Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Energy Efficiency

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 30th June 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test 4:38 pm, 30th June 2010

My hon. Friend is tempting me into an entirely different debate, in which there are very interesting considerations relating not least to a new report on the renewable valuation around our coasts and on our land and how we might be able to use those renewables for our long-term, as well as our shorter-term, future energy supply. I suspect, however, that if I were to address that topic, you might suggest that I have strayed rather far from the issues we are debating today, on which I do want to concentrate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

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.

We can all agree that this House has substantial energy-efficiency ambitions, that there is urgent action to be undertaken and that a number of programmes are in process and a number of ambitious new programmes, some of which we have heard about this afternoon, could get under way to address those issues. We need to examine whether the ambitions are being met, whether we have the ability to make those changes in practice and whether other things might be done to ensure that the ambitions are realised.

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, 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.

The plan that has been the centrepiece of this afternoon's discussion is the green deal. I feel like someone who is being told that a great new concerto is coming out, that it is about to be performed and that when people turn up to the concert hall they will find that it is terrific, but who has not been told whether it is by Mozart or Salieri. I presume that when we get to the concert hall we will find out whether the green deal is as good as we are led to believe. On the surface, a green deal that takes away the idea of an up-front loan and places the onus on the long-term consequences of the bills of those household consumers, their descendants or the next people who come along to the house appears to represent a positive way forward. We must recognise that that has limitations. Just as the pay-as-you-save scheme implemented by the previous Government had its limitations, this green deal also has potential substantial limitations.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website