Energy Efficiency

Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 26th January 2012.

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Photo of Dave Watts Dave Watts Labour, St Helens North 10:30 am, 26th January 2012

What steps he is taking to encourage households to improve their energy efficiency.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

What steps he is taking to encourage households to improve their energy efficiency.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The Government have established the energy efficiency deployment office to develop an overarching energy efficiency strategy. We will launch the green deal later this year, which will radically improve take-up of energy efficiency measures. We want every home to have a smart meter by 2019 so consumers have much greater control over their energy use.

Photo of Dave Watts Dave Watts Labour, St Helens North

Is the Secretary of State proud of the fact that this is the first Government since 1970 who have not had a programme to help poor families with their fuel costs? Is it not the case now that many poor families will get less help, and that there is virtually no targeting of those resources that are available to the poorest families?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The hon. Gentleman has clearly been hibernating over the past few months if he believes that we are not helping poor families. First, the warm home discount scheme, which is a statutory scheme for reducing costs, will disburse two thirds more money than was disbursed under the voluntary scheme operated by the Labour Government. Secondly, the affordable warmth obligation in the energy company obligation subsidy will take over from Warm Front. Thirdly, we have asked Professor John Hills to conduct a thorough review of fuel poverty, which will lead to some interesting and important recommendations.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

Does the Secretary of State accept that the ECO’s affordable warmth element, which comes to £325 million, is substantially less than the Warm Front commitment of £370 million and the CERT commitment of £600 million? Does he accept that that is a substantial reduction in affordable warmth for those on lower incomes? Even now, will he review the split in costs in relation to affordable warmth and those who can pay, or look for other methods of dealing with the issue?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

It is important that the hon. Gentleman compares like with like. He should remember that what is available under the ECO subsidy helps holistically to improve the energy efficiency of the whole home and is not like the Warm Front, which was largely a boiler replacement scheme. That proposal is out for consultation and we are listening to responses.

Photo of Stephen Mosley Stephen Mosley Conservative, City of Chester

The green deal skills alliance has highlighted the importance of having the right skilled professionals in place to deliver the green deal to households. How will my right hon. Friend ensure that we have the right number of skilled energy efficiency assessors, installers and training providers to make sure that when the green deal comes in this year we can deliver it?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that such skills will be essential for the green deal—indeed, for the whole low-carbon economy. That is precisely why we have been working closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which takes the lead on skills. We have a national skills academy for environmental technologies, which is developing standards, delivering training and upskilling tradesmen and technicians. We also have funding for the renewables training network that is run by Renewable UK, and a talent bank for the gas, power, waste management and water industries, which is led by the Energy and Utility Skills sector skills council.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I understand that the Government have not yet even designed the training programme for many of the people who will have to deliver the green deal. Ministers have been claiming for months that the green deal will mean the creation of thousands of jobs, but the Department’s figures show that the number of energy efficiency installations will plummet in the first year of the scheme, with cavity wall insulations set to fall by 67% and loft insulations by a staggering 90%. That will cripple the sector and, according to Europe Economics, could lead to the loss of 3,000 jobs. Will the Secretary of State protect those jobs by adopting Labour’s proposals to include hard-to-treat cavity walls and lofts in the ECO?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I think the hon. Lady misunderstands a couple of issues. First, the green deal is a very different scheme precisely because it is designed to support a complete retrofit. We are talking not just about cavity wall insulation or loft insulation but about many other measures as well. The second point is that she is quoting the first impact assessment. It has always been the case that the take-up of the green deal will depend on the triggers and incentives that have been introduced for take-up, which have increased substantially since the figures she quoted.