the total. However, according to Eunomia Research & Consulting, a net estimated saving of 1,400 kg of CO 2 per tonne of wood can be made where waste wood is used as fuel for biomass energy. If waste food in landfill was sent to digestion with wood to energy recovery, the joint product would be about 42 TW of energy a year, or getting on for a fifth of our renewable energy target, by 2020.

    That is encouraging until we recognise that that is exactly where we were in 2009. The 2009 renewable energy strategy stated that the Government would consult later that year on banning certain kinds of material from landfill. In March 2010, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did indeed produce such a consultation with a view to banning a number of wastes from landfill. That consultation set out an EU target that by 2020 a minimum of 70% by weight of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste should be prepared for reuse, or should be recycled or recovered. We have a long way to go on that target.


  • 11 May 2011: Oral Answers to Questions

    Q11. We know what a number of the right hon. Gentleman’s Ministers think about the adoption of the fourth budget proposed by the Committee on Climate Change, but what does he think about it? Will he press for the adoption of that budget when the Cabinet meets to discuss it, as we are reliably informed it will? ( 54966 )


  • 10 May 2011: Energy Bill [Lords]


    I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who has made a thoughtful contribution to the debate. He has underlined a number of the issues that I want to raise in connection with the Bill and the green deal. It is extremely important that the green deal should work well, so it must be as good as it possibly can be when the Bill completes its passage through Parliament. That is important because of the ambition that we must have for energy efficiency, whether through “negawatt” arrangements or other forms of energy management and energy saving. We must have the best and most energy-efficient housing stock that we can bring about. That is an essential part of our climate change action, and our action on energy management and the achievement of the CO 2 emissions targets set out by the Committee on Climate Change.

    In order to get anywhere near the sort of targets that hon. Members have suggested that the Government should consider introducing in an amendment to align energy efficiency with climate change targets—which I hope will happen in Committee—we need to move the SAP ratings much further up over the next few years, perhaps to 70 or more on average at band C by the end of the decade. That means making progress getting on for twice as fast as we have over the last few years. That is the sort of ambition that the Bill needs to encompass. My concern—hon. Members have already mentioned a number of concerns—is that it remains unclear whether that ambition can be achieved under the current mechanism, despite the claims for the efficacy of the green deal.

    The Treasury says that any new initiatives that come in the form of a levy must be financed within that cap. If the Department wished to undertake an ECO programme and it proved to be a levy as defined by the Office for National Statistics, it would have to be found under the present cap. That means either that the Government will have to go slow on renewable obligations and reduce the amount of renewable energy, or that the ECO will prove to be so small as to make it impossible to produce the sort of mechanism that many people hoped for—one for adding value to the green deal, getting on with the hard-to-treat properties, dealing with people in fuel poverty and homes off the grid that need extra assistance to make the green deal work, and so forth.


  • 24 Mar 2011: Coastguard Service


    According to the proposals, the Solent will have a brand-spanking-new centre, with 24-hour cover. One might say that that is fair enough: the Solent is one of the most congested areas of sea around our shores, so it should have that centre. However, it is also true, as we have heard, that our seas in general are becoming more congested. The volume of shipping is increasing in many areas. Many more large ships are confined to deeper water in restricted channels. As we have heard, large numbers of offshore renewable energy installations are being developed around our coasts, restricting the areas available to shipping.


  • 17 Jan 2011: Localism Bill


    If we are really localists in what we are doing, it is essential to get the different levels of planning right. It is not just about a neighbourhood decision or a national decision, but about getting the decision right in terms of what it means. If we come back to this House in a few years’ time having not built the houses and not given ourselves sufficient capacity to deal with this new era of waste and resource management, and if we have found that some of the decisions that we have taken at very local level mean that we have moved away from our climate change targets instead of making the necessary concerted effort to move towards them, we will seriously live to regret that gap in the Bill.


  • 1 Dec 2010: National Policy Statements


    EN-1 is an overarching policy document setting out our energy planning framework for the future. It deals with our climate change commitments, and our commitments to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. That, in turn, means the documents have to address the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply. The Committee on Climate Change wrote to the Secretary of State for Energy on 17 June, stating baldly:

    “The path to meeting the UK’s 2050 target to reduce emissions by 80% requires that the power sector is largely decarbonised in the period to 2030 (e.g. average emissions should be about 100 g/kWh in 2030 compared to around 500 g/kWh currently).”

    I assume that the Government largely agree with the Committee on Climate Change that to meet the requirements of our climate change budgets this, or something like it, should be the scenario and that that will be reflected in the planning documents that are published. After all, if we are to achieve these goals we cannot just hope they will happen; we need to plan for them, and to achieve them through a combination of planning signals, market incentives and supply and trading arrangements.

    EN-1 states that under some of our pathways some revisions have taken the scenario beyond 2025 towards the 2050 targets. It states:

    The hon. Lady is absolutely right. In response to the Energy and Climate Change Committee report examining the previous national policy statements the Government have accepted they need to undertake some sort of spatial planning arrangement which will look at the cumulative impacts between various arrangements as they progress. She is also absolutely right that in this NPS that question of decarbonisation of supply needs to be part of the process, not anterior to it. The current level of emissions of our energy supply means that if we are to get to that position, gas at about 450 grams per kWh unabated probably will have no part to play in the energy economy by 2030—when abated, it comes in at about 100 grams per kWh.

    If we reach the renewables targets for wind, and we probably will, given the amount of wind power already in planning, we will have about 33 GW of wind power on the grid. That means that we will need 26 GW of new build non-renewables or non-wind. Of whatever type, they will, for the reasons I have outlined, need to be low-carbon or lowish-carbon. Some 8 GW are under construction and almost all that construction relates to gas. That leaves a balance of 18 GW. Some 9 GW is not under construction but has planning permission. The Government dismiss that as uncertain, but 5 GW of that relates to gas; plans for a further 7 GW are under consideration, most of which also relates to gas. So it appears that most of the current gap is set to be made up by gas. As the Select Committee has been told by the Committee on Climate Change, more gas is in the pipeline in terms of planning, permissions or build than we need for that future decarbonisation strategy to work.

    If industry decides as it appears to be deciding, it will choose gas. If it is to be gas and that gas is unabated or only partially abated, the decarbonisation of our electricity supply will not happen.

    Thank you for your help on that matter, Mr Deputy Speaker. I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s point about decarbonisation, but it prompts the question: how much cost penalty would he advocate as reasonable in order for us to go down the route of a totally carbon-free mix in the way he is suggesting? Each household in the country already pays about £50 for the renewables obligation. The implication of his remarks is that the sum should be very much higher. I wonder whether he has thought about that.

    Indeed I have. I think we will find out considerably more about that in the material that will come out on energy market reform, particularly the details on what a carbon floor price will look like and what capacity payments will look like to keep the energy balance more decarbonised in future. Yes, that will add costs to the system and there need to be circumstances in which those can be abated for the public, but that is a particular issue for the energy market reform material to address.

    When the Minister was asked in the recent Energy and Climate Change Committee sitting about the gap that I have mentioned he said that it is possible that 16 GW of the 18 GW gap could be new nuclear. That represents 10 new nuclear power stations by 2025, and although that would solve the gap problem it has the unfortunate downside of being inherently implausible. The Minister may want to rectify what he said in the light of that implausibility at a future date.

    The Committee on Climate Change’s estimate for the nuclear roll-out, produced in 2009, said that there would be a maximum of three nuclear power stations online by 2020, even based on optimistic build and planning time scenarios. Indeed, as we have seen, the timing of the justification process has already slipped.

    That leaves a gap that is not filled by nuclear. It is clear at the moment that there is an apparent contradiction in our national planning statements. We want to decarbonise our supply, but for 2025 we are pushing towards having a majority of gas as opposed to a small amount of peripheral gas at peaking periods, which is what our future energy supply should be based on.

    That is compounded by NPS EN-5, which attempts to collate permissions for plant and line. It will therefore replicate the question of providing grid capacity for plants as they stand and not provide new grid capacity for plants that are not yet completed and that will be needed for a decentralised and decarbonised future energy supply.


  • 18 Nov 2010: Climate Change Conference


    The Kyoto agreement runs out in 2012 and even a binding deal in South Africa would give precious little time for the process of ratification, given the various accompanying hurdles and snares. Nevertheless, the goal of securing a binding commitment in South Africa rests securely on the ability of Cancun to move substantially in that direction. Britain has a leading role to play. At the very least, it must ensure that post-Cancun there are the momentum, commitment and structures that will enable the real, breakthrough progress to be made in South Africa.

    We must ensure clear examination of the so-called gigatonne gap, which is the difference between what the two-page document at Copenhagen stated and noted about the need to remain beneath a 2° increase in temperature across the globe by 2050 and the actual commitments, as yet ungratified, on carbon reduction by the various countries. How can we ensure better methods to examine the gigatonne gap, in terms of upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and other mechanisms, to get a much clearer picture of the relationship between what Copenhagen committed itself to, at least in outline, and the action that therefore needs to be taken? Hopefully, such action can be ratified consequently.

    The UK can play a leading role precisely because it has, in effect, a low-carbon action plan: the Climate Change Act 2008. The consequences of the Act—the five-year carbon budgets, the clear trajectory towards a binding and lasting reduction in UK CO 2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 and the demonstrated mechanisms by which that will be achieved—are being looked at by other countries. South Africa, for example, is likely to adopt similar legislation in the next year or so, and countries in Europe and across the world are looking at how their mechanisms might take our experiences into legislation.


  • 12 Oct 2010: Offshore Wind Infrastructure Competition


    I am delighted to conduct this debate because I think that it relates to a real and important part of our future. We are on the cusp of a revolution in our energy supplies—a green energy revolution that will surpass anything that we have seen so far by several orders of magnitude. It will primarily involve the manufacture, assembly, deployment and servicing of offshore wind energy, harvesting the wind around our coasts—and sometimes as far as 200 km away from them—so that by 2020, 20% of our electricity needs will be supplied from renewable sources.

    Will it really happen? In my view, it has to happen if we are to come anywhere near to keeping pace with targets on decarbonising our energy supply and, in terms of energy security, sourcing for ever and at no additional fuel cost energy that is securely delivered to the UK from the UK. It is good to see that the commitment is there and that the legal and administrative structures to guarantee deployment are in place. The renewable obligation to underpin the financing of this enormous roll-out is now guaranteed beyond the round 3 competition completion date, with the calm waters of investment security lapping around the turbines as they go up.

    We must get that supply chain fit for its purpose, sound and able to deliver on the ambitions that we have set for it. We have the facilities; there are some 200 ports around the coast of Britain and there is far more land and developed quayside than almost anywhere else in the world. Just as we turned around ports and port estates to assemble drilling rigs, receive and deploy pipelines, and service and supply production platforms during the last North sea energy revolution, so must we do it again in the new, green energy revolution.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate. I share his enthusiasm for wind energy—offshore renewable energy—and ensuring that we make the most of the opportunity that it has presented to us for our industry and for securing manufacturing in the UK. To my mind, we need to be adopting a three-pronged approach—


  • 16 Sep 2010: Oral Answers to Questions

    When the right hon. Gentleman has discussed the matter of a carbon floor with the Treasury, has he raised the possible intervention contingency that might be necessary for a UK carbon floor? If he has, have they directed him to talk to the EU about common border-based carbon taxes?


  • 8 Jul 2010: Energy Security


    As far as energy security is concerned, we live in a very uncertain world. We have challenging and serious commitments to meet to ensure our energy security in the context of the rapid decarbonisation of our economy. We need to make sure that our supplies and our energy production are secure in the context of moving from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy in a short time. In talking about the path from here to 2050, we should reflect that in the past 40 to 50 years we have in any event rapidly changed the mix of our energy economy. We have moved from dependence of about 90% on coal for energy to a figure of about 12% to 15% in 40 years or so. I anticipate that there will be similar rapid change in the next 40 years. The question is whether that change can be accomplished in accordance with the energy security considerations that I have set out.

    In the context of climate change and our ambition to reach the targets we have set, it is absolutely right that energy efficiency will play a substantial role. Indeed, if EU energy efficiency targets of even 20% are met by 2020, that will result in something like a 13% reduction in electricity use in the EU. That underlines the key role of energy efficiency. I am completely with the Minister as to the key role it must have in our energy security—another example of protection of the home front in energy matters. However, the changes in our energy economy that will result from a far lower dependence on oil in the long term will almost certainly mean a much higher dependence on electricity for, among other things, transport, particularly with the rise of electric vehicles. At least part of the energy efficiency gain will be offset by increased demand for electricity as electric transport becomes increasingly the norm.

    I might add that gas is not a particularly benign fuel for the environment. It is not as intense, in relation to CO 2 emissions, as coal, but it is very intense nevertheless, and was the subject of a recent letter from the Committee on Climate Change recommending that future gas-fired power stations, as well as existing and future coal-fired plants, should be CCS-adapted. We should not for a moment believe that gas is the alternative or the answer to the end of the oil economy or the diminution of the coal economy. Nevertheless, shale gas in the US and elsewhere has transformed the picture in recent years of likely gas reserves. Indeed, the liquid gas receipt terminals in the United States built for the same reason as those that were built in the UK are, in effect, standing idle because of the change in the gas economy that has resulted from the emergence of shale gas.

    Indeed, given our concerns about our carbon dioxide emissions and footprint, new supplies of uranium would need to be found. Otherwise, existing supplies would be depleted, and the richness of uranium per tonne of rock mined would be so low that the carbon footprint would eventually equate to that of a gas-fired power station. That would not follow the low-carbon footprint route for our energy supplies in the long term. The figures relate to Australian and, to some extent, Canadian supplies of uranium. There are richer supplies in places such as Kyrgyzstan, but they raise the same questions for energy security in an uncertain world set against supplies of oil and gas.

    The things that I have just mentioned are just part of the answer to the question, “Can we be self-sufficient in our energy supplies over the next 40 years?” The facile answer to that question, which we occasionally hear, is, “Why, oh why, can’t we be self-sufficient in our energy supplies, because we are the windiest country in Europe, with the biggest tidal range and the biggest effective waves in Europe? We must be able to be energy self-sufficient, mustn’t we?” It is true that we have the biggest wind supply and the greatest tidal range of any country in Europe and we have the largest range of facility of any country in Europe, but that in itself does not answer our question. The analysis in a recent report by the offshore valuation group entitled, “The Offshore Valuation: A valuation of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource”, is increasingly providing an answer.


  • 30 Jun 2010: Energy Efficiency


    This emphasises that nuclear power is not coming over the hill tomorrow to save us all as far as low-carbon energy is concerned. The targets on carbon emissions reduction and, indeed, the replacement of something like 40% of our generation and transmission capacity by the early 2020s will have to be achieved without nuclear power by means relating to renewable energy, the building of conventional power plants—I trust with carbon capture technology—and, of course, a very substantial step forward in energy efficiency.

    Energy efficiency is a crucial component of our future energy landscape. I am pleased that the energy efficiency ambitions that the new Government have set out continue those proposed, and acted upon, by the previous Government. I recognise that the new ministerial team has strong personal commitments to these issues, and therefore energy efficiency has a bright start in terms of ambition and of understanding that this area is crucial. After all, 40% of our energy is consumed in buildings and that represents 40% of our carbon emissions. About 80% of household energy goes on heating our homes and water, and that alone represents some 13% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, getting a serious grip on energy efficiency in our homes and commercial and industrial buildings offers potentially enormous, and relatively early, rewards in respect of our overall position on carbon emissions and energy consumption.

    However, we as a country face this situation from a poor position historically. It is true that the previous Government made enormous strides in improving energy efficiency, particularly of public sector homes, and homes provided by registered social landlords. The Committee on Climate Change report that was published today conspicuously states that its indicators for activity on loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and energy efficiency in homes were met during the last year of the previous Labour Government. Considerable progress has been made, but our private sector homes remain energy-inefficient. The average standard assessment procedure rating in private sector homes is 49, which is a long way from level that we ought to aim for if we are to have a reasonable expectation that homes will be relatively energy-efficient and will have a low output of waste and energy emissions as far as the activities of the people who live in them are concerned.

    As a small indicator of the difference between ambitions and realisation I shall discuss the new part L of the building regulations, which were published recently. I had anticipated that it would contain new guidelines on the energy efficiency of circulation pumps in central heating. If, as was suggested during consultation by the previous Government, the regulations had mandated new and very energy-efficient circulation pumps, we could have saved as much as 2% of the electricity consumption in households—that could have been done by that measure alone. However, the new regulations state that it is perfectly okay to have circulation pumps that are A to G rated, not the A to C rated that had been anticipated. That shows an immediate difference between ambition and practice. I sincerely hope that the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), who has been inviting various other people to come to see him about various issues, will invite me in the very near future to a round-table meeting on circulation pumps and why they should be more energy-efficient. I am sure that he will find time in his busy diary to have a substantial round-table meeting on that pressing issue. I cite that issue as a small example to show that one needs to keep one’s eye closely on the difference between the reality of achievement and the ambition that one has when one puts forward new plans.

    For every 1% rise in fuel prices, 40,000 people are placed in fuel poverty, so we need to be aware of the obligations being placed on energy companies and the effect that they have on additional prices. If, as a result of the green deal and other new arrangements, we place additional obligations on energy companies and they pass on the effects of those obligations to their customers, we will find not only price rises but many more people going into fuel poverty as those new schemes unfold. There are already obligations on energy companies relating to carbon capture and storage, the carbon emissions reduction target, the community energy saving programme, and the smart meter roll-out. I imagine that the acceleration of that roll-out, which was recently announced by the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry), will place additional obligations on companies, as they will have to underwrite that roll-out.


  • 24 Jun 2010: Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation


    I must say that I felt that the previous speech was derived directly from a Conservative central office handout, which was unfortunately handed out before any proper examination of the Budget and its impact on those who benefit from it and those who do not. It is beyond doubt that the Budget is unfair, and harms those least able to defend and help themselves as well as future prospects for the recovery and development of the British economy. I want to consider that in the context of the energy and climate change theme of our debate.

    The Secretary of State, in introducing the theme, purported to defend the role of the Budget in the Department’s proper ambitions for a green energy economy and a green recovery in the overall economy, with prospects for green jobs and a change-round so that we produce the goods and services that we need at a fraction of the carbon output. I have great respect for the Secretary of State’s commitment to the environment, climate change and energy matters, so I am sad to say that I was reminded of the well known 18th century ballad, “The Vicar of Bray”, in which the vicar of Bray intoned against popery when it was out of fashion and greatly in its favour when it was again in fashion. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman’s—and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats’—principles on climate change and a low-energy economy are not affected by the expediencies that the Budget outlines.

    That is why I thought, among other things, that the recent Forgemasters decision, although not enormous relative to some of those other areas, was nevertheless totemic. It was a decision for apparently short-term and expedient reasons to take away a loan—not a grant—from a company that would have invested in the future of our economy and, in particular, our low-carbon economy. I hope that the decision is not a precursor to other things for our low-carbon economy, because the coalition document sets out a number of ambitions that will work only if the investment, underpinning and Government support for such changes are put in place. They include ambitions on carbon capture and storage, a green investment bank, a floor price for carbon and a new green deal for home energy efficiency, all of which are essential pillars of that new, green, low-carbon economy. However, the prospect of a 25% cut in the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s budget over the next few years suggests, at the very least, that a number of those ambitions will not be supported and funded in the way that will be necessary.


  • 22 Jun 2010: Nuclear Energy


    In that context, the Minister has an enormous responsibility on his shoulders. I, too, have a great regard for him and for his skills in tackling these matters. However, he will need at least the skill of those responsible for putting in and removing the nuclear cores from Three Mile Island to keep the coalition on track as far as its policy is concerned, because although the provisional wing of the coalition is in for this debate, the official wing is apparently locked into Government policy on nuclear, in respect of the decisions that will need to be made as far as the Department of Energy and Climate Change is concerned.

    Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it seems ludicrous that, under this system, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change can abstain on a vote that is being brought forward by his own Department to push forward nuclear energy?

    If that does not happen, base-load power, which is so important for our energy economy, is likely to be replaced by other means such as carbon capture and storage-fitted coal-fired power stations or—the Committee on Climate Change recently wrote to the Government to emphasise this—CCS-fitted gas-fired power stations. That would then be a new generation of base load, on the back of which new nuclear power would have to compete.

    For the new Government to announce a policy that says, in essence, that there will be no planning as far as new energy supplies are concerned seems perverse, given the imperatives ahead of us. Whether we plan to have a fleet of CCS-fitted power generators, large-scale renewables—wind, wave and tide, and large deep-sea wind arrays—or a new generation of nuclear reactors to provide energy, we have to ensure that there is planning at some stage.


  • 27 May 2010: Energy and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


    Today’s debate specifically relates to the coalition’s proposals for energy and climate change as well as for environment, agriculture and rural affairs. What is striking about the coalition document is the number of things it contains that the previous Government had done, planned or set under way and that are now claimed to form the coalition’s targets and aims for environment and rural affairs and, indeed, energy and climate change. In a sense, that is reassuring because a key observation that should be made is that the arguments about climate change cannot call upon the Greek defence. A similar argument cannot be made that less should be spent on countering it because particular circumstances have arisen recently. The timetable for the measures that need to be put in place to ensure that we can move to a low-carbon economy and reach the targets that have been agreed universally in the House for reducing carbon emissions remains in place. The time available to make those changes also remains the same. Superficially, therefore, having the aims in place is an important part of the recognition of the urgency of the matter.

    We need, however, to ask questions about the detail of the targets and consider whether the commitments in the coalition document provide the reassurance that we will move with the speed that we need on not only climate change but on renewing our energy sources, ensuring that energy efficiency is uppermost in the conduct of our building and refurbishment programmes and progressing with the energy economy.

    The previous Government gave key undertakings on feed-in tariffs, small-scale generation and, as important, the renewable heat incentive, which will ensure the rapid development and deployment of renewable heat sources in this country. My eyebrows were raised by the statement in the coalition document about a full roll-out of a feed-in tariff in electricity. That might have been a mistake, but if it was deliberate, the suggestion is that there is no commitment on renewable heat, which is a way in which to ensure that renewable energy moves forward rapidly in the domestic sector. I will be delighted to be proved wrong, either in an intervention from someone on the Government Benches now or later in the debate. I hope that it is not the Government’s intention to change or resile from renewable heat arrangements and underwriting, and that the finance and commitment are in place. I hope that I am told later that my suspicions about what the document includes will not be borne out.

    Finally, I come to the curious statement in the coalition document on nuclear power. I have considerable sympathy for the position in which the Energy and Climate Change Secretary finds himself, because I too do not think that new nuclear power is a good idea for the future, as I have said in the Chamber on a number of occasions. However, I am clear that there should be a new nuclear programme and that will need to be planned, because it is no longer good enough simply to leave the replacement of aged energy supply and the development of new energy to the market. Left to its own devices, the market will probably ensure that we have a new generation of gas-fired power stations, which will ensure that we go way off our climate change targets. If the sole contribution of the Secretary of State to the nuclear debate is simply to say, “Well, someone may come along and build a nuclear power station,” they may well not do so. Without other plans, we will simply get a new generation of gas-fired power stations, which would be catastrophic for our approach to climate change.

    Following that logic, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary must take positive action on new nuclear power. If the national planning statement is to be rewritten, he must agree on sites for new nuclear power stations. If he does not do so, there will be no such power stations. His position urgently needs to be made clear to ensure that when it comes to planning the new energy economy, there is clarity rather than muddle and chaos.


  • 9 Mar 2010: Energy: Prices

    To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what guidance his Department provides to energy customers switching suppliers for them to avoid tariffs that become more expensive during the changeover period. ( 320815 )


  • 24 Feb 2010: Energy Bill


    If we want certainty about what will happen to investors in new coal plant, as well as investors in existing coal plant, if they continue to use those assets to develop energy—or not, as the case may be—we need to look no further than the Committee on Climate Change. In a recent report, it said explicitly that

    It is impossible for us to conduct this debate without understanding the background: what is actually going on in the world of energy supply. The debate is long overdue, and, given the position in which we now find ourselves, perhaps too late. Ofgem’s recent report “Project Discovery” has been a wake-up call for many—perhaps for Ofgem more than for anyone else. This morning, at a meeting of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, its chief executive, Alistair Buchanan, spoke to us along with some colleagues. He told us that he had been surprised and exposed by events that he had not anticipated. I was quite concerned when he said that. He mentioned six things that identified his concern about the stage we have reached in developing an energy system that is fit for the future. I think that most people who are involved in energy debates would understand five of them.


  • 28 Jan 2010: Carbon Capture and Storage


    Things have moved on since the report’s publication, arguably with the substantial assistance of that report’s considerations. That is a credit to the report and its contents. I say that things have moved on, but in the next few years, we want to pursue an energy strategy that is coherent; that keeps the lights on; that moves us towards an almost complete decarbonisation of our energy supplies by 2030; that keeps us on track for our 2050 climate change targets; and that keeps us within our carbon budgets as set out by the Climate Change Act 2008. Action is clearly imperative very soon if we are to ensure that our energy supplies decarbonise in that way, but also remain in place. I shall perhaps go into that further in a moment.

    When we talk about mineral fuels, we need to be clear on what carbon capture and storage is about in the first instance. As the Committee on Climate Change says,

    “there is a longer term role for unabated gas generation reflecting lower emissions intensity and a potential role as back-up generation. The clear priority is therefore for early application of CCS to coal generation.”

    The Committee on Climate Change also states that

    That is significant not just in the UK, but for coal plants across the world. The hon. Lady is right: it is bad enough if we have unabated coal continuing into the 2020s in this country, but if that continues across the world, the chances of world energy supplies decarbonising as a whole will be zero. As far as the plants’ continuing emissions are concerned, if the plants continue, it is essential that they are effectively decarbonised by wholesale retrofitting and/or have limits placed on the total amount of power that they can generate in any one year. That is very important because unless we fundamentally change the way we operate the UK energy market, we will continue to have a system whereby calls for power are made to energy suppliers via a central balancing mechanism, which will involve a combination of very long-term contracts, shorter-term contracts and what one might call panic contracts, the contracts that deal with the peak of power use—metaphorically, at half-time in the cup final. Smart grids and various other devices will do a great deal to smooth those peaks. Nevertheless, the idea that there will be very long-term contracts, medium-term contracts and very short-term contracts will probably continue in the UK energy market.

    Keeping those plants in some form of operation is important in terms of balancing the energy economy, but the dilemma is that if those plants continue unabated, it will be inimical to our climate change targets. We need schemes to ensure that new plants are fully abated by a certain time. If new plants are to be commissioned, whether or not there is initial substantial underwriting with respect to carbon capture and storage, money will still need to be put into commissioning, investing in and developing those plants.

    Secondly, we need to ensure security at the storage end of CCS. That is not mentioned as being part of the process; it is assumed—indeed, it has been stated on occasions—that we are extremely fortunate compared to other countries. Provided one builds new power stations reasonably near the coast, particularly the North sea coast, getting the captured carbon piped and sequestered is easier, given the number of redundant oil fields that we have in the North sea.

    That is partly true, but the analysis done for the Committee on Climate Change by Pöyry Energy Consulting demonstrated that in general terms there will be enough depleted gas and oil fields, stretching out to 2030, for 10 GW capacity of coal CCS. That will give sufficient space for storage from all pilot plants, and will allow for full sequestration from the new energy plants.

    At that point, it will be necessary seriously to consider aquifer storage—that is, depleted aquifers and saline aquifers underground. That is a slightly different picture, in as much as the science on such storage is by no means as clear. The geological surveying of aquifers is not as good as that of depleted oil and gas fields. In the not-too-distant future we must move ahead on that front, in addition to the rapid progress that we are making on CCS technology for retrofitting, pre-combustion and post-combustion.

    We must ensure that we are able to store in both depleted oil and gas fields and in aquifers; again, we are fortunate to have a plentiful supply of the latter in many parts of the UK. We must get the science right for that, too, so that we can not only store in the immediate future, but can deal with the long-term storage capacity for full retrofitting for coal—and, in the longer-term, the retrofitting of gas-fired power stations, which will eventually be necessary to balance our energy economy. By then, it will be very decarbonised indeed.

    I commend this report, the Government’s response to it and the tremendous progress that has been made in carbon capture and storage. None the less, I do not underestimate the work that has to be done. The prize of ensuring that we in this country can use a mix of energy that is secure and substantially decarbonised, and that reaches our targets in the years to come, is one that we should acknowledge and reach out for. Hopefully, we will be successful in decarbonising our energy economy in the years to come.


  • 7 Jan 2010: Renewable Energy: Heating

    To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what progress his Department is making in the establishment of an incentive mechanism for the development of renewable heat technologies. ( 308898 )


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