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Energy Efficiency

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:11 pm on 30th June 2010.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Liberal Democrat, Cheltenham 2:11 pm, 30th June 2010

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. One answer is clearly the green deal, which will incentivise private companies to invest in such training themselves. Apprenticeships might be part of the solution, too. However, when I asked Gloucester college, a forward-looking and innovative FE college based partly in my constituency and partly in Gloucester, what was the single biggest step that could be taken, the answer was not to fund extra courses. It suggested allowing FE colleges that provide such training to accredit their own courses, rather than having to defer constantly to universities. I commend that recommendation to Ministers and their colleagues in other Departments. The college believed that that would enable it to respond much faster to market situations and design courses much more flexibly, and that it was the single most important change that could be made. I hope that provides an answer to the hon. Gentleman.

On new buildings at least, the other possible pitfall is the rather prescriptive and increasingly complex code for sustainable homes. I welcomed the code when the previous Government introduced it, and generally, as an instrument of policy, it is a welcome development. However, it has been painfully slow at raising energy efficiency levels in new buildings, and it risks becoming so over-prescriptive that it defeats our objectives.

I know the Secretary of State well, and he is no friend of over-prescription; he prefers the creation of the right market environment, which would avoid the need for such complexity and enable the process to move faster. Instead of having standards of such complex design, perhaps we should reinforce one or two simple measures-for instance, a measure of kilowatt-hours per square metre for every building, old or new. To follow up the point made by my hon. Friend Mrs Main, that would be easy to communicate to the public and easy for estate agents, politicians and everybody else to understand. It might become a powerful measure of energy efficiency, with no need to prescribe such complex details as we find in the current code.

This morning there was a round-table discussion hosted by The House M agazine, and one point repeatedly came up. Examples were mentioned of earlier civilisations-even the Romans-that were very good at preserving openness and light in buildings and making them energy-efficient through the communal use of heat; the renewable heat issue has already been mentioned. More traditional wooden buildings within the Arctic circle still seem to require less energy to heat than many buildings in this country. I know from my own experience of villages in India where buildings made basically out of mud were beautifully cool in summer and beautifully warm in winter. They were very energy-efficient, but used materials that would probably not be allowed under current building regulations. Incidentally, I am not suggesting that we should all start living in yurts or anything like that; that would be a bit too Liberal.

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