Energy Efficiency

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 30th June 2010.

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Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Conservative, Stroud 4:19 pm, 30th June 2010

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak. I missed the opening speeches, and I am very sorry about that. It was an error on my part-I was somewhere else when they were taking place, and I regret it because I would have liked to hear what the Front Benchers said. I may well repeat something that has already been said. Nevertheless, energy efficiency is a really important subject, and it is great that we are having this debate.

While I was sitting here and hearing about the fuel crisis of the 1970s, when Ted Heath was Prime Minister, I was reminded of the fact that the Department of Energy was created at that time to solve the crisis of the shortage of fuel and deal with the issue of coal. More recently, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been created to carry out the different task of ensuring that our energy use is more efficient and carbon-friendly. I welcomed its new guise when it was introduced by the Labour Government and I salute it now as it is still in place.

The most important thing that we can do is liberalise the energy market to encourage more transparency and competition. By doing that, we would effectively introduce new systems of energy provision, which would to some extent be micro-and I will have much to say about one particular form later. It is essential that we recognise that the energy market in the future has to be much more liberal in both supply and demand terms, although I shall concentrate on supply today.

The coalition Government have made some fantastic strides forward and have in place an excellent team of Ministers in DECC. The Government have also introduced the green deal, and I note that that has been well saluted by Labour Members as it has by my colleagues. The Government are also talking about a smart grid approach. It is important that we have a grid that is much more receptive to new types of energy from smaller micro locations. I made much of feed-in tariffs during the election campaign, because my constituency is really excited about such issues, and those tariffs will be a huge step in the right direction. The green investment bank will also encourage new technologies to be developed and launched.

One of those new technologies must be modern micro hydro schemes. The role that micro hydro generation can play will be enormous, and it will help in several other areas. What is a micro hydro scheme? A small scheme generates between 1 MW and 15 MW, a mini scheme generates less than 1 MW but more than 100 KW and a micro scheme generates between 5 KW and 100 KW. The latter is sufficient to supply half a small community or small rural industry, and that is what I want to talk about in some detail today.

It is true that sometimes it is difficult to introduce technology of any description, because there is always someone to say that it should not be adopted. Wind power has that difficulty, and actually so does hydro power. We must think more in terms of incentivising, rather than of yielding to the "not in my back yard" approach. That is an important point for all micro energy schemes.

Hydro schemes, by their very nature, will be bespoke. They deal with water, and it does not come in square tins ready for tapping, but in rivers, ponds, pools and mills that are all different shapes. The other important aspect of hydro schemes is that they can help in dealing with other things, such as flood management. In Stroud, we have quite a lot of flood problems, including floods down valleys and along the vale. Controlling water through some sort of flood management scheme can lead to a hydro electric solution, and we can consider that as part of our overall environmental policies.

In Stroud, for example, I can see opportunities where introducing hydro schemes would also help flood problems by harnessing water halfway up a valley rather than allowing it to flood at the bottom. In fact, I am hoping to speak to the Minister shortly on this very subject, because he has been to Stroud and looked at a typical mill pond with all the characteristics one would need, first, for flood management and, secondly, for electricity production through a hydro scheme. I hope that will be developed in some detail. There are plenty of opportunities for that elsewhere in the country. Stroud has more than 200 old mill, but there are more than 20,000 across England, all of which, to some extent, could play a role in hydro generation. We need to bear that in mind.

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